Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Breathe Deep, Don't Panic. It Won't Help....

"I don't think we're heading toward a crisis, I believe we're already there. If we look at the reliability of a large number of pieces of equipment, it's really the worst it's ever been."
"We're into almost this downward spiral. Service technicians are getting loaded up with more and more, having less time to do preventive maintenance."
"The less preventative maintenance you do, the more problems you're going to have."
Rob Isabelle, mechanical engineer, elevator consultant

"It [the elevator she was in] started making a lot of banging noises. Then the lights went out. There was a lot more banging went on, and then it dropped to the basement."
"It jolted me when we came to a stop at the bottom. I didn't know what was happening or when it was going to stop. Everything was black. I kept trying to press buttons to try to make it open the doors but nothing would happen."
Nancy Lean, 46, Toronto

Elevator Crash at Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, August 4, 2016, Critically Injuring Sheriff's Officer Who Was Thrown Like 'Projectile' NBC 10

This woman found herself trapped in an elevator at York Regional Police headquarters in Aurora. This was her workplace. She was on her way to the second floor when the elevator suddenly turned rogue and unamenable to responding to the instructions given it through the up-to-then reliable button system which simply failed to respond. This was, without doubt, an experience that anyone finding themselves in wouldn't be too anxious to repeat.

But it's an experience that is being repeated and repeated and repeated. Infrastructure, particularly mechanical-electrical types grow old and cranky; there is fatigue of the system and its various parts and eventually something will go wrong. Building owners know all this, that it is the cost of doing business to have insurable, reliable equipment in their buildings. To that end they contract for regular maintenance from the industry that services elevators.

Often enough these are the very same corporations that build them, huge multinationals like Otis, Schindler, Kone and ThyssenKrupp. There are also small, independents who also offer similar services. Understandably, they may have the expertise to compete, but the big corporate interests don't look too kindly at their presenting as alternative service ports. So it all comes down to marketing and undercutting competition by low-balling contract pricing.

The fact that there are so many elevators everywhere means that there's a lot of business to be had. It was profitable business at one time. But in the competition to grab greater portions of the market share, even as the elevators themselves were steadily aging and requiring more attention they began receiving less servicing and break-downs began to proliferate.

Imagine living or working on a floor above, say, the tenth floor of any building and the elevator/s break down. That's no mere inconvenience, that's a huge disruption and difficulty; not everyone is in the athletic shape it takes to trudge up and down stairs. According to Mr. Isabelle,  thirty years earlier the typical workload for a technician would be to service roughly 35 to 45 elevators for which the cost would be $1,000 per elevator per month.

Such maintenance contracts would be all-encompassing, inclusive of due diligence, repairs as needed, adjustments as required, and the elevators would be reliable in their workhorse capacity with no surprises. At the present time, that very same contract's price has been reduced to about $600 to remain competitive in the undercut-marketplace of opportunity and increased market share. Moreover technicians -- at that price -- are responsible now for 100 elevators.

The four large multinationals named above had their European operations fined over $1-billion in 2007 for having colluded on pricing, which exacerbated the prevailing, reasonable system of contract-and-service, to cut out the small independents which were taking business away from them, while doing a creditable job. The small independents just couldn't compete with the cut-rate pricing of the multinationals and went out of business.

Elevator Crash at Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center, Critically Injuring Sheriff's Officer Who Was Thrown Like 'Projectile' NBC 10

This has resulted in property owners and managers of older buildings in particular facing a dilemma. Parts and technicians capable of handling aging equipment have become few and far between. The option of replacing elevators with more modern ones can run to between $150,000 to $300,000 for each replacement, only partially recoverable from tenants over a prolonged period.

The crisis of elevator break-downs is on the rise. How common are those break-downs where people find themselves trapped on malfunctioning elevators, and in some instances are injured? In the province of Ontario alone last year firefighters responded to 4,461 emergency calls to extricate hapless people from elevators; a dozen a day, about double such occurrences in 2001.

Toronto had about 2,862 elevator-rescue calls to 911 last year. Montreal firefighters responded to 1,532 calls, and Vancouver responded to 428 calls, and in the nation's capital, Ottawa, 314 calls went out to come to the rescue of trapped elevator victims.
On Saturday, the Colorado Springs Fire Department confirmed that the reason Trump’s event started late was because he got stuck in a hotel elevator and had to be rescued by Colorado Springs firefighters.
The fire department said in a statement that Trump was trapped inside an elevator at The Mining Exchange Hotel with about 10 other people. Fire officials said Monday those inside were trapped for no more than 15 minutes.
Firefighters opened the top elevator hatch and lowered a ladder to get everyone out of the elevator.  The Denver Post

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