How to Best Survive a Free-Falling Elevator

Say that you find yourself in a free-falling elevator. What position will increase your chance of survival?

That is the question being answered by The New York Times' Q&A column by C. Claiborne Ray:

The best option would be to lie on your back on the floor as flat as possible, said Eliot H. Frank, a research engineer at the Center for Biomedical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This will distribute the force of impact over the greatest area of your body so that no particular part of your body is subjected to the weight of any other part of your body,” he said.

Link (Illustration: Victoria Roberts) - via Book of Joe


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Except that an elevator shouldn't fall even if the cables snap. Elevators are fitted with a simple braking system, as they drop hinged weights swing up and out arresting the descent. It's simple and it's foolproof.
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The elevator car itself will have a self-braking system limiting it to 1.5G. The greatest risk however will be (depending on where it breaks) is the possibility of several tons of steel cable falling onto the car...
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