Motion control: Statue of Liberty rescue elevator
Application Update: At the Statue of Liberty, the new fast, efficient rescue elevator features a smooth ride to the top, ensured by a motor drive, to improve safety, emergency access, and evacuation for the crown jewel of U.S. statues and tourist destinations.
A $30 million Statue of Liberty renovation, for the interior of the copper statue and its concrete and granite pedestal, was completed in October 2012, in the time for the monument’s 126th anniversary. Included were “Life and Safety Upgrades” conducted by the National Park Service (NPS), such as three new elevators, upgraded stairs from the top of the pedestal to the crown, upgrades to the bathrooms and fire suppression systems, and new mechanical and electrical systems for climate control in certain high-traffic areas.
Liberty Island, the home of the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor, hosts approximately 3.5 million visitors in a typical year. Open every day except Christmas, the statue is one of the most recognizable icons in the world, and the national park in which it resides is a genuine U.S. “bucket list” tourist destination.
For the first time, people in wheelchairs or with accessibility needs are able to visit one of the observation decks at the top of the pedestal, and general traffic flow and visitor amenities have been improved. A NPS official estimated that the renovations will allow 26,000 more people to visit the interior of the monument annually.
More crown visitors
Of the thousands of people who visit the monument each day, only a small portion venture to the top of the crown. Reservations have been limited to three groups of 10 guests per hour, a total of 240 guests in the eight-hour visiting day. Tickets to the crown are often sold out months in advance, and guests are required to climb 393 steps from the top of the pedestal to the crown.
Renovations include upgrades to the stair rails and protective glass on the spiral staircases, intertwined in a double-helix configuration, that lead guests to and from the crown. This upgrade will likely increase daily access to the crown once the monument is reopened again. (The statue was opened only briefly after the renovations were completed, having been closed again after the island access docks and walkways were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A reopening date had not been set as of early March.)
Another major renovation to the interior of the statue, equally important in the likely increase in daily visits to the crown, is a sophisticated rescue elevator manufactured by Tower Elevator Systems Inc. (TESI). TESI is an Austin, Texas, manufacturer of special use, custom designed, rack-and-pinion elevators, with installations in mines, steel mills, power plants, airports, and manufacturing facilities.
Rescue and maintenance design
The rescue elevator is used for emergency personnel and maintenance activities, and is the only elevator installed inside the statue, traveling from the top of the pedestal to the crown. It is installed adjacent to the spiral staircases, allowing emergency personnel to reach distressed visitors at four intervals along the route. With a carrying capacity of three people, the rescue elevator provides a much-enhanced safety feature, allowing a visitor to be transported safely to the main elevator for complete egress from the monument without having to navigate the tight and crowded stairs. The TESI elevator replaces an obsolete elevator that had been in place for over 30 years for the same purpose.
“One of the major challenges of the project was the incredibly tight space inside the statue and the nature of working in a historical structure,” said Todd Grovatt, TESI president. “It required a highly innovative and customized design, making sure the system attached to the exact same points as the old elevator, with no modifications to the historically protected interior statue structure. Our rack-and-pinion technology allows the flexibility for an elevator to be placed just about anywhere you can mount the hoistway gear rack. The rescue elevator was custom designed specifically for this application and location. It is the only elevator of its kind in the world.”
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