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elevator safety

Stuck in an Elevator With the Devil? An Elevator Expert Tells Vulture What to Do

The supernatural horror movie Devil comes out this weekend, and if you’ve seen the trailer, you’re aware that much of the movie takes place in an elevator where a variety of terrible things happen. The lights turn off, glass shatters, women are mysteriously bitten, the elevator itself plummets, and strange people with smoky faces appear in broken mirrors. And, presumably, the devil eventually makes an appearance. Curious about whether these unlucky passengers might have fared differently if they'd been better aware of elevator-safety protocol, we got in touch with Dilip Rangnekar, elevator expert and director of communications at Otis, the world’s biggest elevator manufacturer. He calmed our nerves, kind of.

So, does the trailer seem plausible? All that stuff going wrong in the elevator?
Let me correct one of the facts — elevators do not go into what they call a free fall. What you’re seeing in the trailer is an elevator plummeting down a hoistway. For that to happen, every single rope in the hoistway — and there are several ropes, which are basically steel ropes, that actually hold an elevator and its counterweight to the machine in the machine room — you have to cut each of these steel ropes for an elevator to come down. And you can’t use a pair of scissors .... Then there is the safety brake that will come into play and hold the elevator from moving. There will always be a brake.

What should you do if the lights go out in an elevator?
The possibility of the lights going off — it can happen. If the electricity goes off in the building, it could also go off in the elevator, but a generator in the elevator can keep the lights on, and most modern buildings have it. But what should you do? There’s normally a button, a call button, on the elevator panel. Check it out next time you’re in one. An elevator that’s maintained by Otis, anywhere in the world, if you press that button you’re instantly connected to someone in a call center. You connect, the person tells you what to do. They’re calming your nerves.

You shouldn’t try to pry the doors open or anything?
No. Even if you have enough strength to pry them open between two floors, you could slip and fall through the gap between the elevator cab and the floor, and that could kill you. Or the machine could suddenly start moving, and you could be killed. No, you press the button and the experts come take care of you.

And what if you have evidence that a demon is sharing the elevator with you?
Do you believe in the paranormal?

No.
Me neither.

But what if it happened?
If you’ve got, so to speak, the devil inside the elevator, press the call button. Call Otis. You’re trying to make this fun, I can understand that. But I’ve never heard of anything like this.

Okay, what if one of your fellow passengers bites you?
Smack the person across the face.

What if you don’t know who it was because it happened when the lights were out?
That’s probably the toughest question I’ve been asked. What to do if someone bites you inside an elevator. But to be serious, that button actually connects you directly ... [You] press the button, you’re connected to security instantly. Within an instant. They can get the doors open and release the passengers within an instant. Today’s technology is so modern that the risks within an elevator are really minimal. It can’t happen, that’s the point I’m trying to make.

But people said the Titanic could never sink.
That’s a great point, because in 1853, Elijah Otis invented the safety brake — 157 years ago — and there hasn’t been a single instance of an elevator plummeting since.

An elevator has never, ever plummeted?
No, no, no. From one floor to another, an elevator might slip a little, but those are so few and far between, they’re not even recorded.

Photo: Universal Pictures