You found all the best sales. Now, you’re ready to head for home. That doesn’t sound good!
The step under your feet shatters and falls away. There must be hundreds of metal teeth grinding away down there. The escalator has malfunctioned. And if you don’t move quickly, you could be eaten by the machine.
You’ve probably seen a lot of escalators. They’re everywhere. In the U.S. alone, there are over 33,000 of them.
Globally, people ride escalators about 90 billion times each year. It’s not a new technology, since workers used a version with stone blocks and tree trunks to help build the Great Pyramid at Giza. Jesse Reno designed modern escalators in1859. He used steam power to move a conveyor belt.
The first commercial escalator was made in 1897. And by the 1920s, the metal escalator that you’re familiar with came into use.
Nowadays, escalators come in all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest is in Hong Kong. This outdoor escalator travels 800 m (2,624 ft) and carries over 85,000 people a day.
The smallest escalator is in Japan. This monster covers a whopping height of 84 cm (33 in), and has a total of five steps.
And escalators aren’t just for people, either. They move grocery carts, too. Although escalators are common, they can be very dangerous. An estimated 17,000 people are injured on escalators each year.
In 2010, escalator users at L’Enfant Station Metro in Washington, D.C. heard a strange noise from the escalator, and then it suddenly sped up. People were slammed to the floor, and more people were thrown on top of them. So, if you’re riding an escalator,
Why are sandals or athletic shoes the safest footwear? Why could the red button save a life? Is it helpful if you’re good at jumping or vaulting?
Escalators can save us from climbing a lot of stairs. But any machine can break down, and you don’t want to get hurt. Here are some things you can do to survive a malfunctioning escalator.
Step 1: Dress for the Occasion
You might not think that your fashion choices could affect your safety on an escalator, but it most certainly does. Before riding an escalator, check the length of your shoelaces, pants, or skirt.
Undone shoelaces, or fabric that’s touching the ground puts you at a high risk of getting caught in an escalator’s mechanism. This could cause you a lot of injuries if you’re not careful.
So, before hopping on, make sure your shoelaces are tied. And if your clothes drag on the ground, hold them up for the journey. You don’t want to travel to the inside of an escalator.
Step 2: Anchor Yourself
There’s a good chance that your next escalator ride won’t malfunction, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
If you stand in the middle of the escalator, with your feet shoulder width apart, it gives you a strong foundation.
Most escalators come with a motorized railing on each side. So, grab ahold of the railing to increase your stability. If a malfunction does occur, you’ll stand the best chance of maintaining your balance and composure.
Step 3: Perfect your dismount
If the escalator suddenly speeds up, or changes direction on a dime, you’ll need to adjust to it fast. First, make sure that you face the direction you’re going. If the elevator changes direction, turn around.
If you’re near the top or bottom of the escalator, try to run and get off. If you can’t run, and you’re moving in a new direction, check what’s happening to the other passengers.
If they’re being thrown on the ground at the end of the escalator, you don’t want to become another body on that pile. It could injure you, or you could hurt other people.
Prepare to either leap over the bodies, or jump to an emptier area. Or, if you can, wait until the escalator is closer to the ground, then vault over the railing to get out of the way. This will likely be easier if you’re wearing sandals or athletic shoes.
Step 4: Eyes Up
Many shoppers casually walk onto an escalator with their hands full, or use their phones. To stay safe on escalators, it helps to pay attention.
After all, you’ll be riding above hundreds of sharp, metal teeth. So, make sure you’re not eaten. Keep your eyes out for wobbly steps, or unusual sounds that could signal a breakdown is coming.
In 2015, a woman in China lost her life while saving her son on an escalator. She noticed that the metal plate at the very top of the escalator was missing. After pushing her young son out of the way, the woman fell into the hole. She was crushed to death.
Step 5: Look for the red button
Usually, there are emergency stop buttons at both the top and bottom of an escalator. Most emergency stop buttons are red, and they’re on the right hand side of the escalator.
If you see someone in trouble, or an escalator malfunctioning, press the button. This could help reduce a lot of injuries. Now, you’re prepared to tackle any potential escalator threats that might happen. But what if another common form of travel decides to malfunction, like an elevator?
An elevator with you in it. What would you do if an elevator fails and begins to drop? Is it possible to survive something like this?
- “What Parents Must Know About The Dangers Of Escalators”. 2018. Bart Bernard.
- “NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search – 20039852 – Deaths And Injuries Involving Elevators Or Escalators (Revised).”. 2021. cdc.gov.
- “Petit-Escalator: Kawasaki”. 2021. whereintokyo.com.
- “Ride The World’S Longest Escalator In Hong Kong”. Keegan, Matthew. 2021. Culture Trip.
- “Out-Of-Control Escalator Injures 32”. 2003. cbsnews.com.
- “Attracting Stairs: 10 Extremely Elevating Escalators”. weburbanist.com.