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Safety when using elevators under emergency conditions requires members to have their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) turned on and their masks ready. Firefighters should not pack everyone onto the elevator. There should be sufficient room for firefighters to operate should trouble develop with the elevator car. Ensure that hand tools are carried by firefighters should a problem arise. (In one fire the elevator broke down at the fire floor. The door would not open and the firefighters had no room in the elevator to use their hand tools. Another company had to extricate them. Fortunately, the fire was located a distance from the elevator.)
When ascending in an elevator, it should be stopped at random floors to check that the controls are operating properly. If erratic operation occurs, then the elevator should be abandoned and the stairs used. Realize that in extremely high buildings on windy days the elevator may be programmed with a safety feature of built-in intermittent stops to realign the elevator car due to building sway.
Firefighters should exit the elevator at least two floors below the fire floor and then climb the stairs to the fire floor. Portable radio transmissions can affect electronic controls on some elevators causing them to shut down and requiring maintenance personnel.
If any doubt about the safe use of the elevator exists, climb the stairs until the elevator's safe use can be ascertained.
Freight Elevator Usage
Some fire departments forbid the use of freight elevators. There have been a number of incidents in which firefighters were confronted with heavy fire conditions upon exiting the elevator due to maintenance personnel storing trash for removal near the freight elevator doors.
Many departments, however, rely on the freight elevators. They are larger and able to carry more firefighters and equipment than passenger elevators. Many freight elevator cars have no ceilings, permitting firefighters to observe whether there are smoke conditions above in the elevator shaft as the elevator ascends.