Two elevators in Harbin Hall malfunctioned Tuesday night, with one elevator falling one floor and trapping a student inside for nearly two hours.
An elevator car in the freshman dormitory dropped from the sixth floor to the fifth floor around 11 p.m., according to eyewitnesses Micah Hamilton (COL ’23) and Araya Zackery (COL ’23). Giovonni White (MSB ’23), who was riding the elevator at the time, was stuck in the elevator from around 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Hamilton, who was standing near the elevators on the sixth floor when the accident occurred, said that shortly after White entered the elevator, he heard a loud crashing noise from the elevator shaft. Several other residents also heard the crash and contacted the Georgetown University Police Department.
Zackery, who was in the lobby when she saw that the elevator was stuck on the fifth floor, said students in Harbin have experienced the two elevators malfunctioning since the beginning of the semester.
“I enter the dorms and see 3-4 people waiting for an elevator,” Zackery wrote in a message to The Hoya. “I ask if the elevators are broken or not because it’s such a common occurrence.”
White, who was stuck in the elevator car without his phone and computer, said he ended up napping during the long wait as GUPD, the Office of Planning and Facilities Management, and the fire department worked to free him.
“I was going down — down the elevator — and I got stuck, and I was just sitting there for like two hours. I was there tired, sleepy — it was late at night.” White said. “It just fell down and stopped working. It was crazy.”
The facilities employees addressed the issue by freeing the student and bringing the elevator back into operation in what they believed to be a timely manner, according to Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Benjamin Kuo.
“We promptly responded to a report of a student trapped in a Harbin elevator,” Kuo wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Facilities was able to successfully release the student and identified the problem as an improperly functioning governor’s switch.”
The governor’s switch, which acts as a stopping mechanism in case the elevator runs beyond its rated speed, was repaired early the next morning, according to Kuo.
Facilities wants to reassure residents that the elevators in Harbin meet safety standards, Kuo wrote.
“Safety is a top priority for Facilities Management, and we are committed to ensuring all elevators are operational, reliable, and safe to use,” Kuo wrote. “The Harbin elevators remain safe and operational. We encourage any community members to report any issues or concerns to Facilities Management.”
The second Harbin elevator stopped working shortly after midnight due to a bad relay, a device that controls the speed, position and door operation of an elevator. The second elevator was also fixed Wednesday morning, according to Kuo.
Elevators in Reynolds Hall and Darnall Hall experienced similar issues last year, sometimes suddenly dropping floors and stranding students inside. Between September and November of 2018, facilities responded to about 29 work requests related to elevators, from elevators being out of service to light bulb replacements.
Elevator malfunctions make up only a fraction of facilities issues reported on campus. Last fall, students reported unsafe living conditions and health concerns because of the prevalence of mold in dormitories. In February, 84 residents of top-floor apartments in Alumni Square were forced to relocate for the rest of the semester after structural engineers expressed concerns about water damage and pressure on the buildings’ roofs.
Zackery said the incident of an elevator malfunction was not isolated, noting frequent infrastructural problems that affect the well-being of Harbin residents and claiming that repairs are not made in a timely manner.
“Not only do the Harbin elevators break weekly, but they often fail to get fixed for up to 72 hours,” Zackery wrote. “Considering the people who attend this institution pay tens of thousands of dollars, it would be expected that we would have better facilities to use. Ones that don’t break, flood, or affect our health (mold or drinking water) would seem agreeable, but apparently not.”