Saturday, August 8, 2009

City response to Grand Jury report


August 8, 2009 7:03 AM

The Santa Barbara Department of Public Works will submit a response at Tuesday's city council meeting to a county Civil Grand Jury report that identified and sought to correct flaws following two cases of a parking garage elevator getting stuck and trapping between 11 and 15 people.

The Grand Jury report, entitled, "Trapped in the Granada Garage Elevator -- Not an Uplifting Experience," addressed flaws in the city's elevator management system.

The Grand Jury's findings, eight in total, were gathered in an investigation sparked from two stalled elevator incidents involving the same Granada Garage elevator within a seven week period.

During the first incident, the elevator stopped between the first and second floors on its descent while carrying ten adults and five children.

The emergency phone did not work, the passengers had no cell phone service, the emergency bell did not achieve a response and although passers-by could see the passengers beckoning to them, the trapped passengers were ignored several times before someone alerted the parking attendant.

The passengers were trapped for approximately 75 minutes before they were freed.

The second incident lasted 30 to 45 minutes.

It involved six adults and five children, and although the emergency phone inside the elevator worked, the maintenance dispatcher, who did not identify himself, could not locate the elevator.

One passenger was claustrophobic and became panicky, and one of the children began to cry and say that he thought he was going to die.

The passengers' cell phones worked during this stall, and one trapped woman managed to call her husband; 9-1-1 was also called after what seemed a lengthy amount of time passed. The passengers were informed that the fire department had been notified only three minutes earlier by the dispatcher.

Firefighters did not open doors upon arrival because there was no medical emergency, and the trapped people had to wait for an elevator mechanic to arrive.

After the incidents, several letters were written to city officials by the passengers, and in only one case was a response received.

The Jury's investigations yielded eight findings, and with each finding the Jury provided a recommendation.

In the letter the public works department will produce Tuesday, a response is provided for each finding and recommendation.

The first finding in the report is that the city lacks a coherent management plan for its elevator systems, and the recommendation made to rectify this is that one be established, as well as a single point of accountability for these happenings.

The city's response is that a plan exists to monitor maintenance, and it refers to the currently contracted elevator maintenance company as "qualified and certified." The city also transferred administration and oversight of the contract to the Downtown Parking Staff.

The Jury's second finding is that the city does not maintain records of the contractor's repair work on elevators in city parking structures; its recommendation is that the city should maintain these records.

The city's response is that the city and the maintenance contractor both already keep records of inspections, repairs and maintenance on all city facilities' elevators, but the report was adjusted to include a line item for phone inspection, as it was previously considered included under "Car Stop Switch (es)."

The third finding in the report states that the audible alarm system in the elevator has a limited range; it recommends that the system be modified to directly alert a responsible agency.

The city's response is that the alarm system in every city elevator is installed per industry safety standards and is inspected by the city monthly and by the state annually.

The city also asserts that modifying the alarm is not a solution for notifying personnel and that the dispatcher, available via the elevator's emergency phone 24 hours a day, is trained to handle situations.

The city adjusted its management plan and maintenance protocol, however, to make sure phones work properly.

The fourth finding is that the emergency phone service in the elevator is not regularly inspected, and its recommended solution is that the city perform and document weekly inspections, as well as verify that the phones in all elevators are operational.

The city's response is that the emergency phones are checked by the city every month and by the state every year.

The report's fifth finding is that the city has no established written protocol for responding to elevator malfunctions; it recommended that the city acquire protocol for these situations.

The city's response states that it does, in fact, have emergency response protocol and it contracts with an independent answering service to answer elevator telephones, following city protocol in responding to elevator emergencies.

The Grand Jury's sixth finding is that the city has no incident reporting system to address elevator malfunctions, and its recommendation was that the city should implement one.

The city's response is that its Downtown Parking Program has had an incident reporting system for more than ten years, which is completed by the on-duty Parking Coordinator or Lead Maintenance Worker for incidents at any downtown parking lots.

This report is then reviewed by the Maintenance Supervisor or Parking Operations Supervisor, and, if needed, appropriate corrective action is taken.

The seventh finding is that the State of California Inspection Certificate in the elevator is out-of-date. The report recommends that the current certificate be displayed in elevators immediately upon receipt.

In response, the city asserts that the certificate renewals from the state are posted as soon as they are received, the state is responsible for scheduling inspections and issuing certificates, needed repairs are coordinated between the elevator contractor and the state inspector and permits are issued when the work is completed to the state's satisfaction.

The final finding of the Jury's report is that the physical address of the elevators are not posted in all cars, and its recommendation was that the address be posted in every elevator.

The city responds that the physical address is, in fact, shown on each elevator car's certificate, and the dispatcher has the ability to identify each car.

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