Elevator down; unit owners held captive

M.S. writes:

Dear Paul:

We have just learned that our only elevator will be out of service for the next two months. We are a six-floor condo building with ten suites per floor. People on the upper floors with mobility issues are devastated. They see their immediate future as being held captive in their apartment. Some are scared. What can be done?

Paul replies:

Dear M.S.:

I am sorry to hear that you find yourself and your fellow neighbours in such a difficult situation. Unfortunately, you may not be the only ones. Across Canada, many elevators are reaching their useful life expectancy and need to be repaired or replaced. Not only will this result in great inconvenience, but also tremendous costs for all unit owners. Whether due to lack of ongoing maintenance or a catastrophic one-time event, repairs must be done.

How can residents who live on the upper floors cope with this situation? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ensure that everyone has emergency contact information in place;
  • Someone needs to check on upper floor residents on a daily basis. This is especially important for those with health conditions that may require attention during the elevator downtime;
  • Arrange for a friend or service agency to deliver groceries;
  • Pharmacies usually deliver needed prescriptions or health related supplies;
  • If possible, re-schedule doctors’ appointments; if it is very important, arrange with a friend, or a  stretcher service for help with going down the stairs. In case of an emergency, you may have to call for an ambulance or the fire department for assistance with the stairs. Being carried down may be the only option.
  • Notify any home care providers of the situation to ensure that the worker coming to visit is able to manage the stairs;
  • Some residents may want to stay with friends or family during the interruption; this may be a good option if they have health issues;

For the condo corporation,

  • Provide as much notice as possible of the upcoming interruption;
  • Keep unit owners informed of the progress of  repairs often. There is nothing worse than not knowing.
  • Provide as much assistance as possible to unit owners on upper floors who may need help with daily living activities;
  • For those who are able to use the stairs, turn the event into a fitness challenge and offer prizes each week for the stair steppers; post some motivating sayings, or posters in the stairwell.
  • Hold a weekly meet and greet on each floor to allow people to trade “shut-in stories” and socialize;
  • This might be a good time to form an emergency response committee to plan for various scenarios (fire, flood, no heat, no AC,  no electricity, no water).   

This is a difficult situation. I wish you courage.

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