The Only Way to Survive in a Free-Falling Elevator
Okay, this is a fun topic. Hey, free falling in a trapped, small metal box sounds terrifying. Duh! Even the thought of such a grim situation gives us chills. And you probably wondered what you would do if the elevator cable suddenly snapped. Is it even possible to survive such a fall? Any volunteers? Hmm, I don't see any hands.
Well, today, we answer these questions and share some recommendations from scientists and engineers about what you should and definitely shouldn't do if you find yourself in a falling elevator. Okay, brace yourself.
Number one: Don't jump. There's a widespread misconception that if you jump a moment before the elevator hits the bottom, you will somehow decrease the impact on your body. Firstly, how are you planning to understand when you should jump? You can't see through metal, can you? Secondly, even if you somehow manage to jump, which is extremely difficult due to being in a free fall, the speed decrease you can hope for is about two miles per hour, or three kilometers per hour—it's definitely not enough to save your life.
What is worse? You might hurt yourself badly if you hit the ceiling with your head. Jumping is not worth the risk at all. MythBusters tested this approach. Believe us, it didn't end well for the dummy inside the elevator.
The next thing not to do: Don't stand up straight. Standing up straight and hoping for the best is also not the best idea. Nothing good is coming. What is coming is a weight 10 times larger than that of your own body dropping on your legs at the moment of impact. Now, with all due respect, neither you nor anyone else can survive that. So, now that we're clear of what you should never do in a falling elevator, let's get to the best course of action.
Number one: Lie flat on the floor. Your best bet would be to lie flat on your back. This position will help you distribute the force of the impact across your entire body. Yes, your small, thin bones will probably snap anyway, though it mostly depends on how high up you were when the cable snapped. But it might help you avoid more serious damage...or not. Nobody is absolutely certain. It's probably pretty hard to think clearly in such a situation, but you should also remember to cover your head with your hands. When the elevator lands, it will most likely be destroyed. So, protecting your head from debris might save your life...or not.
The problem with lying flat is, well, your brain. Like in a car accident, a sudden speed drop from, say, 60 miles per hour, or 96 kilometers per hour, to zero can and will cause a severe brain concussion. Another issue is that when falling, you are weightless, so you'll have to hold yourself in order not to start flying. Yes, there are many downsides to this approach. But even considering all of them, experts agree that it's the only realistic way to save your life...or not.
You ever hear of Betty Lou Oliver? She worked as an elevator operator for the Empire State Building in New York City. She holds the world's record for surviving the longest elevator fall in history. She traveled 79 floors in a falling elevator and stayed alive. What saved her was a thousand feet of cable that landed before the elevator did and smoothed out the fall. What's even more shocking? Earlier that day, a plane crashed right into the floor Betty worked on! She survived that accident although 14 of her colleagues didn't. We don't believe there are that many people who are so lucky. Of course, there are rumors that Betty went right out and bought a lottery ticket after that.
你聽過 Betty Lou Oliver 這個人嗎？她在紐約帝國大廈當電梯小姐。她是在史上電梯下墜距離最長的事故中倖存的世界紀錄保持者。她在下墜的電梯裡行經七十九層樓並活了下來。拯救她的是比電梯先著地並減少墜落力道的數千呎纜繩。更驚人的呢？當天稍早，有一架飛機直接撞進 Betty 工作的樓層!她在那場意外中倖存，雖然她的十四位同事都沒能活下來。我們不相信有那麼多人運氣那麼好。當然，有謠言說 Betty 在那之後就直接去買了一張樂透彩。
On the bright side, no pun intended, elevator accidents happen extremely rarely. More people die when they step in empty shafts—oops—or get stuck in between the elevator doors. So, watch your step and don't hurry. You can always catch the next one. Also, some elevator shafts have special buffers that, in case of emergency, are supposed to make the landing smooth. Actually, the only surefire, 100 percent way to survive in a free-falling elevator is... take the stairs.
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- 「盡量好處想」- Hope For The Best
Standing up straight and hoping for the best is also not the best idea.
- 「恕我直言」- With All Due Respect
Now, with all due respect, neither you nor anyone else can survive that.
- 「最好的辦法」- Best Bet
Your best bet would be to lie flat on your back.