GW repairs campus elevators

Improvements to campus elevators were made this summer after GW administrators hired an independent elevator inspector to examine elevators in all University buildings.

Repairs were made to elevators in Adams, Crawford and Ross halls, although glitches are still being ironed out, according to facilities project manager Charlie James.

Despite the University’s efforts, a student claimed he fell four floors in the Adams Hall elevator Nov. 1. (see related story)

The GW Hatchet conducted an investigation in April into the safety of campus elevators. The Hatchet hired Tony Vattimo, president of Technical Inspection Inc., to inspect the elevators in Mitchell Hall and Gelman Library.

Technical Inspection Inc. handles elevator planning and design, maintenance evaluation, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and safety inspections. The company does not repair elevators.

Vattimo completed his inspection of the Mitchell Hall elevators, but was stopped at Gelman by a University official.

Among the problems Vattimo found during his Mitchell inspection were rougher than normal acceleration, a closing force that exceeded the maximum permitted by code, arrival of the elevator one-half to three-quarters of an inch away from floor level and a door closing time shorter than that permitted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

“It was a good thing we had someone monitoring the elevators,” said Al Ingle, the University’s associate vice president for business affairs. “It prompted us to take decisive action. We were very pleased with the Hatchet discussion.”

After last spring’s inspection, Ingle said University officials were planning changes and improvements, but that they disagreed with some of Vattimo’s findings.

“There’s a recognition (that) there’s old equipment (in Mitchell Hall) and it needs to be overhauled. But it’s a matter of prioritizing,” Ingle said in April. He said no emergency or pressing need existed for immediate overhaul.

“We’ll put in new equipment as quickly as we can,” Ingle said.

This summer, all elevators on campus were inspected by American Elevator Inspection Services Inc. and repaired as part of a general program of elevator improvement and preventative measures, Ingle said.

“We were confident that our elevators were safe and our inspection reinforced that,” Ingle said. “None of these problems were life-threatening or safety hazards, but they were a nuisance. So we took care of it.”

Part of the overhaul included a new computer system designed to adjust speed in the elevators. The elevators in Mitchell and Funger halls still have not been repaired, James said.

“The school has known for years that (certain elevator equipment) needs replacement, but it has been put off for budget reasons,” James said. “Hopefully . we can get more funding to take care of the problem.”

James stressed that the elevators are all safe, just old and a nuisance.

Lawrence McNamara, operations supervisor for residence halls, said a common misconception about elevators is that they “fall.”

He said that in order for an elevator to technically fall, all cables must be severed. McNamara said an elevator fall has only happened once, when an airplane crashed into the Empire State Building.

D. C. requires semiannual inspections of elevators. Private organizations, such as the University, are required to hire an independent elevator inspector, who sends status reports to the District. The city then issues an elevator certificate to the University that is valid for one year.

American Elevator Inspection Services Inc. does full load tests every five years. The semiannual inspection is not as comprehensive.

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