Important to note regarding code compliance: Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) are based locally and may not all follow the same code. Some follow the national IBC, while others follow ASME specifically when it comes to elevator inspections and code compliance, which can vary by state. Just as IBC included in its 2018 updates, ASME 17.1 was similarly updated in 2019 to include standards around elevator video communication.
See information regarding the ASME elevator video communication code here.
What does the 2018 International Building Code 3001.2 update mean for building owners and property managers?
Building code compliance is paramount, especially when you own or manage commercial and multifamily properties. Among everything else on your plate, it can be a beating to keep up with.
First, some background on IBC. The International Building Code (IBC) is a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC). Long and short? Years ago, there were three regional model code groups. In the early 1990s, these three code groups decided to join forces in an effort to develop codes without regional limitations. They formed the ICC in 1994, released the first edition of the International Building Code in 1997, and continue to publish new editions every three years. Code provisions are intended to protect public health and safety while avoiding unnecessary costs and preferential treatment of specific materials or methods of construction. Google ICC and you’ll find the many code groups they have published – International Fire Code, International Property Maintenance Code, International Zoning Code, etc. The International Building Code is compatible with all of these.
So, what has changed this time? Plenty, we are sure. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the change to emergency communication systems in elevators via a Q & A session with the CEO of Kings III Emergency Communications and Qualified Elevator Inspector (QEI), Dennis Mason. Mason has extensive experience in the elevator world, having owned southern California based Modern Elevator which he eventually sold in 2002. He went on to serve as Las Vegas project manager for Lerch, Bates and Associates, the world’s largest elevator consulting firm before joining Kings III in 2005. Over the years, Dennis has provided expert testimony in a number of elevator litigation cases and continues to maintain his elevator licenses.
Enough about Dennis; let’s get down to it. First, what does the updated code state?
IBC 3001.2 Emergency elevator communication systems for the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech impaired. An emergency two-way communication system shall be provided that:
1. Is a visual and text-based and video-based 24/7 live interactive system.
2. Is fully accessible by the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech impaired and shall include voice-only options for hearing individuals.
3. Has the ability to communicate with emergency personnel utilizing existing video conferencing technology, chat/text software or other approved technology.
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Q&A with Dennis
1. Who does the code apply to and when?
A: Any jurisdiction that is under the 2018 International Building Code should need to comply with this part of the code if the permit to build was obtained after January 1, 2018. Local jurisdictions would have the option of a variance from this if they so designated.
2. What does this new IBC code mean in layman’s terms?
A: IBC requires the ability to communicate with emergency personnel using video conferencing or other approved technology from the elevator cab.
3. What problem is this meant to solve? Who benefits?
A: This was specifically intended for use by the deaf or hearing and speech impaired
4. Is there not already a mechanism to alert callers that help is on the way? Why the replacement? Where does the current mechanism fall short?
A: The visual indication that “help is on the way” was in most cases a misnomer. While the light did indicate that a connection to “authorized Personnel” was established, its illumination was an inaccurate indication that help was actually on the way. In fact, in most cases when dealing with a deaf or hearing-impaired person; activation of the emergency two-way communication device would not result in help being dispatched even though visual indication might lead the person to believe that it was.
5. How do you foresee this impacting elevator companies in general (including the majors)? And specific to those who currently monitor their customers’ emergency phones?
A: Any customer that has an elevator that would be subject to this requirement would need to have a service that is not currently provided by their elevator contractor. If their elevator contractor is currently answering their 2-way voice communications, they would need to add hardware and back end support to ensure that the 2-way video requirement is met.
6. How does this impact building owners and property managers?
A: This creates an additional burden of back end support. No longer can an emergency phone service just ring an answering service or security company (or even on-site) but would need to accommodate 2-way video as part of the solution.
7. How does this change the way emergency calls are monitored?
A: The requirement of 2-way video, as well as the ability for deaf persons to communicate, requires a specialized solution. It would require owners to ensure that their solution has features that it likely does not have today.
8. How will the new two-way video communication system change the end-user/caller experience?
A: If a person is not hearing impaired or deaf, there would be no change unless the video session was determined to be required (it might in a medical emergency or assault, etc.). If voice communication is not established, video communication can be used to communicate a number of things but specifically when help will arrive and what form of assistance is required.
9. How do you think this new end-user/caller experience will translate for Kings III building owner and property management customers?
A: With video, Kings III would be able to provide more specific information in regards to entrapments, medical emergencies, etc.
Kings III’s solution addressing elevator video communication updates: CabView™.
10. Benefits beyond those to the hearing impaired?
A: If a single button press is made and no voice communication is made with an occupant, you can be sure that no assistance is going to be dispatched. The false alarm rate in these cases is well over 99% and so a dispatch is impractical. While an entrapped person would likely repress the button if no assistance arrives, they may choose not to do that since the light indicates “help is on the way”. If they activate the button multiple times, assistance is more likely to come, so long as the receiving company has automation that lets them know this has happened.
11. Given your extensive experience in the elevator industry, what is your opinion on any unforeseen benefits of this new code? Unforeseen issues?
A: The benefits are that we will be able to view the elevator cab interior and better ascertain the state of an entrapped or injured individual. As our customers know, elevator entrapments often lead to injury claims at a later date. While we currently ask about injuries, having video evidence further enhances our customers’ position about any claimed injury after the fact.
12. What’s the difference between ASME and IBC?
A: ASME A17.1 is the code for elevators and the IBC is the International Building Code. The IBC makes requirements that are more general in nature when related to elevators and ASME is the code that addresses specific requirements for elevators.
See information regarding the ASME elevator video communication code here.
Kings III Emergency Communications
Kings III Emergency Communications has been providing complete, compliant, and affordable emergency phone solutions for elevators, poolside, stairwells, parking areas, and more for nearly three decades, monitoring 100,000+ help phones across the U.S. Our all-inclusive turnkey solution includes equipment, installation, maintenance and 24/7 monitoring at our very own Emergency Dispatch Center for one low price. Two key differentiators include our smart line seizure technology which eliminates costly dedicated emergency phone lines and our digital recording and storing of all calls. These coupled with advanced operator training and many other value-added benefits allow us to reduce risk, liability, and costs for our customers.
Made and supported in the USA. Get more information about our CabView solution here.