We all use them in our everyday lives and it's hard to imagine a world without them, but the humble lift has the ability to provoke deep anxiety in the most rational Australians.

They are confined, small spaces, often bunching us together with people in close proximity.

Then there's potential of being stuck if they break down, and also the fear of them malfunctioning, with cables snapping, deadly falls or hydraulic doors crushing anything trapped between them.

Over-the-top Hollywood depictions like Final Destination 2 - in which one of the main characters is decapitated by a malfunctioning lift - may have something to do this.

There are also a host of myths that have worked their way into our collective imaginations, like an elusive sequence of buttons to press that will make the lift go straight to your floor.

Luckily we have tracked down a lift expert - who jokingly refers to himself a as a "vertical transport engineer" - and put some of our most pressing questions to him.

Lifts can stir up fears in the most rational Australians.
Lifts can stir up fears in the most rational Australians.

Ian McCreary has been called out to some pretty hair-raising situations during his career fixing lifts and rescuing stranded Aussies for one of the biggest "vertical transport" companies in the world.

He told news.com.au about some of the biggest misconceptions we have about lifts and what you should do if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

 

What's the worst thing that can happen to you if a lift malfunctions?

Honestly, once you're inside the actual elevator and it stops, there isn't really much that can happen to you. You are very safe inside it.

The worst could be a sudden stop that would shake the lift and give you a bit of a fright. There are a lot of safety features that are in place to stop anything happening to the people inside the elevator.

 

What are the biggest or most common myths or misconceptions about lifts?

There's definitely a fair few myths out there, but most of them are not true.

There is no secret sequence of buttons to press that will make the lift go straight to your floor. We can't just turn a dial to speed up the lift and just like pedestrian crossings, pressing the button won't make the lift come faster.

The most common misconception is that all the cables will snap, sending the lift free falling into the ground.

Films like Final Destination 2 have instilled a sense of fear in many of us when it comes to taking a lift ride.
Films like Final Destination 2 have instilled a sense of fear in many of us when it comes to taking a lift ride.

There are multiple steel ropes that hold up the elevator and the chances of even one of them snapping is extremely rare.

So the chance of them all snapping at the same time is near impossible. Even if the impossible happens, there are multiple different safety mechanisms both electrical and mechanical that will activate preventing this from happening.

Definitely not like in the movies.

 

What's the number one thing you shouldn't do in a lift?

The number one thing you shouldn't do in a lift is jump around or start bumping into the walls or doors whilst its moving.

This increases the risk of the lift stopping by a lot. It is very likely to trip a safety switch and you will get stuck. The biggest tip I would give to people if they're ever stuck in a lift is to not panic.

Panicking makes everyone else in there panic and makes the situation a lot worse. I would suggest trying to press a few of the level buttons or the door open button, and if none of them work hold the alarm button for five seconds and that will call the lift company who will send a technician out reasonably quickly.

Until then, its best to have a seat and play solitaire or something.

 

What's the funniest thing that you've seen?

Some of the funniest moments mostly have to do with people and their reactions to elevators. A lot of people freak out even getting into them.

I have had one lady who was so petrified that she basically had to crawl into the elevator, and it was about a 30-minute process to get her inside and take her up.

Ian McCreary has been called out to some pretty hair-raising situations during his career fixing lifts in Sydney. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP
Ian McCreary has been called out to some pretty hair-raising situations during his career fixing lifts in Sydney. Picture: Joel Carrett/AAP

One of the funniest things I found was I was once travelling in a lift with a fair few stops and full of people.

This one mother gets in with her child who decided it would be fun to run his hands down all the buttons and then turn to his mum and say, "Mum, just like elf". It was very amusing. Best way to annoy a whole lift full of adults.

 

What's the most hectic situation you've been in?

I personally haven't been in situations that are too hectic.

I have had to pull people out through the hatch in the roof when they've been stuck which is always a stressful situation.

I have also gone to a call at an elevator where the building was flooding and water going so fast into the lift it was coming down through the ceiling filling up the elevator.

Originally published as The biggest myths about lifts busted