KSU elevators to get upgrade amid concerns


Sophomores Andrew Jardy, newspaper journalism major; David Rowe, electronic media production major; Rex Santus, newspaper journalism major and Bryan Pilny, newspaper journalism major, ride the Olson Hall elevator. EMT stretchers cannot fit into the elevator, which is raising safety concerns Matt Hafley

Daniel Moore

Just after midnight Dec. 4, Megan Duffy experienced chest pains that felt like a heart attack.

Duffy, who lives on the third floor of Olson Hall, said her chest hurt so badly that she “couldn’t function,” and the resident assistant on duty called 911. When paramedics arrived at her door, she said they didn’t have the gurney.

“They were just like, ‘can you walk to the elevator?’” she said.

The gurney still sat in the lobby downstairs, she said, because paramedics couldn’t fit it on the elevator.

Although paramedics later diagnosed Duffy’s pains as a muscle cramp, and she was able to walk to the elevator, she said the incident highlights a serious problem.

“If I had broken my neck and not been able to walk, they would’ve had to carry me down the stairs,” she said.

Despite recent problems and concerns about elevator safety on campus, Kent State officials say elevators are and will continue to be well-maintained — or else be replaced.

“We are aware of some problems with elevators due to age of the equipment,” Elizabeth Joseph, the director of residence services, said in an e-mail. “We are currently working on identifying a plan to upgrade and replace elevators in various residence halls.”

Joseph said the Lake/Olson Hall elevators will be replaced this summer as part of a plan to renovate or replace all the elevators campus-wide by 2015. Residence Services, she said, would not be able to share more details regarding the renovation until March.

Robert Winkler, the assistant director of Campus Environment and Operations, said the Olson Hall elevator is not a violation because it met the code at the time it was built in 1961.

“A lot of these elevators don’t meet codes because the code at the time didn’t require it,” Winkler said. However, every time an elevator undergoes an upgrade, he said, it will meet the current code.

Although the elevator is not in violation, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce, the code was changed in 2002 to “allow elevator carts to accommodate ambulance stretchers” and again in 2007 to fit an even larger stretcher.

In its 48 years, Olson Hall’s elevator has not been upgraded. Joseph said when Residence Services renovates the elevators, they will meet the updated code.

But Winkler said age alone is not a key factor in determining when to replace elevators.

“They can safely run indefinitely, as long as they meet safety standards,” he said. “You got elevators here that are actually pretty reliable.”

Winkler said the Ohio Bureau of Operations and Maintenance inspects elevators twice a year. According its records of elevator inspections from 2009, elevators incurred violations ranging from a broken light to dirty hoist ropes to a “non-functioning reopening device.”

John White, the associate director for administrative operations in Residence Services, said a Wright Hall elevator was temporarily shut down Dec. 1 because the chain wheel was not completely broken, but it was “getting there,” and “needed to be replaced badly.” Once the chain, along with some plates at the top, was replaced, the elevator was reopened for use.

“Lake and Olson (elevators) are probably the worst,” White said. He also said some of the other elevators on campus are “having issues periodically, because they’re old.”

However, Winkler said he cautions against judging an elevator’s performance just because it is frequently down for service, even citing instances students could be at fault for maintenance.

He said students have messed with all the buttons, set off the fire alarm, overloaded the cart past its weight capacity, tried to light the ceiling on fire, and, most recently, stolen light bulbs. Students have to realize elevators are mechanical devices, he said, and will malfunction if “guidelines are not properly followed.”

He assured students campus elevators are checked, double-checked and triple-checked. White said Otis Elevator is the company the university contracts to perform “preventative, routine maintenance” and to “respond to any problems.”

“We have a mechanic here 40 hours a week. We have the state inspector. We’ve even hired a consultant to survey elevators older than 5 years,” he said. “I am not aware of any injury ever being caused by our elevators. I’d say that’s a pretty good safety record.”

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].