Goodbye to elevator fear – everything you should know about elevator safety

Say goodbye to elevator fear

Have you ever felt nervous about stepping into an elevator? These days elevators are packed with safety features and faults are in fact extremely rare. Banish your fear for good with our myth-busting guide – and find out what really happens when someone presses that alarm button.

Published May-15-2024

Elevators are a part of everyday life for huge numbers of people, but the idea of stepping through the car doors can still trigger anxieties in some of us. Getting stuck in an elevator is one common fear, yet entrapment (as it is known in the business) is highly unlikely, and even in emergencies, passengers can get help immediately.

“Being nervous about using elevators is nothing to be ashamed of – it is a normal reaction,” says Salla Hermalahti, Senior Safety Development Manager at KONE. “Yet considering that elevators are used millions of times every day, the number of things going wrong is extremely low,” she notes.

Two KONE maintenance technicians at work using mobile.
Elevators are designed with user concerns in mind and equipped with regulated and thoroughly tested safety features.

No, oxygen cannot run out!

“Elevator myths are quite common and even dangerous,” says Andrea Boesso who worked with KONE to conduct research for his Master’s thesis in ICT innovation at Aalto University in Finland on how elevator design can affect entrapment scenarios.

For example, it’s not uncommon for people to be scared of freefall or running out of oxygen if the elevator stops moving – ideas frequently seen in movies. Yet, both are virtually impossible scenarios.

Elevators are equipped with numerous, regulated security features to prevent them from falling, such as several cables – never just one – which can each support the full weight of the car by itself. On top of that, there are brakes, rails and buffers, as well as a safety mechanism called the overspeed governor, which stops the elevator once it reaches a certain speed. Not to forget the cybersecurity standards in the industry and robust cybersecurity measures that elevators these days have to defend against cyber attacks.

Having knowledge about elevators can help reduce fears around them.

Oxygen will never run out simply because the car is not airtight. In newer elevators, it is even possible to improve the air quality. For instance, KONE DX elevators come equipped with built-in features like the KONE Elevator AirPurifier, which effectively reduces most potential pollutants, including bacteria, viruses, dust, and odors, in the air.

“Having knowledge about elevators can help reduce fears around them,” Boesso says. Design solutions can also play a pivotal role, when combined with research on how people behave. “UX design helps improve elevators by addressing common user concerns and incorporating behavioral insights,” says Boesso. For example, lighting can be optimized so that it does not induce panic, even if the elevator stops.

Woman is standing in an elevator and her reflection in the mirror is dancing.
Elevator design features, such as lighting, can help users feel more comfortable in the elevator.

Help is just a button away

Just knowing that help is immediately available can help reduce elevator fear. KONE 24/7 Connect provide immediate help – as quickly as within ten seconds of pressing an alarm button, says Niklas Vepsä, Senior Manager of Call Center Operations and Excellence at KONE.

Male KONE technician holding his phone and opening car trunk standing on the street.
KONE provides immediate technical support for elevator users, remotely and on-site.

“Our customer service center is open around the clock every day of the year and provides assistance in all malfunction situations,” Vepsä explains. He points out that KONE professionals can communicate with the elevator user directly and provide information in an entrapment scenario. They work closely together with technicians and send them on-site to assist the passengers. “Entrapment situations and emergencies are always prioritized,” he says.

Behind the scenes, KONE teams test elevators thoroughly in safe testing environment.

Boesso’s study found that if people do get stuck, they are hungry for information updates and do not want to be alone. “People want a human, not a robot, to inform them about the situation and reassure them,” Boesso says.

Additional peace of mind, however, can be provided, thanks to developments in technology and the ability to remotely monitor and solve problems. For instance, KONE DX elevators can support new kinds of remote services. With these new services, callout agents can remotely validate the condition of the equipment and, in many cases, make the elevator operational again or release an entrapped passenger. In the case of entrapment, a technician will always be dispatched to the site.

Woman in elevator carrying yoga mat.
Overcoming the fear of elevators involves understanding personal triggers and finding techniques that can gradually help face anxiety.

Simple ways to manage fear

Common anxieties, such as fears of enclosed spaces, heights or those related to vertical mobility, can all contribute to making someone uncomfortable about taking an elevator. For some people, social anxiety can also make elevator rides uncomfortable.

“Fortunately, simple anxiety reduction techniques can go a long way here,” says Salla Hermalahti. She recommends that someone with elevator fear starts by moving one floor at a time, until it becomes easier to increase the distance. “Breathing techniques, such as mindful, slow breathing, can be useful,” she adds. “And acknowledging possible emotional or physical reactions before stepping inside the car can make them more manageable.”

Additional measures can also be considered, according to Hermalahti, such as hot or cold showers or other intense sensory experiences to stimulate the senses. If the issue is being around other people, avoiding rush hour could be a way to prevent unnecessary stress. “Usually, the best technique to overcome fear is to gradually face it.”

Two girls running in corridor.
Parents should always guide children to use elevators responsibly.

Follow the safety instructions

What is noteworthy is that our own actions can greatly impact the safety of an elevator ride. “In almost all accidents, the user has gone against the elevator instructions in some way,” Hermalahti points out. She notes that safety instructions, presented in both text and symbols in the elevators, should be taken seriously.

For example, children should always be guided to the back of the elevator. Also, holding on to safety rails is a good idea. Doors are usually the riskiest area. “No device or product in the world can eliminate risks if instructions are not followed,” Hermalahti says. She points out that KONE monitors the safety of its products constantly, and each reported accident, though unlikely, is thoroughly analyzed.

Goodbye to elevator fear – everything you should know about elevator safety

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