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Trapped in a lift? Keep calm...

Users should look for the alarm button on the lift’s control panel. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Users should look for the alarm button on the lift’s control panel. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The trauma of a family of five who were trapped in a lift for more than three hours at the St Vincent de Paul home for the elderly last week seems to have pushed the anxiety button in frequent lift-users.

“I have always been anxious about using lifts, but after I read about that incident, I can’t bring myself to use one,” said Alexia Farrugia, 32, from Rabat.

The Malta Lift Association has since issued guidelines as to what lift users ought to do in the unlikely event they get stuck.

“A lift stops because of its safety mechanism, so remind yourself that you are safe until rescue personnel arrive and help you out,” said Michael Vella, MLA general secretary.

Forcing the lift doors open is a bad idea, despite being the first thing that springs to mind.

“This can complicate and prolong the rescue process,” said Mr Vella. It is also crucial that no one attempts to climb out of the lift – either through the doors or the roof. “This can result in serious injury or death,” he added.

Ideally, lift users should make a habit of looking out for the alarm button on the lift’s control panel whenever they enter one.

“Knowing where to find it if you need it will help you to remain calm and reach out to sound the alarm immediately.”

Upon pressing the alarm button, a two-way intercom is activated enabling the stuck person to communicate with the building’s administrator. If this is unavailable, then the association suggests using a mobile phone to call Emergency Line 112.

“Speak calmly and clearly when explaining that you are stuck in a lift and state the name and address of the building,” he said, adding that it is imperative to follow the rescue personnel’s instructions.

A crowded lift can feel airless “even though it is not” and breathing slowly and deeply will help you keep calm.

“The more you panic, the more breathless you feel,” Mr Vella said.

It is believed that the accident at St Vincent de Paul Residence happened because the lift was overloaded.

Although it indicated a maximum number of five people, the Bezzina family surpassed the maximum weight of 400kg.

Several readers wrote in concerned that the overloaded lift should not have moved.

“A lift fitted with a load-weighing device should not move if it is overloaded,” said Mr Vella, explaining the lift’s automated doors would reopen after the floor button is pushed, allowing passengers to exit safely.

However load-weighing devices only became compulsory in new passenger lift installations from July 2002. The elderly home’s lift was installed in 2001.

Mr Vella said load-weighing devices, along with other safety modifications, are now mandatory in all passenger lifts and can be fitted retroactively to bring them in line with current safety standards.

Around 8,000 lifts in Malta are deemed “potentially unsafe” because they are unregistered, uncertified and not regularly inspected, said association president Lorna Mifsud Cachia. “Unregistered lifts are more likely to be risky,” he said.

All lifts have to be registered with the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority for a one-time fee of €10.

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