Prof. Trapped in Disque Elevator | The Triangle

Prof. Trapped in Disque Elevator

Associate professor of chemistry Peter A. Wade became trapped in the left elevator of Disque Hall around 4 p.m. Feb. 23. Wade said that he was going from the fifth floor to the first when he became stuck in the elevator.

“I got to around the fourth floor, and [twice] the elevator fell for three feet,” Wade said, “and the emergency brakes engaged.”

Joshua Wall, a first year physics doctoral student, was the first to find Wade. Wall said that his door was propped open and he had heard a loud noise.

“It sounded like a train locking,” Wall said. Wall realized that the elevator was stuck on the third floor, and he spoke with Ward. When neither was able to open the door, Wall called Drexel Police. Before they arrived, a passing Drexel facilities employee tried to open the elevator door using a notched pole, but was unsuccessful.

When Drexel Public Safety was also unsuccessful at opening the elevator, a call to the Philadelphia Fire Department was made. Responding fire fighters managed to open the elevator.

“I had to jump down about five feet or so,” Wade said. “The bad thing is that I was worried the elevator might drop when I was dropping down.”

Although Wade emerged from the 15-minute incident unharmed, some students and staff have said that his experience points toward a larger problem with elevators on Drexel’s University City Campus.

“I am completely not surprised that the elevator in Disque Hall broke,” sophomore biology major Theodore Rutledge said. “I am surprised that a university [that] spends so much money on construction doesn’t address the dangerous elevators in that building. Every time I ride in those elevators, I question whether it is going to break down. It is constantly jerking around and making loud banging noises.”

“Everybody knows this building needs renovation,” said Wall. “And the [elevator] on the right side got stuck [the same week].”

Wade also said that he had heard of problems with the elevator dating back to 20 years ago. Although the safety mechanisms built into the elevator worked as designed, delays because of elevator problems are not unheard of in some buildings on campus, with some students and professors being made late to class. Broken elevators undergoing frequent maintenance can also put a greater burden on disabled students.

“The elevators are as old as the building, so you have 50-year-old equipment,” Robert Francis, vice president of University Facilities, said. “We have targeted Disque for remodeling, partly based on the age of the building. New buildings immediately set up a contrast with anything that’s old. For example, the new recreation center made facilities in the Daskalakis Athletic Center look old. We’re doing renovations every year.”

Other elevators of concern include those in MacAlister Hall, Calhoun Hall and the Rush Building, all of which are comparatively old. Blueprints for elevators in Disque and MacAlister date to 1964 and 1973, respectively. Calhoun and Rush do not have blueprints that specifically reference their elevators, but Calhoun was completed in 1977 and most of the Rush building blueprints are from 1979.

“Maybe more than any university, Drexel is making the average age of its buildings younger so we need to repair our older buildings so there’s not much of a difference,” Francis said. Francis maintained that Drexel is renovating many existing buildings and is putting a renewed focus on renovating existing buildings after the building boom of the last five years.

As for the Disque elevator where Wade was trapped, the problem was caused by a failure of the governor motor. The motor, which controls the elevator cables, broke.

“It controls how fast the elevator goes, and it burnt out,” Francis said. “It was a maintenance issue.” Francis added that the elevator will be out of commission for six weeks.