What is a Firefighting Lift?

Firefighting lifts can be crucial in the event of a fire as they help firefighters to quickly transport themselves and the necessary equipment, such as portable fire pumps and breathing apparatuses, to the relevant floors. When in use, a firefighting lift can usually transport up to 13 passengers at a time and can be essential for getting those inside to safety.

At Sheridan Lifts, we pride ourselves on being trusted lift installation and maintenance engineers for local councils and healthcare facilities such as hospitals and care homes, as well as businesses across the UK. We ensure our lift installations meet the health and safety requirements of every contract we attend (be it commercial or residential). As a go-to lift company, we install a wide range of lifts, from passenger lifts and platform lifts to firefighting lifts and more.

firemans switch

What is the Difference Between a Normal Lift and a Firefighting Lift?

Unlike regular passenger lifts, firefighting lifts are created to be practical and operational during the time of a fire. The key elements of a firefighting lift include:

  • The minimum rated load is 630kg. 
  • The width of the entrance should be at least 800mm. 
  • The speed of the lift is paramount. It needs to be able to reach the top floor of the building within 60 seconds. 
  • Each firefighting lift should be at least 1100mm wide and 1400mm deep. 
  • The lift should be as waterproof as possible to prevent any electrical damage. 
  • If the purpose of the lift will also include evacuation, we would advise the minimum load for the lift to be 1000kg. This is to take into account the possible need for a stretcher or a bed. In line with this, the interior measurements would need to be at least 1100mm wide and 2100mm deep. 
  • There should be access to a ladder within the lift in case it is required to escape from the lift car itself.

Whereas a firefighting lift can be used as a regular passenger lift at any time, a passenger lift does not share this versatility. As such, regular passenger lifts cannot be used in the event of a fire. This is due to the materials they are made with as they are not as fire resistant as the firefighting lifts, nor do they have the inbuilt capabilities required in the instance of a fire.

Due to the emergency function of a firefighting lift, these lifts should remain empty at all times (ensuring that goods aren’t left inside) so that there is no obstruction in the event of a fire.

As with all lifts, both passenger lifts and firefighting lifts need to be booked in for frequent maintenance checks after they have been installed. At Sheridan Lifts, we provide a range of lift maintenance packages beginning with simple checks and access to our 24-hour emergency hotline to more in-depth reports, which are included in our Gold package. Our project management team will be able to discuss the best maintenance package for you once the installation is complete. 

The materials used for both lifts, while they may technically be the same thing (for example, both types of lifts include electrical cables), there are clear differences you need to be aware of. For instance, the electrical cables used in a firefighting lift need to be fire protected, with a secondary supply of electricity from a backup generator.  

Some passenger lifts may have a ‘fire service override function’. It is important to understand that this function does not make it an instant firefighting lift. As you will have seen from the points listed above, as well as the functions below that cover how a firefighting lift works, firefighting lifts have additional requirements that must be met.

How Does a Firefighting Lift Work?

In essence, a firefighting lift works in the same way you would expect a regular passenger lift to work, with some slight differences in terms of use and design. 

A  firefighting lift is usually located in the well of a fire-protected lobby, which is usually the area of the floor that meets the requirements needed to be able to transport necessary equipment such as stretchers. If the same well happens to include a passenger lift, for example, then the well should already fulfil the fire-resistance requirements needed.

The number of firefighting lifts required in a building is determined by the national regulations set in place. Unlike a normal passenger lift, firefighting lifts are designed to operate for as long as is necessary in the event of a fire. You can be confident that all the firefighting lifts installed by Sheridan Lifts will be in line with the requirements and regulations required for this type of lift.


The design of the firefighting or evacuation lift we install is determined by both the approved building regulations and the design of the building itself. The key building design elements to consider when designing and installing your firefighting lift include:

  • How well insulated the building is
  • The most logical access routes for where in the building people will evacuate
  • How effective the building is in keeping water from getting into the lift

It may be that drains will need to be installed as the water from fire hoses comes in thick and fast, so pumps and drain measures will need to be included in the design of the lift to prevent the water levels from reaching a certain height and causing the lift to flood. 

The lift car will be designed using fire-resistance materials to ensure it remains safe for use and in line with your building’s fire strategy. The fire strategy will take into account the safety features of the building and its equipment, such as the fire resistance of the lift doors and walls. It will also outline the floors on the building that need to be covered by the firefighting lift as it may not be essential that these lifts cover the building from top to bottom. Our expert engineers and project management team can discuss all of these fire safety aspects in more detail with you.

When it comes to installing the lift, our engineers will need to make sure that the structure is created using fire-resistant materials. This extends to the fire lobby and the locations of the fire detectors and extinguishers. 

Another rule of thumb when installing firefighting lifts is that, if the lift landing entrances are greater than 7m, you must make sure there are escape doors in place. This is to provide an alternative route to safety for lift users should they be required. It should be made very clear to users of the building that firefighting lifts should not be used for moving goods unless it is essential and there are no other alternative lifts within the building. This is because, as you’d expect, time is of the essence in the event of an emergency, so firefighting lifts must be instantly accessible without the need of removing any obstacles to entry first.

Kellogg's - A Case Study

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Additional Safety Features of Firefighting Lifts

In order for a firefighting lift to be used by professionals, it requires a few additional features you would not find on a traditional lift. The extra features include: 

  • A dedicated fire-proof lift shaft
  • An emergency operation feature that allows firefighters to have control of the lift and communication with the Fire Service Access Level
  • An escape hatch in the ceiling to allow passengers to evacuate the lift itself if required
  • Electrical equipment should be protected against potential damage from both water and fire
  • The shaft and machine room lighting switch must be on during an emergency
  • Once in ‘firefighter mode’, rather than automatically open on arrival as is standard, the lift doors must remain closed until manually operated
  • Constant pressure and control of the doors, and communications between the lift car, machine room and the Fire Service Access Level must be maintained
  • Additional control systems which can then be integrated into a regular passenger lift

Speak to a Member of Our Team Today

At Sheridan Lifts, we put customer service at the heart of what we do. We provide all our customers with a 24-hour hotline, giving you non-stop access to us should you require our services at any time of the day. We have technicians and engineers based all across the country, from Manchester to London and everywhere in between. This allows our response to be quick and reliable. In the event of an emergency – for example, an entrapment – our team will be with you within an hour of us receiving the alert. For other non-urgent call outs, we offer a response time of four hours. Should you have any further enquiries about our expert lift services, including installation and maintenance, get in touch on 0161 203 6299.


Case Studies

Lee Street Circle, Leicester

Following advice from their building control team, our client in Leicester have decided to upgrade the passenger lift we installed for them in November 2018 to a firefighting