Last week we performed a fire drill in the residential high rise I manage. Because it lacks some of the fire safety basics you tend to find in modern buildings, we want residents to know what to do if that crazy alarm bell goes off. The building is a historic site, and has fun old-timey features such as no fire sprinklers, non-isolated stairwells, and 3-foot railings on all the balconies and fire escapes (juuuuust high enough to trip over).
I was stationed on one of the floors and responsible for sweeping it and the two below it, taking notes on who actually participated, who ignored the alarm, and if there were any safety mechanisms not working properly. There were three others in the building above and below me, doing the same thing.
Standing there waiting for the alarm to get pulled, even knowing it was about to happen, I felt anxious. When it finally happened it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Before I even heard the alarm on my floor, the fire doors released their mag-lock hold and swung ominously closed with massive slams. As they were closing, these wacky bells started going off and I realized they have the old school red bells instead of the beeping fire alarms we all have in our homes which plague us every once in a while with a low battery.
It’s worth noting, I think, as I was on my way out the front door a resident was coming home from work and tried to walk into the hypothetically burning building to put his stuff away. I fear if there ever actually is a fire, this dumbass (or another like him) will just wander in and burn alive waiting for the elevator.
The real kicker came the next day when I received a call from a resident who had participated in the drill but hadn’t known it was a drill.
Now, I didn’t announce Ok people we’re going to have a fire drill at exactly 6:33p on Tuesday night because fires aren’t fucking scheduled and there needs to be some element of surprise. But for the two weeks leading up to this drill, I had signs posted in the lobby and inside the elevators indicating FIRE DRILL TUESDAY BETWEEN 6P & 8P. The day before the drill, I set up a free-standing sign holder right next to the elevator buttons with an even larger and simplified version of the message.
This guy was cool enough to admit he literally pays no attention when he’s on his way in or out of his condo, and he never saw the signs. He also had a nightmare the previous week about a fire in the building which ended with him on the fire escape holding his cat and it was so hot he had to drop said cat. So when he was chillin in his pjs watching Netflix he just about shit his pants when the alarm went off.
I really did sympathize with him, because like I said it was super nerve-wracking just waiting for it to happen.
I took the opportunity to make sure he now knew what to do if there actually was a fire, and also advised he doesn’t actually need to rely on the fire escape (it’s right outside his front door but I would rather repel out the window using tied-together sheets than use those escapes…) because there are more safe and effective options. Even if no one else learned anything from that drill, I’m glad this dude took something away from it.
He’s also going to start paying attention to my signs. Lesson learned.