Getting Elevators Ready for Harsh Weather

Nov. 1, 2007
You've probably thought about disaster preparation for other building systems, but have you readied your vertical transportation system?

By Josh Elliott

Storms or other weather-related events can strike any area and threaten to damage your elevator equipment at any time. To help you prepare for such events, we've assembled some tips that can help you avoid or minimize damage to your elevator equipment.

Things to Do Right Now
Now is the time to make initial preparations — before the weather forecasts turn ugly. Inspect your elevator machine room's ventilation openings, windows, and doors for possible rain leakage. Install metal splash guards over ventilation openings to help prevent water from reaching electrical panels. Install weather stripping around machine room doors that open to the outdoors.

Immediately Before a Major Storm Hits
Close up all vents and openings in the top of the hoistway to prevent water from getting into the elevator shaft. Barricade machine room windows as necessary.

Next, make sure no one is left in the building who would need the elevators for egress. Then, if your elevators are enclosed within your building (hoistways not exposed to the elements), run each car to a stop near the center of travel. For two-stop elevators, park the car at the top floor. If your elevators are exposed to the elements (observation cars on the outside of the building), run your elevators to the floor below the top floor. In each case, after you have parked the car, shut it down with its keyed switch and park it with its doors closed.

Then, go to the elevator machine room and turn the elevator electric disconnect switches to the "off" position. There is one switch for each elevator; it's usually located adjacent to the machine room door. This will help assure that no unauthorized person can use the elevators during the storm.

During the Storm
Never use your elevators during a severe storm, even if your building has an emergency power generator. Rising water or wind-driven water can cause electrical short circuits that could disable an elevator, even if emergency power is available, and lead to passenger entrapments.

After the Storm Has Passed
When you get an official "all clear" - but before you restore power to your elevators - inspect the machine room for water on the floor or in the control panels. Also, check the pit area for water damage. (If you don't have a "walk-in" pit, the manufacturer can help you gain access.) If you find water in these areas, call the manufacturer for an inspection before you operate the equipment.

Be sure to open any vents or openings at the top of the shaft if you sealed them just before the storm.

What About Escalators?
While you cannot relocate an escalator to avoid storm damage, you should always shut it down during a storm, just as you would an elevator. Then, after the storm, check for the presence of water, particularly in the well area at the bottom. (The manufacturer can help you gain access if needed.)

Always be certain that your equipment has escaped damage before you restore it to service. 

Josh Elliott is product line manager-repair at Morristown, NJ-based Schindler Elevator Corp. (

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