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Things You Didn’t Know About Elevators

Published by marco on

Up and Then Down by Nick Paumgarten (New Yorker) is a well-written look into the world of elevators and the companies that create them. It mixes research with the story of a man who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Some interesting tidbits from the article:

  • The last time an elevator plummeted down a shaft was in 1945 in the US. It was called “the Empire State Building incident of 1945, in which a B-25 bomber pilot made a wrong turn in the fog and crashed into the seventy-ninth floor, snapping the hoist and safety cables of two elevators.” Only one woman was in the elevator and she actually survived the crash (though with extensive injuries).
  • Elevators are almost ridiculously safe, with most hoist elevators having six to eight cables, each of which “is capable on its own of supporting the full load of the elevator plus twenty-five per cent more weight.”
  • Elevators are safer than automobiles and much safer than their counterpart, escalators.
  • Contrary to Hollywood legend, the escape hatch in an elevator can only opened from the outside; it is bolted shut because, in an emergency, the safest place to be is inside the elevator.
  • “A single elevator can climb no higher than seventeen hundred feet. A hoist rope any longer is too heavy to be practical; at thirty-two hundred feet, it will snap, like a stream of spit in a stairwell.” That’s with current technology, of course.
  • Modern elevators no longer respond to the “door close” button; an even more modern system called “destination dispatch” does away with the floor buttons as well. “Destination dispatch assigns passengers to an elevator according to which floors they’re going to, in an attempt to send each car to as few floors as possible. You enter your floor number at a central control panel in the lobby and are told which elevator to take.”