I once lived in a home with its own vintage passenger lift, which sounds lovely but actually proved quite challenging on almost a daily basis.
You see, I had young children who like nothing better than running into the elevator when my back was turned and pressing all the buttons – including the big red “FULL STOP, PRESS ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” one.
This would effectively halt the lift in between floors, turn off the lights and freeze everything until a service person could come and reset the system.
One day I was coming back from the supermarket, a toddler in one arm, shopping bags in the other, mind focussed on what other chores I had to complete by lunchtime when said toddler casually reached out and pressed the big red button.
All hell broke loose.
The elevator shuddered violently to a halt. The lights went out. The toddler let out an ear-piercing screaming that never seemed to end.
Anyone who’s ever been stuck in a tiny, pitch-black, airless, small passenger lift with a shrieking three-year-old will know it’s quite disorientating. What’s worse, though, is being stuck in that elevator for two whole hours while you wait for someone to come to the rescue.
Of course, I'd left my mobile phone at the bottom landing along with my purse, so I couldn't even use it as a) a light source, b) a lifeline to the outside world and c) a toddler distraction device. Luckily, I had soda and chocolate in the shopping bag, so I was able to mollify my child periodically with sugary treats and fizzy water.
When we finally emerged – blinking furiously – into the world again, I determined to find out the right way to survive being stuck in a lift. Here’s what I discovered:
- Call out. On the off chance that someone can hear you and come to your rescue, call for help periodically. First, press the service button or alarm immediately– this will alert maintenance that there’s an issue and the quicker you do this, the sooner help will come. Second, tap on the door now and then to get the attention of anyone happening to pass by. Third, every few minutes or so, yell out “Hello. Help.” Just don’t overdo the yelling – try to keep your blood pressure levels low.
- Never force the door. It's tempting to try to force your way out, especially if you feel panicked or suffer from claustrophobia. But breaking the door will only make it more difficult for others to get you out and, if you should succeed in opening the door, where are you going to go? You don't want to stuck in an elevator shaft or – heaven forbid – fall.
- Don’t jump up and down. Some people think it's helpful to jumpstart malfunctioning elevators by bouncing up and down. However, this can affect the lift’s stabiliser system, which will only make the problem harder to fix for repair staff.
- Stay calm. If you’re stuck in a passenger lift, there’s not much you can do, which kind of makes it easier to panic. Don’t. Take some deep breaths and make yourself as comfortable as possible – you’re not in any danger, and panicking will just make your experience all the worse.