You may have heard that jumping will save you. This won't work due to inertia. If you are inside an elevator, both you and the elevator are falling at the same speed. If you jump, you will be moving the same speed minus the jumping speed. Under ideal conditions, an elevator can fall at a rate of 32 feet per second, while the highest jump ever recorded* is 8 feet. If you happened to be in a very tall elevator, you would have to duplicate this jump in only a quarter of a second to counteract the fall. If you are an average person, you can only manage a jump of 1-1/2 to 2 feet, which would do very little to reduce the impact.
This rumor started when firefighters attempted to rescue elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver after a B-25 hit the Empire State Building. Not realizing the cables had been weakened by the fire, the rescuers tried lowering the elevator. She plummeted seventy-five stories, suffering severe injuries. Oliver claimed the only reason she survived was because she jumped just before the elevator hit the bottom. In reality, it was probably the air pressure in the lower part of the shaft that slowed her descent enough to be survivable.
What does work? Laying on your stomach and covering your head. This spreads the force across your body, minimizing the impact, and then if any debris fall from the top of the elevator, your head and organs are less likely to be hit.
One more thing: Since "modern" cable elevators have come into use in the early 1900s, there have been only three free-falling incidents in the U.S. It is the safest transportation system ever used. You are more likely to die from...well, just about anything.
*When I say "leap," I mean the highest a human has been recorded moving vertical in an unaided jump. Depending on the sanctioning body's definition of jumps and leaps, the official record may be as low as six feet.
Posted 3469 day ago