How to Survive a Falling Elevator

Elevator Buttons

Some of us just want to be as prepared as possible for whatever life might throw at us. No matter how irrational these preparations might feel, it can never hurt to know exactly what to do in times of emergency. Specifically, we’re talking today about how to survive in a falling elevator.

In the event that you find yourself stuck in a falling elevator, Survival World is here to teach you just how you’ll survive in times of danger like this one. Keep on reading to find out exactly how to survive in a falling elevator, because you never know what might happen. 

What to do in a Falling Elevator

Every time you step foot in an elevator, you should pay close to attention to how the elevator is acting. Often, a faulty elevator won’t react to buttons being pressed the way they are supposed to, or you’ll notice strange sounds coming from above the elevator. 

If you get in an elevator and it doesn’t feel as secure or safe as it should, that’s the first sign that you should step out and get in a different one–or maybe take the stairs that day. 

The Myths

One of the biggest myths is that you can just jump right before the elevator hits the ground and you’ll be fine. Despite Mythbusters testing this directly, this is simply a myth. If you tried this, most likely, you’d just end up hitting your head on the top of the elevator and crushing your skull. 

The only way for this to be successful is if you time it just right, but even then, there’s a big chance that you’ll only slow down the rate of descent by a few miles per hour. So, as much as we’d all love to believe this is the best, easiest way to survive a disaster like this one, it is simply impractical. 

Another big myth about surviving in a falling elevator is that you’ll be fine if you just stand with your knees bent. This myth comes from the idea that this is how skydivers absorb impact when they land, however, this doesn’t really come into play here. 

There is a chance that this could reduce the impact if the elevator is falling at a short distance and at a slow speed. But, if you’re falling at a high rate of speed, say from the top floor of a hotel, the success of this is just not supported. 

If anything, you might just be adding more strain on your knees, causing serious leg injuries. If you bend your legs like this, you’ll more than likely break the bones in your legs. It just isn’t effective. 

How to Survive a Falling Elevator

So, How Do You Survive?

So… is there any way for you to survive a falling elevator? Science says that the best chance you have is to lay directly on your back the moment you feel the elevator falling. 

As you lay on your back, cover your face using your arm to protect it against any debris or falling materials that might land on you during impact. When you’re laying in this position, the impact of your fall isn’t concentrated to just one part of your body. Instead, the impact is spread throughout, making the impact a bit less deadly. 

When you lay flat on your back, this also helps to prevent your bones from crushing. When impact occurs parallel to force, your bones are much more likely to crush and break bones. When you lay flat down, the impact is orientated to line up with your spine. This can prevent serious, permanent damage. However, laying like this can still cause other bones like ribs to snap. But, that’s better than breaking your whole back. 

Things that Can Go Wrong

Unfortunately, there are still things that can go wrong with this approach to surviving a falling elevator. Not to dampen the mood, but here are the three biggest issues with laying on your back if your elevator falls.

Brain Damage

Laying in this type of position may not allow for concentrated impact, but there is a chance that it can cause problems with your soft tissue organs. 

Specifically, this can cause serious damage to your brain and other organs. Your brain and other soft tissue organs will want to absorb the impact as much as possible, and when you’re going at such high rates of speed. So, even if you’re laying down, you still might not be able to survive the fall if it is from high enough levels. 

Elevator Car Cushions

There’s also always the chance that, no matter how you’re positioned, the elevator car will still crush upon impact. During these circumstances, there’s truly not much you can do other than stay in one spot and hope that it’s less crushed than others. 

If you’re laying flat on your back and your elevator cushions at the bottom of the shaft, the bottom of the elevator floor will become impaled with materials, likely killing you. 

In fact, Betty Lou Oliver actually survived falling 75 stories in an elevator because she wasn’t pressed up against the floor. However, her story is incredibly miraculous and she was still injured greatly. 

While some elevator shafts do have buffers at the bottom of the shaft to prevent impact, others just aren’t prepared in that way and will become crushed as soon the floor hits the ground. 

You’re Free Falling

In general, getting into this position is nearly impossible once you’re free falling. You cannot lay flat down on your back unless you have something to pull you down and hold you securely onto the floor. 

The only way to do this effectively is if you’re already laying on the ground. Now, unless you want to lay on the ground of every elevator you get into, this is just nearly impossible to get right. 

Modern Elevator Doors

Being as Best Prepared as Possible

Even though this position is tough to achieve if your elevator falls, this is easily going to be your best bet for survival. All other ways are just going against all odds of survival, with only laying on your back showing some promise. 

Unfortunately, this situation, in general, is one that’s tough to maneuver. Again, the best way to survive a situation such as this one is to just be as prepared as possible. Play close attention to the way the elevator is operating in the building you’re in. 

If it’s an elevator you use often, pay attention to when–and if–it ever gets serviced. If you’re concerned about the safety of your elevator, you can always talk to the foreman about the elevator’s operations and when it has last been serviced. 

Thankfully, you really don’t have to worry much about being in this situation. Nowadays, elevators are crafted with special technology to help prevent accidents like from happening. Traction elevators are made with steel cables and counterweights so that if the elevator notices an issue with too much speed downward, it will counteract that weight and slow the elevator down before hitting the ground. 

Hydraulic elevators, on the other hand, do not have this safety precaution. They very rarely break, but if they do, they’re just going to plummet. Luckily, these elevators aren’t often used for tall buildings. 

All in all, elevators themselves are prepped to prevent situations like these from happening in modern day. Like we mentioned, there are often cushions now (not like pillow cushions, of course) at the bottom of elevator shafts to prevent the impact of the fall from being too drastic if something does occur. Because of this, you don’t have to get into every elevator with a fear of it breaking and falling at any moment.

Surviving Whatever the World Throws at You

No matter what, you just want to be prepared for whatever the world might throw at you. The best way to prepare to survive the falling of an elevator is to pay attention. 

Don’t let the world distract you too much as you go about your day. Instead, keep your eyes peeled, keep your ears open, and pay close attention. If anything sounds off, feels off, or makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s the biggest sign to let your survival instincts kick in. 

Don’t let your survival preparation stop there, though. Here at Survival World, we want to help protect you from whatever might happen. Check out our helpful blog to keep your mind at ease and you as prepped and ready as possible.