The Usage Of Lifts In The Event Of Fire

Why is it now allowed to use a lift in the event of fire? All the lift users surely know the following text “Using the Lift is forbidden in the Event of Fire”. Why is the use of lifts forbidden during a fire? Wouldn't it be easy to use the lift to evacuate people from the highest floors of buildings in the event of a fire?


In the 1960s, it was observed that the heat resulting from a fire may cause damage to the call button of the lift so that the lift control system would interpret it as a normal lift call. This means that a lift can move to a floor that is on fire. A fire can also cause a power failure. In this case, a lift having no backup power gets stuck in a floor or between floors. In older lifts, the heat of a fire may bend the lift doors or damage the cables, which can jam the lift. Larger structural damage can cause the collapse of the lift shaft. It goes without saying that a person inside a lift is exposed to danger in all the situations mentioned above.

Rescuing From a Lift

According to the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes), a lift rescue operation requires training, professional skills and sufficient knowledge of the lift technology. Improper work habits can result in the exposure of both the rescued and the rescuer to danger. In general, a lift rescue operation also requires access to the lift machine room, where lift controls are located and the necessary additional instructions to complete the rescue (Tukes 2017, The Maintenance, Modification, and Inspection of Lifts). If the building is on fire and the lift is stuck between floors, the rescuer has to act fast or he may himself be exposed to fire, which increases the risks of error. Fire or smoke gasses can also block the access to the lift machine room, which further complicates the rescue. In addition, these activities are likely to occupy emergency rescue resources, which are then unavailable to the firefighting and rescue operations.

The Current Situation

Nowadays lifts have systems to prevent the risk of fire hazards caused by the users. Lift controls can be added to modern fire detection systems. A typical example is the fire alarm control center that can order lifts to descend to a previously defined floor (which is usually the ground floor) after which the system prevents the use of the lifts until the fire alarm is over. With these proceedings, people are protected and the resources of the rescue services are preserved for the actual firefighting and rescue operations.

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Rescue Plan

Janne-Juhani Piiparinen

Security Specialist