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Frequent calls to check elevator at KCMO apartment building stretching fire department thin

Posted: 6:25 AM, Mar 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-13 13:18:07Z
lawndale heights apartments.jpg

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Repeat visits to fix problematic elevators at an apartment building is forcing the Kansas City, Missouri, fire department to ramp up how it works with other city departments, a deputy chief said.

Fire department records show dispatchers have sent firefighters to Lawndale Heights 32 times so far this year for “elevator rescues.” Most elevators go all year without an elevator rescue, so 32 in less than three months is significant.

The issue gets worse because Deputy Chief Jimmy Walker said many times there is no one trapped in the elevator, it is simply stuck. In those cases, a maintenance company could service the elevator, instead of calling 911 which takes resources away from other potential emergencies.

“These elevator issues can be very technical,” Walker explained. “There are a number of different ways we may have to approach these calls, so we send the adequate resources and a lot of times in that busy part of town, you have a company out of service where they're missing a more emergent call.”

Walker said the fire department does not have any power to force the building owner to fix the elevator. The city’s planning department oversees elevators.

A spokesperson from the planning department said it inspected 4,360 elevators in 2018. The elevators in this building at 14th Street and Topping Avenue passed their inspection last year. She added that the department mostly follows up on issues when it receives reports from 311.

According to city data, it received one 311 call about the elevator in 2018. Records indicate the city inspector found no violations in that follow-up visit.

Now, Walker said he will work more closely with planning to report issues like the the repeat visits to Lawndale Heights.

“There are always issues that pop up. One or two [elevator rescues] in a year is normal, not a big deal,” Walker pointed out.

As for the owner of Lawndale Heights, a spokesperson from Cohen-Esrey said it works with a monitoring company which alerts the fire department when an alarm like the elevator goes off. The management company will work with the monitoring company to better alert fire department on true emergencies. But Cohen-Esrey said mostly seniors live in the building, so it has to treat every alarm seriously.