In most cases, a large elevator is needed to meet stretcher requirements.
The 1997 Uniform Building Code denotes certain requirements for elevators to accommodate stretchers. In addition to a prominent display of the international symbol for emergency medical services, access to all floors in buildings higher than three stories is required. In buildings where no adequate elevator reaches all floors, two or more elevators may meet the requirements. In addition to floor access, specific size and capacity requirements must also be met.
Elevators designed specifically for use in hospitals tend to be deeper than standard passenger elevators in order to accommodate ambulance stretchers. These stretchers, for which the requirements were written, measure 76 inches by 24 inches. So elevators must be large enough to load stretchers horizontally and transport them with the doors closed. The Uniform Building Code stipulates that a depth of no less than 80 inches and a width of no less than 54 inches is required to meet the stretcher requirement, and modern hospital elevators are typically built to these specifications. Elevators that are designated hospital elevators also feature a minimum distance of 51 inches from the wall to the return panel, and a 42 inch side slide door.
Service Elevators and Cargo Elevators
Because these elevators also tend to be deeper and wider than standard passenger elevators, they can also meet the stretcher requirements. Like hospital elevators, a service elevator must meet the access requirements and display the emergency services symbol in order to be considered a stretcher-accessible elevator.
Passenger elevators may be built to a variety of specifications, so they are the least likely to meet the stretcher requirements. Standard passenger dimensions may fit a stretcher, but their door size requires that the stretcher be tipped while loading so they are not compliant with the code. However, if it can be demonstrated that the elevator can load and transport a horizontal stretcher, it may be used.
Standard size elevator cars with a non-standard large door opening may suffice, as the stretcher can be turned on a horizontal axis to be loaded into the car without tipping it. An elevator that fits this configuration may have an 80 inch by 63 inch car and a 48 inch door opening, but a maximum interior wall finish of one half to three quarters of an inch is all that would be allowed to ensure that the stretcher could be maneuvered within. Non-standard cars, which may be deeper and wider, can accommodate a stretcher even if the door opening is of standard dimensions, because the stretcher can be pushed deeper into the elevator to fit within the car without tipping. The standard 42 inch door size may be combined with an elevator at least 84 inches deep and 65 inches wide with the same restrictions on interior wall finish.
Most manufacturers offer a line of elevators with dimensions that meet the stretcher requirements. These are sometimes designed as service elevators or cargo elevators, but may not be meant specifically for use as hospital elevators. The ubiquitous Otis Elevator Company is one of the larger manufacturers to offer stretcher-accessible elevators as part of their standard product line. Otis hospital elevators meet the stretcher requirements as well as those of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Canada Barrier-free requirements. Chinese manufacturers such as IFE and Sanei Elevator also produce elevators whose doors and dimensions meet the stretcher requirements, and are specifically designed for use in hospitals. Although these companies primarily produce elevators for in use in China and Southeast Asia, they take care to conform to North American standards and are dedicated reaching English-speaking consumers.