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Elevators across Canada are aging; emergency calls more frequent


A widely published Canadian Press article reports that problems with elevators are becoming more frequent, and calls to help people trapped have doubled since 2001.

The article by Colin Perkel follows a Canadian Press investigation of the number of emergency 911 calls that were made for people trapped in elevators last year. The figures, obtained from fire departments and fire marshals, showed big cities led the way: Toronto had 2,862 rescue calls to 911; Montreal firefighters had to attend to 1,532 calls, and Vancouver firefighters dealt with 428 calls.

The article quotes an elevator consultant and mechanical engineer, Rob Isabelle, who said: “If we look at the reliability of a large number of pieces of equipment, it’s really the worse it’s ever been.”

The cause for the increased number of calls is partly a reflection of the fact that there are more elevators, says the article. However, at the same time there’s a problem because elevator technicians are being asked to do much more work than 30 years ago.

Isabelle said that whereas a technician 30 years ago would typically service 35 to 45 elevators for a charge of around $1,000 per month, today a technician has to be responsible for about 100 elevators, for around $600 a month. As a result there is less time to do preventative maintenance.

The article also quotes people who criticize the fact that four large companies dominate the market.

The problems may get worse since many elevators are over 50 years old. In Ontario, 1,550 of 18,000 residential building elevators are more than that age. The parts for them are becoming difficult to find, and the technicians familiar with their technology are no longer so plentiful.

Long-term care facilities of three or four storeys with a single elevator are often the worst hit when an elevator goes out of service for a long time.  People are sometimes confined to their quarters for months.

Eight people were permanently injured in elevator accidents last year, the article reports. However, the province’s safety regular put these accidents down to “user behaviour.”  Elevator fires are another problem, with B.C. having three a year over the past decade “mostly caused by electrical or mechanical failures.”
Upgrading an elevator can cost between $150,000, and they are very costly items to replace.

To read the article by Canadian Press of July 21, click here.