CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Special elevators designed to help out in an emergency are now located at the new Bank of America Tower in uptown Charlotte.
Occupant Evacuation Operation (OEO) elevators were developed by the Schindler Elevator Company to use during emergencies and during fires in high-rise buildings. This technology was developed with the 9/11 terrorist attacks in mind, when people were stuck in the World Trade Center waiting for fire officials to rescue them.
“This will help with getting people out of the building faster when the firefighters come on scene,” Charlotte Fire Inspector Kim Allred said. “They are able to either use the elevator or allow the elevators to still evacuate the people as they are coming into the building.”
Charlotte Fire leaders showed how the elevators work. When there is a fire in the building, the alarm is sounded to alert people there is a fire and to use the elevator to escape. The elevator will come and take people to safety, bypassing the floors where there is danger - ultimately taking people to a floor where they can get out of the building.
Fire officials also say if the fire is intense and elevators cannot be used, a message will be heard telling people to use the stairs only.
“Using the elevators is an outside-the-box type of thing,” Charlotte Fire Division Chief Kent Davis said. “Having a system like this in place gives us a little more confidence that we can use them safely.”
The OEO elevator at the Bank of America Tower is the first on the east coast and fifth in the world. Three of these hi-tech elevators are in California and one in Dubai. Officials say these elevators require training for people who will occupy the building and training for firefighters. This information will be added when the fire drills are conducted in the building.
Fire leaders say even though these elevators can help evacuate people in a high-rise faster, the firefighters will still have to fight fire the way they have always done.
“It’ll take the same amount of people to deal with an emergency in this building as it would otherwise,” Davis said. “You still have to put the lines in place. You still have to do the search. You still have to ventilate and get the people out. This is just another tool in the box to help for us to use to get the people out quicker.”
Fire officials say the elevators will also help those with a disability escape quicker, as they can use the elevator instead of using the stairs or waiting for firefighters to assist them.