Getting trapped in an elevator ranks pretty high on the list of unpleasant life experiences. But it happens more often than you'd think. According to KJA Consultants, if you’re a working professional who uses an elevator every day, you’ve got about a 1 in 5,000 chance of getting stuck each month. If you ride an elevator every workday for 25 years, your chances are 1 in 17!
Trapped in an elevator as you’re reading this? Call 9-1-1 with your cell phone if you have service. Otherwise, read on. You’ll be an elevator escape artist in no time.
Try to keep a clear head so you don’t jeopardize your safety. A clear head will also make sound decision-making a lot easier. If you’re in the elevator with other people, try to calm them down, too. Do a breathing exercise or count down from 100—anything to avoid hysteria. Apartment elevators are incredibly safe, and your life is probably not in danger.
If the elevator lights are out, you’ve probably already turned on your phone light or used a keychain light to see. Be careful not to drain your phone’s battery. Use the flashlight to see the elevator buttons and count how many people are in the elevator.
Occasionally, a stuck elevator needs a little bit of troubleshooting you can do yourself. Start by pressing the “door open” button and see if that works, then press the “door close” button. Both of these can get jammed and stop an elevator. If neither works, try pressing the button for a floor below you. You may be laughing, but this quick fix could save you ample time and stress. If these three buttons aren’t working, however, don’t mash them. You might compromise the electronics.
Use your flashlight to find the “call” button, usually marked with the image of a phone. Pressing it will contact a technician to come and help you. It will also alert the maintenance staff that there is a problem with the elevator. If you successfully connect with a maintenance technician, they will be on their way.
The alarm button in an elevator is usually hooked up to a bell that rings to alert people that someone is stuck inside and needs assistance. If you are unable to contact maintenance, ring the bell periodically. People in the building are very likely to hear the alarm and notify someone who can assist you.
If you still can’t get anyone’s attention, try yelling for help. You can also bang a shoe or other object on the door. Sound travels well through an elevator shaft and could alert people throughout the building that you need help. Though it may be difficult, remember to remain calm while you’re making noise.
Even if you do none of the steps above, you have an excellent chance of escaping the apartment elevator within minutes. People throughout the building will notice almost immediately that the elevator is not functioning properly and will call for assistance.
If you’ve managed to make contact with maintenance or emergency personnel, sit tight. Elevator entrapment calls are taken seriously, and you’ll likely find yourself freed in 30 minutes or less.
In the meantime, make conversation with your neighbors! Ask them about their lives, their work, and their hobbies. If you’re alone in there, occupy yourself with anything you have on hand—or take a power nap!
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