Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chicago elevator maintenance & FEO – Help!

We got a call about 6 months ago from a building that wouldn’t get a phone call from their current elevator maintenance vendor and needed someone today.  Of course it was a Friday and the person’s route it was on was on vacation.  We pulled someone else over there to complete a routine repair.   Over the last six months we have kept in contact with the building and they had been fairly ghostly [responding every once in a while, they are in an existing contract].  Recently the building got in touch with us and said they have a few violations.  We went there and it was typical City of Chicago violations

1.    Door restrictor not working
2.    Appendix O “in case of fire” signs needed
3.    Floor lockout is active on FEO phase II

We did a site survey and found what you are more and more commonly finding on the Intergalactic company’s maintenance jobs.  No maintenance or poor maintenance.  We ran down to the machine room and heard a familiar rumble.

[both sides of car are in similar shape]

We looked in the controller and found a jumper.  In the mechanic’s defense, he was just at the building and perhaps he needed parts…

The violations where all legitimate and not unusual, old Adams Hatch Latch that needs to be replaced, signs are a new item, lockout probably never has been noticed for years and years[the lockout that had been used looked as if it was installed by a company who has been out of business for 15 years].

The stinger of the whole thing is that this building most likely will need to replace their controller because of the City of Chicago Fireman’s Emergency Operation[FEO].  Violations where written on 12/16/16, mandate went live on 1/1/17.  Once the violations are fixed and re-inspected they essentially fail the FEO test.

[No flashing hat, no call cancel, did not check protocol on other mandated items]

Take away – Keep up to date when your contract is up, get a maintenance service provider you are comfortable with and will communicate with you.  We[elevator contractors] may not always tell you things you want to hear but there should be someone at the other end of the phone to explain to you what is going on in a timely manner.  Most importantly make sure you know what you are paying for; once a month, once a quarter, full coverage, etc.  And make sure you are up to date on new mandates that are occurring that may impact your building.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Private residence lift accidents

On February 1st, 2017 there was another private home elevator accident in Little Rock Arkansas.  A 2 year old got trapped underneath a home elevator.  There have been new rules/code items that have come out to prevent some of the recent accidents from occurring. Part of the problem we have with private residence elevators is that they do not need to get inspected after they are installed.  This means once a private home elevator is installed there is no oversight or requirements by any jurisdiction to ensure it is maintained and in safe working order.  There is no direct way for the homeowner to be made aware of new mandates, safety items, or regulations that could improve the level of safety of the home elevator.

I have made a time table of a typical home with a private residence lift

Day 1 - Private residence elevator is installed
Day 2 - Private residence elevator is inspected
4 years later - Home is sold
Company who installed lift goes out of business or is sold
10 years later - Home is sold
Manufacturer who sold the lift to the elevator company is out of business or sold
3 year later – Home is sold

It has been the responsibility of the manufacturer and installing company to notify the homeowner of mandates, safety items or other regulations.  But as we see above with the given scenario it would be very difficult for this information to get to the 3rd or 4th homeowner.  Home lift manufacturers go out of business, elevator contractors who install these go out of business, homes are bought and sold. 

There are many responsible elevator companies who install these lifts and maintain them.  And most of the accidents are not the responsibility of the installer or the manufacturer.  The question is how to prevent them from occurring in the future.  My gut recommendation would be to mandate AHJ inspections of all home elevators by a Qualified Elevator Inspector once a year and require a maintenance program with a licensed elevator contractor.  This way we would have positive information flow to the end user for mandates, safety items or other regulations. Regular inspections would also allow to resolve any safety or usage items that have developed.  Homeowner education is key.

My experience - I went to a building on a buy/sell inspection and the lifts gate was damaged so the lead wood fold panel of it was stuck in the closed position[it was a wood fold gate] and the other part was retracted or missing.  The elevator was essentially running with barrier between the lift and the hoistway.  The realtor told me that the lift was in good working order before I had gotten there.  The new owner replaced the lift after my recommendation but a good question to ask is how many other lifts are out there like this and how long have they been running like this?

[Lift hoistway = CAT 5 raceway? - who ran this?]

After an accident, there are a series of law suits, money changes hands, but the loss will never be resolved monetarily.  No one likes being told what to do in their own home but if there is a dangerous device running there needs to be a process to identify these and either make them safe or decommission them.

Good resource - which is the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation. 

There was also another resource available that was created after another accident that was a part of the settlement.  XYZ company had to form a resource to help prevent future accidents for X amount of years.  Well... X amount of years has elapsed and XYZ company abandoned it because their legal obligation was completed.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Elevator hoist way & pit access – Elevator personnel only – State of Illinois

This is a reminder to everyone that the State of Illinois prohibits anyone that does not meet “Elevator Personnel” from accessing elevator hoist ways & pits.

[State of Illinois document - this is the law]

Elevator Personnel – A person having documented training or experience or both and be familiar with the operation and safety functions of the components and equipment. Training and experience may include recognizing the safety hazards and performing the procedures to which they are assigned in conformance with the requirements of the relevant building code.  As outlined in 17.1. 

If your building requires fire testing with devices in the hoist way, a plumber that needs access to the sump, a mason or any other trade that does not meet the requirement of “Elevator Personnel” they shall not have access to the hoist way. 

There have been several accidents and fatalities with non elevator personnel accessing elevator hoist ways.  Take the time to call your elevator service provider and have them assist you in getting in and out of the elevator hoist way safely.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poor elevator portfolio maintenance

We went to a building to do a takeoff on a elevator for modernization last week and at a College and saw some concerning items.  We as elevator contractors see great opportunity when going to a campus with many elevators.  We also see competitive pressures that drive us to be creative in bidding to get the maintenance agreement.   I found the following on this specific elevator.  The incumbent maintenance contractor has been at this campus for over 10 years.

Get this out of the machine room College!
No jumpers sign on the controllers.  This is a generally accepted good idea and a part of the elevator code. 
 Perhaps we didn't see the sign on the controller
 It has been many years since the head was wiped off
                               It has been many years since car top has been cleaned 

Good elevator maintenance practices will reduce shut downs, prolong equipment life, allow for easier future maintenance and increase the safety of the elevator equipment.  You will not make a immediate return by performing proper maintenance but in the long term there is a benefit for all parties.  

The problem with public bids is that usually the low price comes with the lowest level of service. So perhaps the building doesn't want to pay for a good maintenance program, perhaps the elevator contractor doesn't allow the time for the elevator mechanic to complete elevator maintenance, or perhaps the elevator mechanic is complacent and uses this group of buildings to pad time.  This idea is something the building owner, elevator contractor and elevator maintenance tech all need to have buy in for.  

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Elevator Fireman's service phase I & II and automatic recall

We had a question from a building owner who modernized their elevator equipment on how fireman’s service operation functioned. All new elevators modernized or new construction will have fireman’s service and automatic recall.  I had intended on doing a very thorough post but non elevator life got in the way and I will revise the posting when I get a few moments.  But this is a good start.

Phase I – Fireman’s recall phase I is a key switch located in the lobby of a building, it could be in the hall button fixture or mounted in the door frame.  This key switch when activated will call the elevator to the main floor[where the key switch is] and the doors will open.  This is meant to be used by emergency service personnel only.

Phase II – The phase II key switch is in the elevator and is for the emergency personnel to operate the elevator without any interruption. 

Automatic recall – Automatic recall is when a fire recall device(s)[most of the times they are smoke detectors but the City of Chicago allows[ed] sprinkler flow switches] go off, the elevator will go to the main landing or alternate landing depending on which device goes off.  If a device on the 3rd landing goes off[assuming it is not the main landing] the elevator will go to the main landing[most times the 1st floor or lobby] and the doors will open and not allow operation of the elevator.  If a device goes off on the main landing the elevator will go to an alternate floor and the doors would open and not allow operation.  The purpose of this feature is to send the elevator away from the fire floor for everyone’s safety.

Exercising requirements – The elevator code requires FEO[Fire Fighters Emergency Operation] to be “exercised” once each month and documented.  If your elevator company isn’t coming once a month the building must have someone trained in this exercise.  

Phase I Bypass/Reset/Old Chicago – There are a few different phase I switches. 

Bypass – When turned to bypass it will bypass the smoke detectors that are active.  This was removed in the 2000 code and replaced with Reset.

Reset – 2000 and after elevator code has Reset, this will reset the controller but not allow the elevator to run if there are active smokes.

Old Chicago – This was an On/Off switch only

Phase II changes

            Pre 2004 code – key switches accessible to anyone in the elevator car station

            2004 to current – Fireman’s service panel behind locked door

If you are curious about the operation of FEO call you elevator company have them explain it to you or have them come show you how it works.

Credit – for some images used

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Importance of elevator data tags

This seems like a fairly straight forward item, “it is important to have the correct data tags on elevator equipment”.  This is the 2nd experience I have had in the last few months where I have run into the incorrect information on devices which may have caused unnecessary issues with the elevator system.

Experience #1 - The most recent experience was at a school we are modernizing.  The elevator had been shut down for a long period of time.  I went to get the voltage off the disconnect and saw they had small wires so I assumed it was 480vac.  I needed the motor information as well, the power unit did not have a motor tag so I looked for a controller tag and found the tag below.

Well I got the information on the motor horse power but this didn’t make sense.  It is a 208 controller with 480VAC voltage. 

I looked in the starter cabinet and found the tag below.

Perhaps the transformer dropped the voltage down at the starter to the controller but the amps are labeled incorrectly.  What else is incorrect on the control system?  This reminded me of a project we did with the same package company which everything was mislabeled,  motor was wrong size, Oh yeah the floor to floor travel was wrong too.

Experience #2 – I got a call from a electrical engineer about an elevator that had an elevator on single phase with a converter to simulate 3 phase.  This elevator had been shut down for a month after running for 11 years.  He told me about this system and something didn’t make sense.  If the elevator was running for 11 years with no issues I don’t know how the elevator system was the problem.   I went to the building and looked at the disconnect, metered the disconnect, and identified the label on the disconnect was wrong.  The elevator was correct, the converter was correct, the disconnect label was wrong.  Previous to everyone’s involvement the elevator service company installed a solid state starter on the elevator that is fed by single phase w/3 phase converter and it didn’t work.  The building hired an engineer who didn’t meter the disconnect and spent time trying to figure out why the elevator was ordered wrong.  The elevator had run 11 years prior.  Due to incorrect labeling it was out of service over a month, lots of speculation why, not sure if the elevator is running because I never heard from the engineer after I pointed this out to him.   In this case the right solution may have been to put the mechanical starter back on.  And/or get the electrician who installed the phase converter in the same room with the elevator company.  This should have taken a few days, not a month.  

Take away - Everyone makes mistakes, controller companies, electricians, elevator companies and even myself.  If you have a wrong label, correct it by getting the correct information where it needs to go.  While you may know the label is wrong, the next person may not.  DO NOT TRUST LABELS, DO NOT TRUST WHAT SOMEONE WROTE ON THE CONTROLLER, DO THE DILIGENCE TO DOUBLE CHECK.  MEASURE TWICE CUT ONE.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Finishing touches – Chicago elevator maintenance

As an elevator contractor/mechanic it is difficult to get to all of our customers, fix their elevators, replace required parts, complete annual CAT 1 testing, complete annual fire testing and at times cleaning gets put on the back burner.  We have been trying to clean up some accounts that we have had for many years and some of the buildings we have as new customers.

Most of the cleaning we are completing the building owner will never see as it is in the hoistway.  Just a few elevators that had some build up of debris, dust, dirt, etc that we cleaned down the hoistway.  Not only does it look better, it removes fire hazard.  Too much dust will create a combustible environment due to particulate. 


We are trying to also get to the elevator traction machines and find the lost art of painting elevator machines.  The first picture is a elevator we modernized and painted the machine.  The 2nd group is a newer account we are taking the time to paint the machine and machine room floor. 



We are also trying to get to elevator machine rooms that could use a nice coat of paint on the floor.  We picked up a account with 16 elevators and spent some time cleaning the machine rooms and putting a coat of paint on the floor.


In the fast paced day to day of we still believe it is important to make the elevator environment clean, when it is clean it is easier to work on.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.