Tulsa Firefighters Train To Use Elevators For High-Rise Rescues

Friday, September 29th 2006, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa firefighters are gearing up for high-rise rescues and they're adding a new tool to their arsenal.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood says until now, elevators have been off-limits during fires. Firefighters say there's a good reason why. But now they say Tulsa buildings have the technology to make elevators work in their favor.

We've all watched the elevator numbers tick down as we fly by floors. But firefighters say before now, they couldn't count on elevators. Tulsa Fire Captain John Marlar: "An elevator can be called inadvertently to a fire floor by heat and smoke. Some of those call buttons that are in hallways or landings can be affected by heat and smoke, that sort of thing."

Captain Marlar says stopping on a floor in flames can be deadly. That's why he's training fire crews with new keys to saving lives. Dozens of fire companies have been training at the CityPlex Towers at 81st and Lewis to put elevators to use in an emergency - with "fire recall." It's technology that wasn't available when the top two floors of the Petroleum Club caught fire in 1994. Crews had to run equipment up several flights of stairs to fight the fire.

Now, all the elevators in the city can be commandeered by fire teams. Crews turn a key, look up the elevator shaft for flames or obstructions, and then take the car to a safe floor to start the rescue. "You can read it in a book, and you can look at pictures, and you can discuss it, but until you actually get out here and put your hands on it that's when it really begins to sink in."

They're not a fire engine, but the elevator cars at go between 5 and 10 miles an hour. That puts crews on the scene much quicker than taking 30 flights of stairs. They say, often just getting to the top takes most of their energy and riding an elevator could be a life-saving lift.

It took 15 years and millions of dollars to update all the elevators in Tulsa with "fire recall." The city of Tulsa's elevator inspector says that puts Tulsa years ahead of other cities like Dallas and Oklahoma City.