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What You Need to Know About IBC 2021 Elevator Phone Code Requirements

Recent News Reveals Elevator Rides Turned Tragic. What Can We Do?

Here at Kings III we’re singularly focused on emergency communications. That allows us the luxury of honing in on the specific sections of code that apply specifically to what we do. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of code and technological changes– today, we’re talking specifically about elevator communications code. We know it’s complicated, and now with updates from International Building Code (IBC) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), emergency communications inside your elevator require even more. 

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While it’s been over a year since IBC 2021 was released, many are still familiarizing themselves with the elevator phone code requirements and how to navigate them. This is because beginning with IBC 2018, some significant accessibility changes were made. Not only that, ASME 2019 introduced its own similar but distinct regulations centered around the same accessibility. Now with, IBC 2021 in the mix as well, the actual requirements you are expected to follow can feel a bit nuanced. We’re here to help clear that up for you. 

An overview: recently updated elevator phone requirements

So what are these changes we’re talking about? We’ve all been there when the elevator help phone button is pushed accidentally, and the passengers pretend it didn’t happen or, maybe just walk out of the elevator. What does a monitoring station do if it doesn’t get an answer? Monitoring stations receive up to 1,000 false calls every day, but what if a rider needs help but can’t hear or be heard? 

With its 2018 release, IBC outlined additional requirements for emergency elevator communication systems. Emergency elevator communication now had to provide a two-way video and messaging system. The idea was to not only allow an operator to see if there was someone entrapped in the elevator but also provide a means for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired a way to communicate. This was accomplished by outlining a requirement for two-way video and providing American Sign Language (ASL) translation. In 2019, ASME A17.1/CSA B44  issued their own updates which addressed and clarified the points identified in IBC 2018 3001.2.

  1. Two-way message display in the elevator cab
  2. A means for authorized emergency personnel to view video footage of passengers anywhere in the cab
  3. A means activated by authorized emergency personnel to change the cab message to indicate help is on-site if over 60 feet of travel

IBC 2021 specifics

After seeing how ASME adopted their version of the two-way communications code, IBC updated their recommendation, deferring to ASME for the elevator communications requirement. However, with the 2021 release, the IBC language was updated to the following:

An emergency two-way communication system shall be provided. The system shall provide visible text and audible modes that meet all of the following requirements:

  1. When operating in each mode, include a live interactive system that allows back and forth conversation between the elevator occupants and emergency personnel.
  2. Is operational when the elevator is operational.
  3.  Allows elevator occupants to select the text-based or audible mode depending on their communication needs to interact with emergency personnel.

How does this impact you? 

If you are in a state that has adopted IBC 2021 (you can use the filter on our Code Compliance page to check), any new construction will now be under the purview of the video monitoring requirements.

So, let’s get practical. How can this be applied to your elevator systems in order to meet code? 

What it looks like in a compatible two-way video elevator system

  1. An elevator passenger places an emergency call by pressing the phone/help button.
  2. A phone call is placed to the monitoring station through the existing emergency phone system. At the same time, an encrypted tunnel is opened to the monitoring station for video and messaging.
  3. The monitoring station answers the phone and begins a verbal conversation with the passenger.
  4. If the passenger does not respond, the monitoring station can visually confirm via the in-car elevator camera if there is a passenger in the car, and that it was not an accidental button press.
  5. If a passenger is present and has not acknowledged spoken communication, the monitoring station can try to communicate by posting written messages to the in-car screen.
  6. Passengers can either respond verbally or by pressing door open/close buttons to answer “yes” or “no.”
  7. If there is still no response (or the passenger is unable to respond), the visual confirmation of a passenger being present enables the monitoring station to dispatch appropriate emergency personnel.

What it looks like with Kings III’s CabView elevator video monitoring

  1. Our CabView system monitors the phone/help button through a second contact.
  2. When a passenger presses the button, the monitoring center system is notified, and video and text message call requests are created for that specific elevator.
  3. The phone call comes in and is answered by a Kings III Emergency Dispatcher.
  4. When the monitoring station accepts the video and message request, an encrypted tunnel between the monitoring station system and the elevator is created.
  5. Through this tunnel, the Kings III Emergency Dispatcher reviews the video feed and communicates to the car through two-way text messaging.

Elevator codes have always been complicated but they’re also essential for passenger safety. When it comes to emergency elevator calls, seconds count. We know because we’ve been making them count when it matters most for more than 30 years. You can talk to an expert about our IBC 2021-compliant solution here. 

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