Dan Winslow, CEIS and Senior Consultant, CNY Elevator Group

Dan Winslow at work

This busy Certified Elevator Inspection Supervisor (CEIS) speaks about today’s industry, ethical standards and more.

Dan Winslow, Certified Elevator Inspection Supervisor (CEIS), is a master juggler. Balancing numerous responsibilities at CNY Elevator Group as senior consultant; partner at CNY Elevator Consultants, LLC; president of CNY Elevator Inspections, Inc.; and designer for CNY Elevator Engineering, he also serves in numerous industry organizations and committees, while maintaining an active personal life. When anybody has that many plates in the air, occasionally one is bound to drop. However, that’s not the case for Winslow.

Growing up in the rural suburbs of Syracuse, New York, along the south shore of Oneida Lake, Winslow began his career fresh out of high school, working various construction and manual-labor jobs, which included in-ground swimming pool installation, carpentry, material fabrication and commercial plumbing. While working several years as a fire sprinkler fitter, he attended college and trade schools, studying a variety of disciplines that ranged from architecture and technical drafting to fire hydraulics, fire chemistry and business management. Winslow would go on to find employment with an engineering consulting firm, where he designed fire-protection systems and took on an additional role as elevator designer.

He learned at an early age that building things gave him great satisfaction, so Winslow had an inkling his career was on the right track. “I enjoy the process that starts with an idea, then transforming that idea to paper and eventually ending with a solid structure. It has always been creativity that motivates me, and elevator design allowed me to work with many different types of materials and systems and various trades, which never gets boring.”

After several years of designing and managing projects for fire protection systems, elevators and underground water-piping supplies, and working with mechanical-design teams, Winslow, along with three partners, started consulting firm CNY Elevator Group. Winslow attributes his industry beginnings to being in the right place at the right time and being fortunate to be surrounded by intelligent people who gave him a head start. Two of his partners, Chris Duke and Jim Cosbey, possessed decades of elevator-industry experience and had recently sold their independent company to one of the majors when they started the new business. His third partner, Keith Robinson, was a software engineer, who is responsible for creating CNY Elevator’s proprietary web-based handheld elevator-inspection software.

After years of serving in the industry, Winslow believes maintaining strong ethical standards is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. He understands that the people who work with contractors, vendors, building owners and municipalities depend on him to be honest and impartial in his dealings with no hidden agendas. When negotiating between various parties, Winslow’s role is to act as an impartial referee. “If either side ever believes I favor one side or another,” Winslow says, “I’m out of business. Honesty and integrity is not the best policy in this business, it is the only policy.” 

CNY Elevator is headquartered in the historic Armory Square area of Syracuse. As a “hands-on” elevator consultant and inspector, Winslow spends most of his time traveling between jobsites in the northeastern U.S. and has trekked across much of the nation for various projects. With travel comes the opportunity to encounter new people, something Winslow enjoys. Whether performing QEI assessments with elevator mechanics, meeting architects and engineers or training a group of half-asleep firemen early in the morning, he enjoys meeting and interacting with individuals from all walks of life, each having their own unique perspectives. When Winslow is not on the road, a typical day at the office might include meetings with company partners, engineers, inspectors or government administrators and usually ends with him pouring over code books and design drawings, and debating code interpretation. According to Winslow, “That’s my idea of a good day.”

CNY Elevator has witnessed a great deal of growth in recent years, with expanding service and consulting territories, the addition of engineer Virginia King to the company and CNY Elevator Engineering becoming part of CNY Elevator’s group of companies. Despite these developments, CNY Elevator remains a small company at heart, and Winslow aims to maintain that atmosphere. He takes pride in being a hands-on consultant, making his presence where the work is – in the hoistway, not at a desk. When clients contact the company, they know they will be speaking with someone who is aware of and can handle their specific needs and concerns. Winslow does not want the company to ever outgrow that type of service, because it is the reason why he and his partners got into the industry. “We have nothing against large companies,” he added. “It’s just not the kind of company we want to be.”

He believes one of the biggest challenges he has faced has been educating the code-enforcement community on its responsibility to public safety where elevators and escalators are concerned. According to Winslow, with budgets tightening due to the economy, communities are finding it increasingly difficult to provide the necessary oversight to verify that installers, maintainers and inspectors are properly qualified and trained. Making the situation worse, he says, the current direction of building codes and reference standards, including elevator codes, is toward performance-based design, which has an inherent technical complexity far above what the average fire marshal can be expected to grasp. Winslow believes recent tragedies have heightened the riding public’s fear that elevators aren’t as safe as they once were. “We, as an industry, need to be prepared to help [code enforcers] when they reach out to us, recognize the challenges they face and remember that any negative opinion of our industry in the public’s mind is a negative view of us all,” he shared.

From the beginning, CNY Elevator has taken an active role in providing training and education to code officers, fire departments and government institutions, keeping them informed of their responsibilities for the protection of the riding public and first responders. Additionally, every member of the company is responsible for being active in various building code committees and professional organizations at the national, state and local levels. “It’s an expensive undertaking for a small company like ours,” Winslow shared, “but it’s something we as a group universally accept as a responsibility we owe the public.” Winslow is a certified New York State code-enforcement officer and QEI-Supervisor elevator inspector, in addition to being a National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies-certified and -licensed fire sprinkler fitter and fire-protection designer. He also maintains memberships with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

In the coming year, CNY Elevator will continue to be part of the ASME Code Committee for Emergency Operations, inspections, QEI, mechanical, maintenance repair and replacement and alterations, and will expand its training and outreach to the fire-service community. “We will also be supporting the effort to implement a model elevator law in New York and elsewhere, and working with the New York State Codes Division elevator technical subcommittee as they prepare for future adoption of the International Code Council 2012 family of building codes, which will bring new challenges for fire-service access elevators and occupant emergency evacuation elevators.”

Winslow has had the unique experience of working extensively in both the fire-protection and elevator industries, enabling him to work with two trades that, according to him, generally do not understand each other well, but are forever joined by elevator Fire Service Operation. He has spent nearly a decade working with NFPA, ASME and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to coordinate capabilities and recognize the limitations of each trade’s systems in an attempt to provide the safest environment for both the riding public and firefighters in high-rise emergencies. Winslow takes the responsibility seriously and is honored to be part of the process.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed the way Winslow viewed his role as a fire-protection and elevator designer. Due to his experience with elevator fire protection and being a member of the ASME/NFPA/NIST task force on the use of elevators in fire emergencies, he was drawn into the 9/11 Commission’s work to change the way elevators are used in high rises during fire emergencies, striving to make them safer for first responders. “John Donoghue, a retired Cambridge, Massachusetts, fire chief and longtime member of the ASME emergency operation committee, once told me that fighting a fire in a high rise is like going into a long, dark, burning tunnel with only one way in and one way out, all in the hope of rescuing that one person who desperately needs you,” Winslow says. “I always keep those words in the back of my mind and never forget that someday that one person could be me.”

Winslow and his wife reside on a small farm north of Oneida Lake in the Tug Hill region of New York, renowned for its annual snowfall of more than 200 in. There, they operate a small dog kennel and grooming shop, and, on the weekends, Winslow will occasionally try his hand at farming. When the snow has melted and the weather is favorable, Winslow and his wife enjoy taking their Harley-Davidson motorcycles out for a cruise, touring the winding backroads of the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

On the future of the elevator industry and current trends, Winslow offers this advice: “Our industry is going through some dramatic changes brought on by a revolution in technology and ignited by global enterprise. If you blink even for a second, you’re likely to miss something really special that is happening to the elevator industry specifically, but to the world economy in general. So, keep your eyes open, get involved and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion when you see something that concerns you. You never know when your unique perspective on the industry, whatever your role, is the one that sees something important that the rest of us have missed. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that one person can make a difference.”

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Elevator World | June 2012 Cover