The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-19-2007, 09:59 AM
xiix xiix is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 528
Elevator Keys aka Fireman's Keys

I would like to inquire about acquiring an elevator key. I work on the top floor of a very busy building and from my understanding such a key would save me a great deal of time every day (If I get on the elevator and no one else is there, I can send the elevator straight to my floor, does that sound about right?). So first thing is first: can I legally use such a key? I can't think of any particular laws I might be breaking. And though the property manager surely would not approve, what he doesn't know can't hurt him...would it be blatantly obvious what I'm doing to the security guards at their desks with elevator status-monitors?

So assuming all this is on the up-and-up, where can I get an elevator key?



p.s. would this key accomplish what I need: http://www.columbia-elevator.com/order/key.html ?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 07-19-2007, 10:38 AM
ticker ticker is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
If there is nobody else there to push any other call/floor buttons, why wouldn't the elevator go straight to your floor without a key?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-19-2007, 10:39 AM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 14,712
No, what you've linked is a tool for effecting emergency ingress to the elevator cab or shaft. If you use that on the top floor when there's no elevator at the floor, well, watch that first step.

What you illicitly want is a manual bypass key.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-19-2007, 10:45 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 32,391
Just to clarify: A fireman's key is a key that opens a firebox. A firebox is a box put on properties (usually more than two-families) that has the keys to all the apartments in the building. They might have what you are looking for in the box.

Only firemen can order firemen's keys. In New Jersey you have to get a written statment from your local Fire Department to order a firemen's box.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-19-2007, 12:42 PM
Cabin_Fever Cabin_Fever is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2006
That's the key to open the outer elevator-shaft doors that one would see on every floor, waiting for the elevator to arrive.
And to repeat what gotpasswords said, if you obtain one you really should look before you happen to dive head first down the shaft. In addition, possession plus the use of that key will likely get you into a heap of trouble with the authorities and building management.

What you want is the maintenance key that goes into the panel installed inside the elevator itself (where the floor buttons are located), and yes - if you can get the Management Property company to give you one with their permission, you can do all that you ask in your OP.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-19-2007, 12:57 PM
Billdo Billdo is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Delectable City of Gotham
Posts: 4,750
In most elevators I here in New York (except those that haven't been modernized in decades), there is a slot for a key to switch from fire service to normal service.

Presumably when switched to fire, the elevator cab will respond only to the controls from the operator inside the cab. Also, I have been told that in fire service the close door button, which otherwise seems useless, will actually close the doors.

I presume this is the key that the OP is looking for.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-19-2007, 01:05 PM
Enola Straight Enola Straight is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
You could also use wire from Michael J. Fox.s dental retainer.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-19-2007, 01:23 PM
Cabin_Fever Cabin_Fever is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo
Presumably when switched to fire, the elevator cab will respond only to the controls from the operator inside the cab.
I used to ride elevators on top of the cab in order to clean interior elevator-shaft windows, dust and/or replace light bulbs, etc. (Think the Hyatt in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio).

I would grab an elevator with the maintenance key, take it to a certain floor, then take another elevator one floor up.
I used the fireman key to open the outer doors on the shaft I was working on, and hopped on top the the cab.

There's a control unit there, when activated, allows one to manually control the elevator using three switches - UP/DOWN/STOP.

Fun times.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-19-2007, 03:38 PM
danceswithcats danceswithcats is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Voting anti-obamanation
Posts: 10,300
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
Just to clarify: A fireman's key is a key that opens a firebox. A firebox is a box put on properties (usually more than two-families) that has the keys to all the apartments in the building. They might have what you are looking for in the box.

Only firemen can order firemen's keys. In New Jersey you have to get a written statment from your local Fire Department to order a firemen's box.
What you're referencing is actually called a Knox Box in most municipalities. It is up to the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiciton-typically Fire Marshal or Commissioner) what keys go in the box. FD and PD have access keys, and the box may or may not have a tamper switch which indicates when the outer door is opened via connection to an alarm or access control system.
__________________
Crows. Keeping our highways clear of roadkill for over 80 years
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-19-2007, 03:42 PM
xiix xiix is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 528
ok so it sounds like Fireman's keys are a different beast entirely...but what I'm looking for seems to be a 1 key fits all solution that takes over the elevator. I've been in a ton of buildings lately and they appear to have the same circular key-holes in the elevator.

ticker: Although I can only use the key when there is no one else in the elevator on the ground floor, there would usually be tons of people on various floors in between my top floor office and the ground. There is one company in particular that has 5 or 6 floors in my building, and so their employees are CONSTANTLY going up and down to move around their office.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 07-19-2007, 03:57 PM
exastris exastris is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by xiix
ok so it sounds like Fireman's keys are a different beast entirely...but what I'm looking for seems to be a 1 key fits all solution that takes over the elevator. I've been in a ton of buildings lately and they appear to have the same circular key-holes in the elevator.

ticker: Although I can only use the key when there is no one else in the elevator on the ground floor, there would usually be tons of people on various floors in between my top floor office and the ground. There is one company in particular that has 5 or 6 floors in my building, and so their employees are CONSTANTLY going up and down to move around their office.
What's worked for me in the past- get in the elevator, press your floor button, and as the elevator is moving, hold down the 'close door' key. At least for the elevator I was in, this made it bypass the floors where the elevator was called and head directly to my floor. (or made it seem to do so. I don't know why that would work, but it's worth a try.)

I wouldn't do that these days, because someone could actually need to get somewhere, but I did do it during DragonCon many years ago. There were tons of kids hopping on the elevator to go down one floor, or to just ride around for a while, or running down the stairs pushing the call button on every floor. I didn't feel so bad about it at the time, as my hotel room was on the something-teenth floor and stopping at every floor in between was a real pain.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 07-19-2007, 05:14 PM
raindog raindog is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
I'm amazed we got 11 posts without someone noting how utterly selfish this request is. xiix wants to commandeer an elevator at his whim, while other passengers have to wait [their fair turn.]

Having worked with many property managers, I can tell you they'd likely be livid. Perhaps you can work on special locks for the men's room next, or your own parking garage.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 07-19-2007, 09:30 PM
KCB615 KCB615 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Southcoast Massachusetts
Posts: 792
There are three different types of firefighter's keys we're talking about here.

The first is a key to a Knox Box, which danceswithcats already discussed.

The second is the drop key (the rod with a dangly-bit at the end) that unlocks the exterior door lock mechanism at each individual floor. Very dangerous in the wrong hands, and illegal to use in Massachusetts (no elevators in Mass. have the hole to use a drop key).

The third type is a "firefighter's service" key. In Mass, we call this a "3502 key," based on the regulation in the state building code that requires it. This key gets inserted into a keyed switch at the "level of exit discharge," usually the ground floor. This recalls all elevators in the building to that floor, opens their doors, and locks them there. It prevents Joe Public from using the elevator during a fire. Once the elevators are recalled, the same key can be inserted into a keyed switch inside an elevator car, overriding the recall and allowing the firefighters to use the elevator. The door open and door close buttons go on manual (the door close always works in fire service operation), and the elevator doesn't react to floor call buttons, only the buttons inside the elevator.

Good luck getting one of those keys, you need to have some affiliation to your local fire service. And we don't give those things out.

As for legality, I'm sure some law enforcement type could chime in, but I'd suggest that you could somehow be charged with a false fire alarm, but I can't vouch for that.
__________________
Service to the falling public....
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 07-20-2007, 07:36 AM
xiix xiix is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 528
the raindog: This is GQ, I don't feel your moral judgements are warranted here.

KCB615
If I understand what you're saying correctly, the 3502 key needs to be inserted on the ground floor before it can be used inside the elevator to commandeer it?

What about the key I linked to in my OP? What does this key do:

http://www.columbia-elevator.com/order/key.html
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 07-20-2007, 07:47 AM
Who_me? Who_me? is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by xiix
What about the key I linked to in my OP? What does this key do:

http://www.columbia-elevator.com/order/key.html
As was stated above, that key is inserted into the outer elevator door in order to open it. I have one that I've used to open the elevator door to allow people stuck in an elevator to get out. I also have one of the keys that allow me to override the normal evelvator operations and take the elevator anywhere I'd like. I never use it unless I have a legitimate reason and never use it just for my convenience.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 07-20-2007, 07:51 AM
xiix xiix is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 528
aha! So what I'm asking for is totally possible, I just have to keep looking past the Columbia key to find what I need.

sweet.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 07-20-2007, 07:54 AM
Who_me? Who_me? is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by xiix
aha! So what I'm asking for is totally possible, I just have to keep looking past the Columbia key to find what I need.

sweet.
I doubt they sell them that way. I'm an employee that was given the key for the elevator in the building in order to perform my job.

Last edited by Who_me?; 07-20-2007 at 07:56 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 07-20-2007, 08:20 AM
KCB615 KCB615 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Southcoast Massachusetts
Posts: 792
I've never tried to operate an elevator in fire service mode without having it first engaged from the lobby. I don't know if it would work from the car key switch without the fire servce mode being activated from the lobby first.

After some searching through the NFPA Life Safety Code (our fire service document that tells us what to look for in means-of-egress and firesafe design), it seems that ASME A17 is the code to find out how exactly the fire service mode works in an elevator. I don't have A17, nor do I feel much like dropping $850 to purchase it. You're more than welcome to: ASME A17

I don't know if what you want to do is possible, but I do think it'll be dangerous if you do it. Either from the elevator doing something you don't want it to, or from the building's manager pommeling you when he catches you. Either way, I suggest not trying it.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 07-18-2011, 02:24 PM
chris1056 chris1056 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
What you are trying to do poses several problems. First, if you get a "fireman's key" the only thing you will be able to do is open the outer door to the shaft, depending on the type of elevator this can do one of several things, first a alarm could be activated in the elevator itself, or the desk. The elevator could automatically return to the main floor, or it could lock in position where ever it may be requiring a manual override key to make it operational again, if you where to activate this alarm most likely the fd will be notified and then yes you are liable, so if i were you i would just wait for the elevator to come to your floor.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 07-18-2011, 03:19 PM
kaltkalt kaltkalt is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
The reason he's calling it the "fireman's key" is because on most elevators the keyhole he's talking about (usually for a round key) says "Fire" on/above it.

Back in my college dorms we had elevators with such keyholes that were very easy to pick with a standard circular key - you just stuck it in, fidgeted a little bit, and easily turned it to fire/manual and could then bypass all the other floors. Since our dorm was on the second-highest floor, it was quite handy though I'm sure it pissed off a lot of people. They were noisy and annoying with all their yelling and vomiting, so I never felt too bad about it. Eventually they caught on (people couldn't keep their damn mouths shut) and they replaced the panel with one that required a new, fancier key so we couldn't do it anymore. But it was nice while it lasted. I can't tell you where to buy one (no clue) but it's worth a shot trying to pick it - may work if it's an older elevator. I don't remember what brand elevator these were, it was a long time ago.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 07-18-2011, 03:37 PM
Gukumatz Gukumatz is offline
Winter is Coming
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Oslo, Norway
Posts: 2,719
Please have a look at the dates of the above posts.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:08 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cabin_Fever View Post
That's the key to open the outer elevator-shaft doors that one would see on every floor, waiting for the elevator to arrive.
And to repeat what gotpasswords said, if you obtain one you really should look before you happen to dive head first down the shaft. In addition, possession plus the use of that key will likely get you into a heap of trouble with the authorities and building management.

What you want is the maintenance key that goes into the panel installed inside the elevator itself (where the floor buttons are located), and yes - if you can get the Management Property company to give you one with their permission, you can do all that you ask in your OP.
A maintenance key will only put an elevator into inspection mode or attendant mode. Inspection mose the elevator will move at slow speed. In attendant mode the car will still stop at any floors with a hall call.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:10 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cabin_Fever View Post
I used to ride elevators on top of the cab in order to clean interior elevator-shaft windows, dust and/or replace light bulbs, etc. (Think the Hyatt in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio).

I would grab an elevator with the maintenance key, take it to a certain floor, then take another elevator one floor up.
I used the fireman key to open the outer doors on the shaft I was working on, and hopped on top the the cab.

There's a control unit there, when activated, allows one to manually control the elevator using three switches - UP/DOWN/STOP.

Fun times.

This is so the wrong way to get on to the top of an elevator car and can cost you your life.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:12 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Billdo View Post
In most elevators I here in New York (except those that haven't been modernized in decades), there is a slot for a key to switch from fire service to normal service.

Presumably when switched to fire, the elevator cab will respond only to the controls from the operator inside the cab. Also, I have been told that in fire service the close door button, which otherwise seems useless, will actually close the doors.

I presume this is the key that the OP is looking for.
The fire recall key will not work inside the car if the system is not in phase I first.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:26 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
The key is call the elevator fire recall key here is how it works.

1st the key is used in the main recall floor (normally street level) It is turned and removed. this will recall all elevators to the lobby where the doors will open and stay open. This is phase I. At this none of the elevators can be used.

To use an elevator inside the elevator is the fire recall keyway put the key in this keyway and turn. This elevator is now in phase II. The door close button has to be pushed and held until the door is fully closed. Now a floor call buton can be pushed. the elevator will go to the selected floor and stop. The doors will not open until the open door button is pushed and held. If the doors are not 100% open the doors will close when the door open button is pushed, and if you steped out of the car as the doors close it becomes time to call the elevator company. They will have to jump out several relays and jump across several contacts to put the elevator back into service, large bill.

If you are on the top floor you can not actavate the elevator recall, that is unless you trip an smoke detector in the elevator lobby. And if you use the key in the lobby to recall the levators then go up to the top floor the building is now with out elevator service.

If the property managers find out that you are using an fire recall key and they have to call out the elevator service company expect to recieve a large bill.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:29 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by exastris View Post
What's worked for me in the past- get in the elevator, press your floor button, and as the elevator is moving, hold down the 'close door' key. At least for the elevator I was in, this made it bypass the floors where the elevator was called and head directly to my floor. (or made it seem to do so. I don't know why that would work, but it's worth a try.)

I wouldn't do that these days, because someone could actually need to get somewhere, but I did do it during DragonCon many years ago. There were tons of kids hopping on the elevator to go down one floor, or to just ride around for a while, or running down the stairs pushing the call button on every floor. I didn't feel so bad about it at the time, as my hotel room was on the something-teenth floor and stopping at every floor in between was a real pain.
You can also get this to work by standing on one foot crossing your eyes and doing a tap dance.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 07-19-2011, 01:36 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gukumatz View Post
Please have a look at the dates of the above posts.
OOPs
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 07-19-2011, 10:01 AM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snnipe 70E View Post
This is so the wrong way to get on to the top of an elevator car and can cost you your life.
I know this is a zombie thread but it's still interesting and the subject material doesn't date, so - what's the correct way to get on top of an elevator car, assuming you had a good reason to do so?
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 07-20-2011, 12:49 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
I know this is a zombie thread but it's still interesting and the subject material doesn't date, so - what's the correct way to get on top of an elevator car, assuming you had a good reason to do so?
Use the maintenance key. Take the elevator to the top floor. Using the maintenance key put the car in inspection. Get off the elevator. Put the mainteenance key in the hall inspection keyway. Holding the outer door open turn the key in the down direction. Lower the car until the top is level withthe floor. step onto the top of the car and let the outer door close. On the top of the car should be an inspection switch, turn it on. Push the down button and deadman's button at the same time. Keep track of where the counter weight is at all times.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 07-20-2011, 12:59 AM
Mosier Mosier is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
The engineers and some of the security personnel at the building i work in have UTE keys (i dont know what it stands for) that are shaped like the letter u, almost like a long tube that has one small side missing. This steep crescent shaped key fits into a keyhole in the elevator, which then switches the elevator to "independent" mode, in which the elevator ignores the call buttons on various floors but will respond to the control panel inside the elevator. I dont know how to obtain such a key, but i assume they are only available through the elevator company.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 07-20-2011, 01:10 AM
Qwakkeddup Qwakkeddup is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
My days in a 16 floor apt building, someone using our maintenance elevator managed to block up two elevators by putting a ladder through the escape hatch. They were moving in and had permission to use the elevator, but the escape hatch was closed when he started. The ladder, being 16 ft tall, didn't fit in the elevator without opening said hatch and sticking it through.
When it met the counter weight, it became a twisted and broken pile of aluminum scrap that caused the brakes on both the maint. elevator and one next to it to lock, in such a way that the only way to put them back in service was bring in the elevator service people, who made sure the police were there when they let the man out.

He was not arrested, but he did receive a rather large bill from the apt. management.
We were without our maint. elevator until the hatch was repaired.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 07-20-2011, 01:25 AM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qwakkeddup View Post
My days in a 16 floor apt building, someone using our maintenance elevator managed to block up two elevators by putting a ladder through the escape hatch. They were moving in and had permission to use the elevator, but the escape hatch was closed when he started. The ladder, being 16 ft tall, didn't fit in the elevator without opening said hatch and sticking it through.
When it met the counter weight, it became a twisted and broken pile of aluminum scrap that caused the brakes on both the maint. elevator and one next to it to lock, in such a way that the only way to put them back in service was bring in the elevator service people, who made sure the police were there when they let the man out.

He was not arrested, but he did receive a rather large bill from the apt. management.
We were without our maint. elevator until the hatch was repaired.
Sounds like not only did he hit the counter weight but also managed to get the emergency brakes to engage. OOps

You get the key from the elevator manufacture or a company llike Adams elevator parts company.

Last edited by Snnipe 70E; 07-20-2011 at 01:26 AM..
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:39 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.