When people are stranded in elevators and their health is not at risk, building engineers should be called, leaders of the London Fire Brigade argue.

Non-Emergency Elevator Rescues to Cost London Owners More

Starting April 1, a non-emergency call to rescue someone from an elevator will cost the building owner $416 if it's the third call to that building within 12 months.

Since late 2009, the London Fire Brigade has charged a building owner 260 pounds, about $416, when its firefighters are called to the same building to rescue someone from an elevator 10 times within a year. While that fee has saved about $1.6 million brigade time and resources and caused the department to respond to 3,640 fewer calls, there are still too many calls -- so its management is about to charge more.

In 2010, the brigade responded to nearly 10,000 elevator incidents, of which only 67 were medical emergencies. And since the fee took effect, its fire crews have spent an estimated 5,000 hours on such calls. Starting April 1, a non-emergency call to rescue someone from an elevator will cost the owner that same fee if it's the third call to that building within 12 months. Brigade officials say had this change been in effect all along, fees would have been assessed 3,298 times -- eight times more than they in fact have been assessed.

They said the brigade made the change to ensure owners maintain their elevators properly, and also because when people are stranded in elevators and their health is not at risk, building engineers should be called rather than the brigade.

"Since we began clamping down on unnecessary lift call outs, we have freed up resources equivalent to £1 million," said Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. "However, too many people are still wasting our firefighters' time. Firefighters need to be available to attend emergencies where it is a matter of life and death. It should not be left to us to clear up after those who do not properly maintain their lifts.

"Firefighters will always attend a call out where it is a real emergency and people are in need of help. However, if it is not an emergency, it should be up to the lift company, whose product has broken down, to fix the problem."

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