Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Expats, Travelers, Tenants Urged to Ask Questions About Elevator Security

As a result of the death of an expatriate in a building in Saudi Arabia early in December 2011, The Arab News ( has drawn attention to the importance of elevator maintenance and the need for building owners to check the safety of elevators. Unfortunately, there are commercial and residential building owners, less so with major hotels, who are unwilling to devote the necessary funding for regular elevator maintenance.

For the benefit of our readers, the link to the Arab News' article on elevator security is reflected below:

COMMENT: Although most developed nations have long-standing enacted laws and regulations that require the mandatory maintenance of elevators and "lifts" in high-occupancy and high-rise buildings, be they commercial or residential properties, "The Arab News" piece on December 7, should cause all of us to consider the the risk impact of landlords and property owners who cut corners on maintenance, particularly if they don't use the property.

Unfortunately, elevator injuries and deaths are normally not front-page news, but they do happen, and primarily in developing countries.

For our readers who live abroad, particularly in developing countries where laws mandating the regular maintenance and inspection of elevators are elusive, here are some thoughts to consider:

1. Before renting commercial or residential space, ask prospective landlords to review their maintenance contract for their elevators. If they give you a "deer in the headlights look" after you ask that question, walk, don't run.

2. If local power is interrupted, are there emergency lights in common areas so occupants don't have to grope around in the dark? If not, leave the building before power is interrupted.

3. After asking to see the maintenance contract, ask to see their emergency generator. If they don't have one for common area lights, look elsewhere.

4. Next, see if the building you're looking at has a fire detection system connected to the local fire department. If not, is there at least a local alarm system that can be activated by anyone observing a fire or smoke? If the answer to the last question is "no," look further.

5. Is there a sprinkler system installed in the building? If not, understand that sprinkler systems are not commonplace in many developing countries, but they're sure nice to have.

6. If there are external stairwells in the building for evacuating a building fire, are they designed in such a way as to preclude they're being filled with smoke during egress? If the answer is no, don't rent on any floor that does not enable you to reach the ground floor on one breath.

7. Is there an emergency phone in all elevators to a 24/7 operator? If not, look further.

8. Does the building have posted signs directing occupants how to leave the building during an emergency? If not, look further.

9. Is there a sign in each elevator reflecting when the elevator was last inspected by a certified technician? Look further.

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