Nearly 40 percent of elevators on campus due, or overdue, for municipal periodical inspection

Out of 51 elevator units on UAA’s main campus, 20 are due or overdue for periodical inspection. Several elevators, including those in the library and the Professional Studies Building, are two years overdue for their periodical inspection and were due to be inspected by the municipality in April of 2014.

UAA, as well as all of the other buildings in the municipality of Anchorage — which spans from Eklutna to Girdwood — get their elevators periodically checked by the municipality. UAA, which receives periodical inspections every two years, pays the municipality $600 per elevator unit and is expecting the 20 due and overdue units to be inspected by the end of this fiscal year in July 2017.

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The Certificate of Inspection for the elevator in the library has been expired since April of 2014. Photo credit: Young Kim

The reason so many of the elevators on UAA’s main campus are overdue for inspection is periodical inspections changed from every year to every two years. The municipality, which had only two elevator inspectors inspecting all the elevators in the entire Anchorage bowl, up until about two weeks ago a third inspector was hired to help catch the municipality up on their periodical inspections — which are overdue not just at UAA, but various places all over the city.

“They used to inspect annually. Then they went to an every two year policy several cycles ago. Part of that is because they are overloaded with inspections. At that point we automatically started falling behind because the certificates were only dated one year in advance. This has been an ongoing issue. Last fiscal year they did a round of inspections which brought some of them up to date,” Thomas Sternberg, director of facilities maintenance and operations said.

It is unclear when the elevators will be inspected. The municipality starts with the older inspections and works their way up. Sternberg has confirmation from the municipality that 20 units will be inspected this fiscal year.

“No telling what day they are coming. I have no schedule for them,” Sternberg said.

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As far as safety in the elevators on campus, the elevators are checked monthly by a contracted elevator maintenance company. Otis Elevator, which does not do periodical inspections or issue certificates of inspection maintains UAA’s elevators monthly for any issues there may be.

“I feel the municipality has done really comprehensive inspections. I fear not that there is any significant problems with the elevators as a whole. Otis Elevator takes care of them and they maintain them monthly. Some every two months. Their maintenance people are out here regularly. An official elevator mechanic is in the elevators roughly once a month. As far as safety, we got our bases covered. For 51 units our record is pretty good,” Sternberg said.

In addition to Otis Elevator, UAA’s safety department — Environmental Health & Safety and Risk Management Support — performs a “safety blitz” in conjunction with the facilities department every Friday, which includes looking at the elevators and checking other safety related maintenance around campus.

“Our department [EHS/RMS] performs safety building blitz, which includes looking at the elevators and the mechanics of them. We also see the expired tags on the elevators. We also see the municipality is past the inspection dates. Our team stays vigil with our safety blitz to keep up to date information with building safety. Our first and foremost thought is everyone’s safety on campus,” Kelly Carothers, Environmental Health and Safety officer at UAA said.

The Municipality of Anchorage, which has been behind on periodical investigations for years recently hired a third elevator inspector to bring the inspections up to speed. Inspectors with the municipality will check to make sure the equipment is in safe and operating condition, during their periodical inspection.

“There’s just been two [elevator inspectors] for the whole Anchorage municipality. A couple months ago the city just hired it’s third inspector. We are now starting to catch up again to what we want for our periodic inspection intervals. We want to inspect every two years. There are a ton of elevators and escalators in Anchorage needing inspection,” Chalon Rein, one of three elevator inspectors for the Municipality of Anchorage said.

A time consuming process, periodical elevator inspections are varied and can take anywhere from one hour to half a day depending on a multitude of circumstances.

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Several of UAA's elevators are due or overdue for inspection by the municipality of Anchorage. Photo credit: Young Kim

“We can do a few elevators a day. Today, in all of Anchorage, there’s probably going to be two or three elevators inspected. It depends on how long it takes to drive there, whether or not we can gain access to a building, gain access to elevator machine rooms and the type of equipment on site. There are many kinds of elevators. An elevator might take an hour or might take half a day, it just depends,” Rein said.

Rein notes inspections at UAA can be time consuming.

“We have to go to security to check out keys, then check out a parking pass, then go park at the building, and do the inspection. So with the university, it takes awhile to do an inspection,” Rein said.

In addition to periodical inspections, municipal elevator inspectors are expected to also inspect elevators in new construction sites. Examining the new equipment for a new building in the city is more time consuming than periodical checks and can take an entire day to complete.

“We go through the equipment that’s brand new and it’s going to take a half a day or all day,” Rein said.

With help from the new elevator inspector hired by the municipality, UAA should expect the 20 due and overdue elevators to be inspected and certified by the end of this fiscal year.