New elevator technology is a big help for people with disabilities

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Keeping up to date with building safety codes is not a particularly exciting job. There are different codes to watch out for, and individual requirements can make documents longer than some novels. For example, ASME A17.1-2019, a widely accepted code across North America for the design and operation of elevators, contains over 500 pages. So while browsing codes like this isn’t as fun as reading a long piece of fiction, it’s pretty darn important that owners do.

Recent changes to ASME A17.1-2019 and other building codes include revisions to emergency communication requirements. The revisions have been made so that owners and property managers can maintain communication with occupants who might get stuck inside a faulty elevator. Specifically, the revisions aim to help the deaf, hard of hearing and hard of hearing who may be vulnerable when trapped in elevators without being able to communicate.

How would the revisions help? By requiring that two-way communication systems in elevators include visual, text and video elements and be connected to call center staff through a 24/7 live interactive system. The new requirements are included in other codes, including the 2018 International Building Code (IBC), and some say they are making a huge difference in elevator safety for the hard of hearing and hard of hearing. However, the new technology required could be a significant change for homeowners who do not currently have two-way video services in their elevators.

“You have to add a significant amount of equipment to an elevator for two-way communication systems,” said Arthur Dionisio, New Construction at Stanley Elevator Co. “From a building owner’s perspective, you need to register with from a telephone company capable of receiving a video stream, not just a telephone line, and also having a high-speed Internet connection on your elevator.

Dionisio said this might already be standard practice for some high-rise buildings and not as bad. But low to mid-rise facilities, especially in rural areas, may not have these technological capabilities currently installed. Adding two-way video communication systems can be a bit expensive, but it’s for security, so it’s crucial. Depending on the competent authority, it may also be required. Dionisio said New Hampshire is one of the few states that automatically updates new building codes. For buildings located in other jurisdictions, the two-way video emergency system is still relatively new and may not be required for a few years. States and jurisdictions that have adopted IBC 2018 or ASME A17.1-2019 and require video emergency systems include Phoenix, Chicago, Nevada, Alabama, South Carolina, and Maryland.

An estimated cost for installing communications systems would be between $ 2,500 and $ 5,000 per elevator, according to a report from Home Innovation Research Labs that examined the costs of ICC code changes 2018 for multi-family buildings. The Schindler Group, a Swiss manufacturer of elevators and escalators, says that in addition to installing the visual communication device and touchscreen, building owners should also install a video camera that activates. when an occupant calls for help. As Dionisio said, the system would also need a high-speed internet connection and would have to be connected to a customer service network capable of responding to emergency calls.

Even if your jurisdiction does not require it, installing two-way video communications in elevators is a great way to ensure the safety of tenants or hard of hearing or hearing impaired employees in an emergency. New technology improves elevator safety and helps people with disabilities, and according to some elevator companies, video displays may have additional benefits outside of emergencies, such as providing engaging entertainment content and information updates. in your building.

A rare but frightening emergency

Elevators and freight elevators are complex equipment, but they are very reliable. A typical, well-maintained elevator in a commercial or residential building experiences an average of about 0.5 to 2 failures per year, according to Elevating Studio, a Dutch elevator consulting company. If you use an elevator eight times a day in an office and work 200 days, you will make approximately 1,600 trips per year with the office elevator. So when you do the math, your chance of getting stuck in that office elevator in a typical year is around 0.16%.

The chances of getting stuck in an elevator are slim, but it can be a frightening experience when it does. For most of us, there are a few general emergency guidelines to follow, such as calling 911, pressing the call and alarm button, and staying calm. Two-way, voice-only emergency systems are generally good enough to resolve the situation if properly monitored. But for people with disabilities like the hard of hearing and hard of hearing, getting stuck in an elevator can be a nightmare. Technicians who call from emergency telephones cannot be understood by the hearing impaired and hard of hearing, preventing them from calming communication and hampering rescue efforts.

New technology for two-way video systems can therefore be a huge improvement in security that greatly helps tenants and employees with disabilities. Along with voice capabilities, the systems add text and, according to the third-party emergency call center, maybe even sign language support for those stranded. With most two-way systems, the disabled occupant presses the “emergency” button on the video screen and then responds to a series of “yes” or “no” questions. The questions may be accompanied by sign language videos, safety instructions, and messages telling the occupant that help is on the way. Authorized personnel would be able to view the interior of the cabin via a camera and also communicate with passengers.

Sign language skills are essential in two-way video systems in elevators, according to View, an Austrian elevator management company. Sign language is the primary form of communication for most deaf and partially deaf people, so communication systems that don’t include it may not be the best option. Installing these systems can go a long way in helping homeowners make their buildings more accessible and disabled-friendly.

Additional benefits

Interactive touch panels are an essential part of two-way emergency systems in elevators, and they have additional benefits. Touch screens can display entertainment and news feeds, branding and marketing messages, company or property information, and they can provide systems monitoring. All of these benefits can add to the overall tenant experience.

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Marc Kidd, CEO of Captivate, a digital signage company, says touch screens in elevators bring video and text networking to tenants like news, information and sports. “Elevators are difficult social spaces,” Kidd said. “When you ride one, you tend to watch your feet or your belt buckle. When there is a screen in there, it will draw your attention to it. The screens can also be used to educate, inform and connect buildings with their tenants.

Elevator touch screens are becoming more and more common, especially in hotels and the hospitality industry. Kidd says his company provides its digital elevator signage solutions primarily to Class A and Class B office buildings. Many of these systems are also customizable and can be connected to smartphones, computers and tablets so that building owners and facility managers can verify performance data and place service calls. Increasing elevator connectivity is a trend in the industry, connecting elevators to service providers who receive alerts when faults appear or are likely to develop.

With regard to two-way video communication, two essential complementary services are remote monitoring of elevators and a connection to a call center. These two external providers can help in emergency situations. Today, some elevator vendors offer 24/7 call centers that can dispatch technicians quickly in case people are stuck in elevators or other urgently needed repairs. Remote elevator monitoring providers track hundreds of elevators across the country and sometimes around the world, and they are able to diagnose and identify problems and send automatic service calls before they go. elevator does not experience a malfunction.

As we mentioned, depending on your jurisdiction, the installation of two-way emergency video communications for elevators may be required by building or elevator code. But the benefits of installing these systems could go beyond mere compliance. Video communications and interactive touch screens go a long way in helping people with disabilities in emergencies such as being stuck in elevators. Without these systems, communicating with the hearing impaired or hard of hearing in an emergency in elevators is much more difficult.

With a single investment in video communications, landlords can also enjoy other benefits, such as a more elegant and comfortable tenant experience with entertainment, news feeds and other digital displays. Elevator breakdowns don’t happen very often, but you may want to consider adding this new technology to help vulnerable tenants and employees and increase elevator safety.

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