Category Archives for "Blog"

Down to Earth

Happy Earth Day 2024!

As many of you know, my professional career started with a focus on environmental and energy policy issues when I was a congressional liaison at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C. While at EPA, I managed toxic substances, Alaska-specific challenges, the Kuwaiti oil fires, and emergency response federal policy efforts. I then went to the National Association of Homebuilders with a position as Legislative Director for environmental issues and continued working on these important matters. And since, throughout my career, I have continued to engage in work to make a meaningful impact on our environment.

My job with the elevator industry is no different. Environmental impact and energy efficiency is now part of the larger sustainability discussion, and buildings – including building transportation – play a key part.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the buildings and construction sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for a staggering 37% of global emissions. Historically, much of the sector's progress has centered around reducing the "operational” carbon emissions of buildings – those emissions stemming from heating, cooling, and lighting. Projections suggest that these operational emissions will decrease significantly in the coming decades. However, solutions to mitigate the buildings "embodied" carbon emissions originating from the design, production, and deployment of materials and services have lagged.

NEII’s member companies are incorporating sustainability goals and practices throughout all aspects of their respective businesses, including in products and services, governance, and supply chain management. The industry’s respective goals vary based on company, with some setting a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2030 while others seek to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Net-zero global emissions goals also vary from 2040 to 2050 depending on the organization. 


While the goals and corresponding dates can vary, the mission uniting the elevator industry is the same. Here’s a glimpse at what NEII members are doing to protect our environment and slow global warming:

  • Membership in RE100 (Renewable Electricity) initiative
  • Zero waste-to-landfill certification
  • ISO 14001 for all U.S. facilities
  • Electric vehicle deployment
  • Fleet management enhancements
  • Local material source and hub distribution to reduce energy and transport emission
  • Membership in Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance
  • Carbon-neutral maintenance services
  • Energy-efficient elevators
  • Gearless motors and more energy-efficient drives
  • Sustainable building design through technology
  • Logistics optimization
  • Prioritization of waterway and railway transportation over air freight
  • Supplier location
  • Improving packaging materials and process
  • Upgraded recycling efforts


It is important on Earth Day especially and every day that we think about our impact on the world around us. Each person, each company, and each organization plays a role in the fight against global climate change. Even if you think your contribution is only one drop in the proverbial ocean, why not just make a few small changes because you never know the impact you could have. And for NEII, we are doing the same. We have added sustainability to the list of our priority issues and will be considering what we can do as a collective group of industry leaders. Once we identify the steps we can take, I hope the entire elevator industry will join NEII and its members to make a difference for generations to come. 

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII's membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries.

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

Lift Off

A new year can mean a new start, depending on how you view the change in calendar year. For me, the new year is time to review and refresh activities in both our personal and professional lives as needed. And after reviewing the NEII blog series, we decided our blog needed a refreshed identity. POINT/BLANK is now the name of my official blog and for those who know me, it fits me perfectly. I tell it like it is. This approach has served me well throughout my career and during my tenure at NEII, even if it hasn’t always been easy to discuss difficult issues.


For the last 100+ years, NEII’s mission has been to promote a high level of safety for passengers and industry professionals; ensure consistent adoption and enforcement of policies, codes and regulations; maximize choice for building transportation systems; drive innovation and performance; and be the trusted resource for industry information.


And while NEII’s work advanced each part of that mission last year, this blog is focused on how we increased our visibility as the trusted resource for industry information. For example, in our 2023 blog series, we shared an inside look at:


In our monthly Elevator World column, we helped contractors, suppliers, architects, and building owners and managers better understand remote interaction operation and cybersecurity, licensing challenges in the Big Apple as well as why SkillsUSA may be the key to unlocking a more diverse talent pipeline.


And we sat down with a few of the leading building media brands, including FacilitiesNet, to discuss how the latest ASME code will impact building operations professionals while also authoring a guest column on elevators in the commercial real estate industry for the Tampa Bay Business Journal.


Being the authoritative voice of the elevator industry and telling the important stories that need to be told is one part of what we do, but it’s the behind-the-scenes work with governing bodies, AHJs and municipalities, unions, associations and member companies that truly sets NEII apart.

In 2023, our mission was clear:


  • Elevate industry safety
  • Drive workforce diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Engage throughout the code lifecycle

Safe working practices remained our top priority and this focus was integrated into all aspects of NEII’s work, including codes, advocacy, communications and DEI initiatives. This included finalizing the next edition of the Field Employee Safety Handbook that is set to be released in Q1 2025 and partnering with the construction industry on hoistway safety. NEII provided more than two dozen public comments and testimony and advanced safety standards through codes to help drive necessary change in the elevator industry. We also further promoted inclusive PPE resources and awarded more than 100 safety ambassador awards to participants who learned key safety tips as part of NEII’s Elevator and Escalator Safety Challenge.


And we didn’t stop there. NEII facilitated company breakout sessions at Tradewomen Build Nations, introduced thousands of trades-focused students to the elevator industry through our joint exhibition with the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) at SkillsUSA Techspo, and once again served as a key industry partner for Construction Inclusion Week.


I’m proud of the impact and progress we made in 2023 but see even bigger things ahead this year as we continue pushing AHJs to eliminate outdated codes and deviations, shift the talent-pipeline development focus while transitioning recruitment outreach to diverse communities, as well as target high-risk areas to drive improvement in safety.


If you have any questions you’d like answered in a future blog, please email info@neii.org.

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, Thyssenkrupp Elevator Company and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

The Blame Game

When an elevator or escalator breaks down or is out of service, who’s to blame?

With misinformation everywhere, it’s time to separate fact from fiction.

By Amy J. Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.


Fun fact #1: There are more than 1 million elevators and escalators between the U.S. and Canada that make more than 20 billion trips every year.


Fun fact #2: Building transportation systems are the safest form of public transportation in the world, and they are also the most used.


With the vast number of miles ridden annually, it is only natural that regular maintenance is required. No multistory building or city is immune to the need for elevators and escalators to be maintained properly. And maintenance means downtime because it is too dangerous for mechanics to work on equipment that is still in service.


Sometimes equipment may breakdown as well. Equipment can be out of service anywhere from minutes to weeks or longer depending on the circumstances, parts needed and their availability, complexity of the work, and many other factors. For some reason, however, these service disruptions tend to draw more attention than when a flight gets cancelled, or a car breaks down. And it seems like the media is often eager to point the finger at the party they feel deserves all the blame – the elevator service provider.


What’s the real story?


Let’s start with better understanding the role of the elevator industry in building transportation. There are three aspects to the building transportation industry – manufacturing, modernization and service/repair. Yes, there are a limited number of elevator manufacturers, and these same companies also do the majority of modernizations in North America, but when it comes to service/repair, however, there are hundreds of companies – large and small – that undertake this work.


Now let’s consider some of the assertions that have arisen in the media lately.


Statement: Manufacturers design their units in a manner so they can be the only ones to perform service, forcing building owners and property managers into long-term relationships they don’t want to be in. Is this fact or fiction? It is fiction.  


Safety codes require manufacturers to supply special tools if needed for their equipment, as well as unique procedures to guide other companies in how to work on their systems. Yes, technology can be “proprietary” but that is not unique to the elevator industry – many companies design equipment and develop processes/procedures that are not shared with competitors. But the key is whether or not equipment is “serviceable” and, all elevator and escalator equipment is serviceable by companies other than the manufacturer.  


Statement: Elevator service providers “bully” building owners and property managers into bad service contracts. Fact or fiction? This assertion too is fiction.


First, all elevators should be serviced on a regular basis to check equipment and ensure proper functionality. Promoting regular service  is not a  provider trying to get more money out of a customer, but rather those companies being responsible partners in ensuring the safety of that building’s tenants and guests. The responsibility for securing a service contract is on the building owner or manager, and the terms of that contract are ultimately determined by the building owner or managerand not the service provider.


Second, the enforcement of the applicable safety codes is the responsibility of the jurisdiction. So, when there is a failed safety inspection, it is the responsibility of the jurisdiction to take appropriate actions to ensure those systems are brought into compliance.


Statement: If an elevator has failed an inspection, that means it poses serious or life-threatening risks. Fact or fiction. Again, this statement is fiction.


A non-complaint inspection could be the result of a low risk issue such as a missing light on a button panel or missing signature on a form. It is critical to understand the root cause of a failed inspection as oftentimes the reasons elevators may be taken out of service is for minor issues.


Statement: The age of equipment can play a role in equipment being taken out of service for extended periods of time. Fact or fiction? This statement is a fact.


But the age of equipment alone does not result in breakdowns or equipment being out of service for extended periods of time. Many times, these issues arise because building owners or managers skip routine maintenance, delay modernizations, or forgo investing in necessary upgrades.

The lifespan of an elevator is 20 to 25 years, although there is legacy equipment in operation that is 30 or more years old. Think about driving a car built in 1988 with more than 200,000 miles on it. The greatest mechanic can be performing the highest level of service, but that car is going to break down if key components are not replaced when needed. We accept this “standard operating procedure” when it comes to automobiles and have no issue replacing belts, plugs, electronics and transmissions. So why are people unwilling to accept that elevators that are 25 years old too?

Readers should now have a better understanding of why elevators shut down or need to be taken down out of service, but what causes equipment to be out of service for an extended length of time?


Here are the facts.


Supply chain issues and parts shortages have impacted all industries due to the pandemic and recent geo-political events, and the elevator industry is no exception. Medium covered this issue when it discussed how the semiconductor shortage was impacting elevators as modern elevator systems rely on semiconductors for motor control, data transmission and interface with touchscreens, sensors and communication systems. The age of equipment can also impact the availability of parts as many companies do not stockpile large quantities of parts for elevators that are more than 30 years old.  


There is also a lack of qualified elevator mechanics. NEII, NEIEP and the IUEC are working together to grow the talent pipeline with a heightened focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion through partnerships with organizations like SkillsUSA, which is developing the skills of  students interested in pursuing a career in the trades.


The elevator industry is constantly working to ensure building transportation remains the safest form of transportation. And while there will always be obstacles (we didn’t even touch upon how human error and misuse can shut down or damage vertical transportation systems), the elevator industry will always put the safety of passengers and its workers first. So, the next time an elevator or escalator is out of service, I urge you to separate fact from fiction.


To stay up to date on the elevator industry, follow the National Elevator Industry, Inc. on its social media channels and bookmark www.neii.org.

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

Feeling Trapped

Modern elevator emergency communications address an important industry challenge – communication during entrapments for visual-, hearing- and speech-impaired passengers 


By Amy J. Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.


The elevator industry has numerous processes and procedures in place to ensure a speedy and safe resolution to entrapments. ” Elevator emergency communications systems have been around since the 1950’s; however, there have been several changes and improvements along the way.  Every elevator built today is equipped with a means to communicate with someone who can take action 24/7. 

 

Elevator emergency communications systems are available in hundreds of thousands of elevators around the world and serve as serve an important safety function. For those passengers who are either hearing- or speech-impaired, the solution is not that simple. And that communication barrier can lead to a frightening experience.  

 

NEII Senior Director of Codes, Kevin Brinkman, does an exceptional job of sharing what went on behind the scenes from a codes perspective to bring two-way elevator emergency communications for all to life in NEII’s next article for Elevator World, which will appear in the June 2023 edition. This is a must-read for building owners and property managers. In it, Kevin touches on how, starting in the early 2000s, elevator emergency communications advanced from a handset to a single push button identified by the word “HELP”and included braille markings for vision-impaired passengers. He walks through the technological advancements and resulting elevator code enhancements that have steadily improved emergency communications since, highlighting requirements in the 2018 edition of the International Building Code and the 2019 edition of ASME A17.1/CSA B44. 

 

I am proud of the work that Kevin and his code colleagues have achieved to improve safety for visual-, hearing- and speech-impaired passengers through the development and adoption of these code provisions. NEII will continue to review the codes and promote provisions that protect the safety of industry professionals and the riding public. We will also continue efforts to ensure consistent adoption and enforcement of policies, codes and regulations; maximize choice for building transportation systems; drive innovation and performance; and be the definitive leader and trusted resource for industry information. 

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator  and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

Toolbox Talks: Fall Hazards

In May, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Focus Four Campaign is centered on preventing fall hazards. Every year, OSHA raises awareness on the top four hazards on job sites that account for the vast majority of injuries and fatalities. 


Out of 5,190 worker fatalities in private industry in 2021, 1 out of 5 were in construction, a total of 968. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites are:

  • Falls - 40%
  • Struck by Object - 8%
  • Electrocutions - 8%
  • Caught-in/between - 3%

Eliminating these four hazards would save a minimum of 568 workers' lives.


OSHA's Region Three office has provided the following toolbox talks and other resources for use on construction job sites to raise awareness and eliminate the top four hazards:



About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator  and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org


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Elevating Earth Day

NEII celebrates the commitment of its members and industry to protect the environment on Earth Day and every day.

By Amy Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.

The year 1970 had no shortage of drama. The Beatles broke up. There was the Apollo 13 non-moon-landing mission. And there was the invasion of Cambodia that led to fatal student protests. The decade that gave us disco and the Brady Bunch got off to a rocky start to say the least. But one U.S. Senator was doing something positive and taking a small but significant step in a fight very few people at the time even realized we should be fighting – the fight to save the planet.


In the spring of 1970, only five days after the Apollo 13 crew safely landed in the Pacific Ocean, Wisconsin Senator (and later Governor) Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day to draw attention to the urgent need for environmental legal and regulatory intervention. At the time, there was no Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act. There wasn’t even an Environmental Protection Agency; the EPA would not commence operations until December of 1970.


And it all started with one special day: April 22.


When Senator Nelson initiated Earth Day, approximately 20 million Americans supported it, according to Earth Day Network. Today, more than 1 billion people worldwide participate in Earth Day activities. This year’s theme is “Invest in our Planet,” something the building transportation industry is taking to heart.


In the upcoming issue of Elevator World, NEII Vice President for Government Affairs, Phil Grone, emphasizes that decarbonizing the built environment is an urgent need that is recognized at all levels of government, with key climate-change actions being taken across the federal and local levels. These efforts include municipalities requiring buildings to significantly reduce their carbon emissions by a certain date or face stiff penalties, as well as the Biden Administration requiring buildings owned by the Federal government to cut energy use by 30 percent by 2030.


The building transportation industry is playing a key role in achieving these objectives. Manufacturers and suppliers are committed to reducing emissions from owned or controlled sources, indirect emissions from power and heating and cooling sources, as well as other indirect emissions that emanate from other parts of the supply chain.  


Elevator and escalator companies across the U.S. are focusing on their vehicle fleets, incorporating hybrid and electric vehicles and optimizing vehicle routing for service calls. The industry is also improving sustainable manufacturing, including sourcing renewable energy to support those facilities. As a sector that contributes to both manufacturing and industrial capacity and to the built environment, members of the industry have established a number of important goals between 2030 and 2050 that, when achieved, will contribute significantly to the improvement of the environment and in addressing climate change.


Everyone has a part to play in our success and in the improvement of the environment. Individual and industry action matters. Every contribution is vital. Reflecting on the first Earth Day over five decades ago, the progress we have made, and the objectives we need to achieve, one question should be top of mind—what are you doing to invest in our planet?

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org


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Code of Honor

NEII carries on the work of its predecessors and plays a key role in the development of model safety codes


By Amy Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc. 

 

On May 25, 1914, the Elevator Manufacturers Association (EMA), a predecessor to NEII, met for the first time to begin development of a U.S. elevator safety codeOnly three years later, The Uniform Regulations for the Construction and Installation of Passenger and Freight Elevators were published in 1917. EMA was also a key contributor to the first American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) elevator code, A Code of Safety Standards for the Construction, Operation, and Maintenance of Elevators, Dumbwaiters and Escalators, which was published by ASME in 1921. EMA, which transitioned to the National Elevator Manufacturing Industry, Inc. (NEMI) in 1934 and then to NEII in 1969, went on to contribute to every edition of the model elevator codes thereafter. 

 

Over 100 years later, NEII continues the tradition started by EMA and plays a significant role in elevator code development. NEII’s Central Code Committee – one of several groups and committees at NEII – consists of engineers and industry experts with over 300 years of combined experience, which is critical to provide guidance and expertise on safety code development and application. Central Code Committee members participate in more than 40 code committees within ASME, the International Code Council (ICC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and other model code and standard writing organizations. In addition, NEII staff and member company representatives partner with authorities across the U.S. and Canada to develop, update, and apply safety codes and standards that pertain to building transportation equipment. NEII also works on code interpretations and enforcement issues to assist our member companies when needed. 

 

But I want to focus this post on the development of the primary code that has not only redefined building transportation safety in North America but created a model for the rest of the world to follow. 

 

ASME A17.1/CSA B44, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators 

As discussed previously, NEII (and its predecessors) have been involved in the development of our industry’s model codes since the very beginning. In the 1990’s, NEII was part of the movement to create one unified elevator code for the U.S. and Canada. The process from inception to implementation took nearly 20 years but in 2007, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) code ASME A17.1/CSA B44 became the first fully harmonized standard throughout North America for the design, construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance, alteration and repair of elevators, escalators and related conveyances. The code is continuously reviewed and updated every three years to ensure that the requirements in each edition represent the latest safety and technology available. 

 

In the article “Up to Code” that appeared in the March 2023 issue of Elevator World, Kevin Brinkman, NEII’s Senior Director of Codes, discussed how ASME A17.1/CSA B44 could serve as the blueprint for the rest of the world as we seek the seemingly impossible – one global unified elevator code.  

 

In an effort to achieve this lofty goal, NEII and its member companies actively engage in the development of elevator codes world-wide. The industry’s contributions date back to 1972 when the European Committee for Standardization (CEN)/Technical Committee (TC) 10 Lifts, Escalators and Moving Walks Committee held their first meeting to discuss standardization of European elevator codes. Many NEII Central Code Committee members participate in a variety of ISO code development committees today, sharing their knowledge and experience with the rest of the world.


To stay on top of the latest code developments as well as other advancements in the building transportation industry, sign up to receive NEII's Insider newsletter each month. 

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator  and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org


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DEI Hard

Working to advance DEI efforts within the building transportation industry


By Amy Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.

According to a recent article on CNBC, for the first time since 2017, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) progress in the workplace stalled in 2022. I am happy to report that for the elevator industry, however, 2022 was a year of DEI promise.


DEI has been a NEII priority for several years. It was clear that diversity within the building trades needed to improve and that progress could be made to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and feel like they belong. But where to start? And where could NEII add the most value to help move industry DEI efforts forward? We had a lot of ideas, but we also had a lot to learn.


As we worked to gather information, formulate a strategy, and build a foundation, NEII focused its early efforts on increasing awareness about our industry and supplementing the promotion of open recruitments. We developed a flier in partnership with the National Elevator Industry Education Program (NEIEP), the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC), the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund (EIWPF) to help drive interested parties to NEIEP’s website where they could learn more about working in the building transportation industry and how to apply. NEII has been reaching out to organizations representing diverse populations within close geographical location to one of the industry’s open recruitments since 2020, but it was during 2022 that emailed the 100th organization, and we didn’t stop there.


2022 was a year where we saw advancements on other industry DEI efforts as well. Here are a few highlights:

  • NEII had learned that many women in the field – and even some men – were provided personal protective equipment (PPE) that did not fit their body size or shape. After confirming that all NEII’s Board member companies were offering inclusive PPE, we issued an industry challenge in August 2022 as NEII’s first public DEI initiative. The PPE Challenge encourages all vertical transportation companies to provide size- and gender-inclusive equipment and uniforms so all technicians can be safe and comfortable while working in the field.
  • In October, NEII and its member companies participated in Construction Inclusion Week (CIW) – an initiative meant to build awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by providing content and resources and fostering conversations that create alignment in the industry. NEII had amplified CIW messaging previously but developed industry-specific tools, coordinated a social media initiative and supported other industry engagement in 2022.
  • NEII also attended the 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference (TWBN) in late October. This annual event brings together women from all the building trades. NEII’s team was able to attend valuable education sessions and meet female technicians from across the U.S. and Canada, many of whom shared candidly about their experiences on jobsites at all levels of their careers. NEII’s participation at TWBN also helped us convey the support of NEII’s member companies to DEI and this event, as well as develop relationships with industry partners.
  • NEII attended the SkillsUSA 2022 Leadership & Skills Conference and began discussions about a potential partnership with the organization. SkillsUSA is national organization with chapters in every state and more than 300,000 student participants nationwide – a majority of whom are from underrepresented populations. It provides a network to increase awareness about working in the building transportation industry and a pipeline of young people already interested in working in the trades.

In my recent article in Elevator World, I shared why DEI should be a priority for all elevator companies, including the extensive benefits you get from having a diverse workforce. I included a simple three-step process elevator companies can follow to get started incorporating DEI into their culture, and suggested partner organizations that can help elevator companies develop a diverse pipeline of talent.


Since joining NEII in 2010, I have learned many things, perhaps none more important than this: the building transportation industry is special. And the heart of this industry is the people. We now need to make sure that all people have the opportunity to join this amazing industry, are welcomed and treated fairly. I am proud of the strides made in recent years, but there is still a lot of real work that needs to be done.


So what does the future hold for DEI in the elevator industry? NEII will continue to build on the work we’ve done so far and the real promise that began to emerge in 2022 on the efforts I’ve discussed today and others. What will you do – provide inclusive PPE? Promote the industry and open recruitments to a broader universe? Help a new worker feel welcome on the jobsite? Or will you identify something different and reach out to NEII to partner with you? I look forward to hearing from you on how we can advance DEI in our industry.

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator Company and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org.

Girl Power

From the halls of our nation's capital to the elevator industry, how I went from surviving to thriving in a male-dominated world.


By Amy J. Blankenbiller, Executive Director, National Elevator Industry, Inc.


When most children grow up, they want to be like their parents. That was certainly the case for my sisters, who went on to become a teacher and architect like my mom and dad. But not me. I wanted to be like… my neighbor. She was a judge and had been one of only a few women in her law school class. She was also politically connected and was an advocate for various issues. She helped me land my first job in D.C. with Senator Bob Dole and continued to be a sounding board throughout my career (and life).


While living my best D.C. policy life, I worked with another great woman who taught me about the importance of women supporting women. In particular, she stressed how critical it was for more experienced women to help younger women set their professional pathway. And that’s exactly what she did for me. She took me under her wing and was there through thick and thin when I was learning the slippery ropes of D.C. politics.

My DC mentor gave me three pieces of advice that I follow to this day:

  • Are you asking someone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself?
  • Would you be proud enough to tell your mom/dad/family?
  • Would your actions cause you to be brought before a Senate oversight committee?

Beyond her inspirational words, I also admired her inspirational actions. She did not back down when her male counterparts tried to silence or dismiss her input. On the contrary, she stood even taller and spoke with confident authority, something I worked hard to emulate – even when I was incredibly intimidated. But following her lead served me well when I worked for the George H.W. Bush administration and was the point person for the federal government’s efforts related to capping and controlling the Kuwait oil fires. I was 25 years old managing a group of “roughneck” oil men, but it was there where I learned to find my voice.


As I transitioned to working with home builders, the metal casting industry, the Kansas business community and now the elevator industry, I noticed one characteristic that all four of these industries have in common: very few women in the top leadership positions. With each new position and additional responsibilities, I would often get a lot of unsolicited advice about how a professional woman should act, typically from men. While some women may have been offended, I wasn’t. I took the input and factored it into my professional development without letting their words shake my confidence. And in many ways, all of that guidance that I think was often intended to change my manner actually strengthened my resolve about staying true to myself.


And today, on International Women’s Day, it’s now my turn to serve as mentor and impart some sage advice. It is more important than ever for women of the world to lift each other up and help one another overcome obstacles that arise in the pathway toward our goals. Find your voice and do not let anyone shake your confidence. Be relentless in your pursuit of your dreams. And remember that you do not have to climb to the top of the corporate ladder to make a difference; sometimes it is the small things that can help the most. But most importantly, never give up. Fight for those things that are important to you, in all aspects of your life.


We have come a long way, but we have also just begun. Let me know how I can help. 

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty-five percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org


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Innovating Safety: Elevators See Major Technology Advances in Wake of Disasters

[Originally published in Building Operating Management; May 15, 2019]


Every time we turn on the news we see the devastation caused by natural disasters, whether it is an earthquake, blizzard, hurricane, or other extreme weather event. Sometimes, building managers will know far in advance that a threat is heading their way; but other times, as was the case in the recent tornado that hit parts of Alabama and Georgia, ten minutes is all the warning they received.


In either case, preparation, training and practice can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. Is your facility prepared?

As our cities grow, so too have our buildings. Today, billions of people use elevators daily and by 2050, the number is expected to triple as population booms in urban centers. Technological and engineering advances have led to the construction of larger and taller buildings to meet the world’s growing need. Even in the best of times, it can be difficult to effectively transport building occupants. And if a disaster strikes – natural or otherwise – occupants will be unable to evacuate if the building and the building manager are not well prepared.


It will continue to be increasingly important for building managers to recognize the role elevators can play in the safe evacuation of building occupants. Preventive maintenance to keep elevators up to code, combined with a responsible egress plan and clear communication, will save lives in an extreme event.


Building Codes Continuously Support Innovation for Safety

Building managers are very familiar with building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC), such as the International Building Code (IBC), but may not be as familiar with the codes for elevator and escalator safety developed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). ASME A17.1/CSA B44 is the primary code in place for new product elevator/escalator designs and installation. It is used widely throughout North America and undergoes updates every three years by a panel of experienced experts with representation across various aspects of the elevator industry. While building owners are not responsible for enforcing these codes – the authority having jurisdiction oversees that – they still must comply with the elevator safety codes enforced in their area.


One of the key stakeholders in this process is the National Elevator Industry, Inc. (NEII), the national trade association of the building transportation industry. NEII’s primary mission is to drive the adoption of model codes and responsible policies across North America, promote safety for passengers and industry professionals, and advance innovation and performance. NEII supports and advocates for codes in several ways, including actively participating on code development committees, like the ASME, ICC and NFPA, to ensure the harmonization and consistency between the building codes and building transportation codes. This is particularly important for issues such as seismic safety that are addressed in both the building and elevator codes.


 New Requirements for Emergencies of All Types

Over the past several years, the codes have evolved to better address how elevators function during disasters.  While seismic requirements and Firefighters’ Emergency Operation (FEO) have been part of the code for many years, these requirements are continuously reviewed and updated as needed. In addition, new requirements have been added, or are being developed, to provide for occupant egress in emergencies and for operation during extreme weather events.  For example, ASME A17.1 now addresses Occupant Evacuation Operation (OEO) technology, flood detection technologies, and back-up power systems, to name a few.


Occupant Evacuation Operations

Unfortunately, it often takes a true tragedy to inspire innovation. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was obvious that more lives could have been saved if occupant egress was more efficient and elevators were part of the solution. Many building code changes have been prompted by lessons learned from that tragedy, including some hardening of the buildings and widening of stairwells. The reality is you cannot build a building that can withstand any possible threat. But what if you could safely use the elevator to evacuate people efficiently? That is where OEO comes in. This technology enables passengers to simply walk to the floor lobby, catch the designated elevator to a safer floor and from there make an efficient exit, freeing up the elevator for other occupants to use.


The idea is not to evacuate every occupant via the elevator, but to have more options for the occupants of the floor(s) of a building most at risk. This important game-changing innovation is already being used. At 181 Fremont in San Francisco, 14 of 17 elevators have been equipped with this technology by NEII member ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corporation. Many other market leaders utilize similar technologies and buildings are currently being constructed with OEO capabilities to maximize safety.


Advances in building design and elevator technology and changes to the codes help ensure that elevators can continue to operate in fire emergencies, provided the elevators are not exposed to the fire hazard. These changes include provisions to protect against the intrusion of smoke, fire and water into the hoistway, as well as providing for emergency power to the elevators.  The building codes require protected elevator lobbies in which real-time messaging displays provide information, such as availability and estimated time of the elevator car arrival, which the occupants can use to determine their best means of evacuation.


Elevator users in North America are familiar with signs posted in all elevator lobbies warning the public not to use elevators in case of a fire. Those signs had been mandated by the ASME A17.1/CSA B44 Safety Codes for Elevators and Escalators for years. With new technologies and safety codes that support new innovations, property managers will need to reeducate their tenants that elevators may be safe to use in some emergencies, once this technology becomes more prevalent.


Firefighters’ Emergency Operation

Elevators have long been required to include features in case of fire emergencies. Firefighters’ Emergency Operation (FEO) is required on all new passenger elevators. FEO Phase I is automatically activated by the fire alarm initiating devices to cause an elevator to travel to a designated landing where people can egress from the building.  Once the car has traveled to the designated level on Phase I and the passengers have exited, the elevator is only available to firefighters. FEO Phase II allows the firefighters to use the car to move equipment or people to aid in fighting the fire or evacuating the building.  


Flood Detection Technology

In response to flooding emergencies, such as Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast and Harvey in Houston, there are also enhancements for operation of elevators in flood zones.  ASME and IBC reference ASCE24 which has performance-based language that prohibits elevators from descending into floodwaters. One of the ASME working groups in currently developing a proposal to add more prescriptive requirements to the code. Care must be taken to ensure that any new provisions work effectively with the other systems currently in place (such as FEO, OEO and seismic operation).  


In addition, standby or emergency power systems are important safety features, which allow the elevators to be used for evacuation or to fight the fire. Standby power also ensures that the communication systems in the elevators remain operational.


Most new innovations included in the safety code only apply to new elevators being installed and only when the authority having jurisdiction adopts an updated version of the code.  Elevators typically last 25-30 years before they are updated and some may be older than that.  Unless the local authority requires upgrading older elevators to add these new safety features, they may not be present on the elevators in any given building. 

While the innovation of elevator manufacturers and the development of strong safety codes have been tremendously impactful in improving the safety of elevators in emergencies, there is still much that facility managers must do. The building manager should be familiar with the specifications of the building transportation systems and keep in mind the new safety features available when it is time to upgrade the equipment. The manager should develop an emergency plan for the building, including how the elevators might be used in an emergency, and then provide training for building occupants. 


Knowing how to respond in an emergency and how to best keep your tenants safe must be planned in advance. Have you educated your tenants on what they should or should not do in various emergency scenarios, whether caused by an extreme weather event or perhaps an active shooter or act of terrorism? Have you practiced it with your tenants and first responders? Getting occupants safely out of a building in an emergency relies not only on technology, but also careful planning, training and calm leadership.

About NEII

NEII is the premier trade association representing the global leaders in the building transportation industry. Its members install, maintain, and/or manufacture elevators, escalators, moving walks, and other building transportation products. NEII‘s membership includes the six major international companies – Fujitec America, Inc., KONE, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc., Otis Elevator Company, Schindler Elevator Corporation, TK Elevator  and several other companies across the country. Collectively, the NEII members represent approximately eighty percent of the total hours worked within the elevator and escalator industry, employ more than 25,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support hundreds of thousands of American jobs in affiliate industries. 

For more information about NEII, please visit www.neii.org

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