What Should You Do in a Plunging Elevator?

There are no good options when you find yourself in an elevator that somehow has broken free and is hurtling downward at breakneck speed. Scientists say the best strategy is to lie flat on your back and cover your face and head. When you reach your destination, the impact will be distributed across your body, more or less, and your spine and longer bones will be perpendicular to the force of impact.

If you just stand during impact, your legs and knees probably will snap like twigs. If you try to jump at the moment of impact (good luck with that), your body still will take a terrific beating. The goal should be survival, and trying to lie flat is probably the best way to do that – other than taking the stairs next time.

On the other hand:

  • With your body flat on the floor, your soft tissues – including your brain and organs – will absorb the full impact.
  • In a falling elevator, you'll be basically weightless. In order to lie down, you'll have to find a way to pull yourself down and hold yourself there.
  • Betty Lou Oliver holds the Guinness World Record for Longest Fall Survived in an Elevator. She survived a fall from 75 stories (more than 1,000 feet or 305 meters) in an Empire State Building elevator in 1945. The disconnected elevator cable coiled at the bottom of the shaft softened her landing. She wasn't lying down.
More Info: NPR

Discussion Comments


I think I agree with the comment. Parachutists land with bent knees and then fall to their sides. The knees act like a spring.


I don't agree. If the goal is to survive, it would be better to stand with your knees slightly bent. This way, the impact will be dampened by your leg's muscles. If you lie down, the whole impact will affect your brain, leaving few chances of survival. Better with broken legs than dead.

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