Elevator Operations at High Rise Part II


Fire Department Operations Using Elevators:  Part II

 Battalion Chief Al Mullins

High Rise Operations:

 You are the first due company at a fire in a high rise and because the fire is on an upper floor you make a critical decision to take the elevator.  Good choice, but you need to insure things are working properly.

elevators4Phase I Recall:

Many buildings now have it in their systems that when a fire alarm is activated the elevators are recalled to the ground floor.  This is unless a smoke detector head has activated on the ground floor in which case the elevators then go to an alternate floor.

As the company comes into the lobby, the elevators should have recalled (as stated above).  However, even if they have, the crew needs to go to the phase I keyway located in the hall call area and place the system into phase I recall.

phase-i1Phase I:   The Lobby Key Switch

The key way switch in the lobby should have three selections on it; Off, On and Bypass.  It should be on the Off selection for normal use.  The company places the key into the slot and turns it to the On selection placing the elevators into Phase I recall.  This should do a couple of things:

  1. Recall all the elevators to the ground floor.  The only time(s) that this will not happen is if a mechanic is on the top using the car top control or the car has answered a call to the fire floor and the doors have opened and are stuck in the open position.
  2. The electronic eyes and the emergency stop button are disabled.
  3. All cars come to the ground floor the doors open and the occupants are allowed to exit.
  4. The cars that have phase II recall inside them the doors will stay open, if not the doors typically close in about 60 seconds.

phase-iiPhase II:   Inside the Car, Key Switch

The troops take the key from the phase I key way and enter the car where they should find the phase II key way.  The phase II key way should have 2 or 3 selections on it: an On and Off selection and a Hold selection.  The key way should be in the Off position, now the officer or their designee places the phase II key way into the On position.  Nothing should happen.  This is good since that is exactly what should occur.  By placing the key way onto the on position, we have now put the system into Phase II recall and have gained “total” control over that elevator car.  The car will only do what it is told to do from the interior of the car by you.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • When you select a floor button and push it the indicator light should light up but the car will not move
  • To open and close the doors you need to hold the open and or close button until the door have “Fully” opened or closed.  If you do not the door will automatically move back to its original position. 
  • The emergency stop button once again is returned to service and “should” work

h3n9xr9tMoving in the Car

Now before we move the car and proceed up two floors below the fire floor we need to take a quick look.  Shine a light up the elevator shaft and make sure that we do not see smoke or fire entering the hoistway.  If we see this then we need to use an alternate means of accessing the fire floor.  Now if no fire or smoke is seen it means we can proceed up to the floor we have chosen.  We do need to choose an alternate floor other than our final destination to insure that the car is working properly.  In addition, when we do this we can get a look at the internal layout of the floors to allow us to know what we will see upstairs.  So pick another floor button on the key pad. 

Close the elevator car door fully.  Remember, if you do not the door will return to the fully open position and you will have to start over again.  As the door closes the car will then start to move, I would try the emergency stop button to insure that it works at this point.  As we proceed up the hoistway, we should stop at an intermediate floor, look up the shaft again and then head to the floor two floors below the fire floor.


Our Destination: 2 floors Below

We have now gotten to the floor we have chosen and opened the doors (do not forget to hold the button until the doors completely open).  The key selection is in the On position.  If we are keeping the elevator, we place it into the Hold position.  That will keep the car there for our use, but if we want to return it to the first floor for other companies, we can turn the key to the Off position and it will return to the first floor on phase I recall. 

It would be nice now if we had a company available for lobby control and one of those firefighters was assigned to be an elevator operator.  Typically, I would think that this may not be available to the first in company and that we then need to think about getting this resource back in the mix so it can be used by follow up companies. 


In order to use elevators safely at fires, we need to know how they operate and the limitations that may exist with their use.  At your next run to one of these occupancies, especially at “routine” alarms, take time to look at how your elevators work.  Take the time to learn then, this preplanning may save you time and energy expended when its out 3 windows on an upper floor.  






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