While we can’t predict exactly what will happen during any given hurricane season, you can take proactive steps before, during, and after a storm to protect investments in your building’s infrastructure and equipment like elevator systems. Having an emergency preparedness plan in place for your building is second only to plans to protect the safety of staff and clients during and after a weather event. Below is a reference guide for facility owners and operators to support this effort, beginning with tasks which should be completed early on each season and ending with restoring normal operations after a storm.

Early Preparation


  • Inspect any openings, louvers, and/or covers to confirm they are in place and in good repair. If louvers or ventilation hoods are damaged, they should be replaced to reduce the risk of water intrusion into the hoistway.
  • Ensure motorized louvers are operating in accordance with their sequence of operations. The most common operation would be closed, except during a smoke event in the hoistway or loss of power in which case they would open. The dampers are on emergency power and the louvers are slatted to reduce the possibility of water intrusion. If the louvers are connected to the emergency power supply system (EPSS), they will reclose upon building emergency power being restored.
  • Check that all fasteners are secure, and caulking is in good shape.

Machine Rooms

  • Ensure all exterior door seals are in place and in good condition and that hinges and hardware are in working order and securely fastened. Doors should automatically close, lock, and latch securely.
  • Verify that any machine rooms fitted with louvers or vents have deflecting slats in place to prevent water from entering the elevator machine room. If the elevator machine room is air conditioned, the louvers can be permanently closed and sealed.
  • Verify glass in any windows is free from cracks or other concerns and all caulking and seals are undamaged.
  • Check the condition of battery lowering devices, emergency lights in elevator cabs, and emergency power connections and operations. This should be part of the monthly EPSS testing.

Elevator Pits

  • Verify that elevator sump pumps, floats, and water alarms are in good working condition. This includes checking that sump pump connections are complete and sump pits are free of oil and debris with sump pit covers in place.
  • Check that lights are operable and that switches have covers in place.
  • Confirm GFCI receptacles work properly and in-use covers are in place.

Storm Preparation


  • Re-check the openings in the top of the hoistway to verify they are closed or have deflectors in place to prevent water entry.
  • If hoistways have windows installed, heavy plywood or shutters should be installed to prevent damage from debris.

Machine Room

  • Verify doors are secure and that windows or other openings are secured by heavy plywood or shutters.
  • If your machine room is not air conditioned, closing the intake and exhaust louvers will cause the machine room to quickly heat up and should be completed as late as possible in storm preparations.

Elevator Pit

  • Check all drains, sump pumps, float switches, alarms, lights, and receptacles in the elevator pit. Remove any debris, tools, or other items that could wind up in the sump pits and cause drainage issues.

General Preparation Considerations

  • Shut down elevators that open outdoors and place sandbags along the exterior of the hoistway doors to prevent water from cascading down the hoistway and causing excessive flooding.
  • Consider also placing sandbags in front of machine room doors if they are located on basement or lower levels to prevent flooding as well.
  • Ensure security and emergency operations personnel are equipped with a diagram of the location of all elevators, car numbers, in car emergency phone number, and the elevator service provider’s emergency number.

During the Storm

  • Shut down all elevators that are not specifically designed and designated for emergency usage. Traction/electric elevators should be run to the center of the hoistway and hydraulic elevators should be run to the top floors.
  • Once elevators are parked with the doors closed, open all main power and car power circuit breakers to prevent damage from water intrusion or power spikes or surges.

Restarting After the Storm

  • Inspect the elevator pit, hoistway doors, cabs, and machine rooms for water intrusion. If equipment is wet, do not energize equipment as this could cause further damage and delay getting elevators back in service. Call your elevator service provider to have them assist with drying out elevator equipment and subsequent startup.
  • If equipment is dry, elevator pits have been evacuated of water, and reliable power is available, remove sandbags and restore power to your elevator systems. If normal power is not available and the elevators are not backed up by the building EPSS, do not close any breakers until such time as normal power is restored and stable.
  • Prior to releasing elevators for public use, test emergency phone systems and observe elevators operations for a short time to ensure they are responding to calls, leveling, and operating normally.

For assistance with emergency planning, preparedness, and to reduce the stress elevator down time during an emergency can cause, consult with your trusted elevator professional or contact us today.


About the Authors

Tracy Wagoner

Senior Electrical Systems Manager | Associate
Tracy Wagoner is a senior electrical systems manager and has spent decades in the field taming them. He takes pride in providing seamless integration of new equipment and serves as Henderson Building Solutions’ elevator systems expert also assisting with commissioning, retro-commissioning, and maintenance planning.