You ride elevators to cut down on commute time from your home to your office, doctor’s appointments, and back again. These machines allow you to use less exertion than climbing countless steps up a flight of stairs. The elevator is indeed one of mankind’s greatest inventions born from the 20th century.
But being housed inside a machine taking you up on a winch cable may induce fear and paranoia. Your life is literally hanging in the balance, but how grounded in reality are these fears? Are elevators truly safer than stairs?
Fear of Elevators
Why are people afraid of elevators? What is the rationale behind this phobia? The fear of elevators is more or less a combination of several fears.
The rider of the elevator is confined to a limited space and cannot move out for a certain period of time. This phobia is commonly understood as claustrophobia. The second fear related to elevators is the inability to save yourself in the event of an accident. A similar rationale is present in those who suffer from aerophobia. If your plane falls from the sky, what else can you do but brace for impact and accept your death?
Mechanics of an Elevator
Let’s explore how the mechanics of an elevator and what it does in the event of an accident.
The elevator’s car, which houses its passengers, is hoisted up by a series of steel cables. When the passenger pushes a button to a specific floor, the computer winds the cables up or down to bring you to your desired floor number.
The steel cables holding the elevator car are extremely durable, in accordance with federal and state DOT regulations. Generally, elevators have six to eight cables. Even if all but one cable is cut, the car can stay hoisted. The cables and elevator mechanisms are subject to routine testing to ensure they’re up to code. Devices that are defective are ordered to be shut down until repairs are made.
If all the cables are cut, however, it would send the car in free fall. In this event, the car goes down past an allowable velocity, which triggers the emergency brakes. These mechanisms will slow the car gradually to a halt until help arrives.
If, however, the power is out and the steel cables are unexpectedly cut, the car’s counterweights are put to use. The counterweights will either stop or slow the descent of the car to a safe speed. This will drastically minimize the risk of injury and death to all passengers.
Statistics of Elevator Accidents
Thanks to their inherent safety measures, elevator-related deaths are extremely rare. According to one source, most of the deaths actually occur to maintenance workers repairing a broken unit and either fall or get crushed between floors.
Statistically, passengers die five times out of 18 billion trips a year.
Risks of Climbing the Stairs
While climbing the stairs may yield health benefits, such as exercise and muscle-building, it also puts you at risk for injury and death. Falls, concussions, broken bones and other maladies may occur in your local staircase. Statistically, 1,600 people die from climbing stairs every year.
From a total of 27 deaths to 1,600 deaths, you are roughly 60 times more likely to die from climbing the stairs.
Rest assured, elevators are much safer than staircases.