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Evacuating Tall Buildings

weather: sunny
outside: 18.6°C
mood: okay
Today was a short day at Work. Work is all packed up to move over the weekend. Starting Monday, we'll be in the new building, 5th floor of a 6 story building. I'll be a lot closer to userinfoHusband Guy's office.

This morning started off with a fire drill. I guess it was to be expected. The alarms were tested several times in the last few months. We're also adjacent to one of the building management suites that they use for training and seminars. We got a earful that day they had a building emergency procedures seminar. Some of it was quite amusing. Some of it was pretty harrowing, like the terrorist simulation.

We're on the 8th floor of a 20 story building. Instead of the traditional red fire alarm bell, they have a blinging intercom signal.

"What's that?" we ask each other.

"It's a warning... it, like, _warns_ you."

It warns you... and THEN the fire starts. XD

The Concierge Lady speaks over the building-wide intercom: "Attention please, attention please. We are investigating a fire in the building. Please stand by for further instructions."

We're still cracking jokes at this point. "Screw the fire, I'm busy."

"Okay, that blinging is bordering on annoying." Right on cue, the signal blings faster and angrier.

"Thanks a lot, man. Now you've offended the blinger." XD XD

Concierge Lady: "Attention please, attention please. We are evacuating the building immediately. I repeat, we are evacuating the building immediately. Please follow the instructions of your floor warden."

We follow the floor warden lady in the sexy construction orange vest with the yellow X-shaped reflector strips and a red hard hat that she wouldn't wear, but just waved in the air above her so that we could see her.

We went down 8 flights of stairs. Our route must have taken us near one of the boiler rooms because we joked that "um... it's getting _warmer_ in here..." Yeah, it's the old addage: in case of fire, head to the centre of the earth.

Anyone who hates fire drills and always stays at their desk for these stupid things, I have to tell you:

The Fire Marshall can go through the building and for each person that is still sitting at their desk, ignoring the drill, their company can be fined x number of dollars. It's a good idea to participate, no matter how busy you are and no matter how much "x number of dollars" is.

Go outside, get some fresh air and take a breather. It'll be good for you. Seriously.

Remember to save your work though.



Jun. 25th, 2005 06:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I remember reading that in your blog... is there a good reason for that or is that just one of those asinine laws?
Jun. 25th, 2005 06:35 pm (UTC)
(Why can't I tab from field to field in this form?)

It's got to be some combination of sacrificing the weak so that the strong survive, and trying to avoid litigation in case of injury trying to get a disabled person out. Or something.
Jun. 25th, 2005 07:28 pm (UTC)
Why can't I tab from field to field in this form?

There's a bit of Javascript that won't let users tab to the password field if there is no username. It's a workaround for something in Opera >7. But I just tried it in Opera 7.54 and it won't let you tab even if there _is_ data in the username field. =P
function sendForm (formid, checkuser)
    if (formid == null) formid = 'login';
    // 'checkuser' is the element id name of the username textfield.
    // only use it if you care to verify a username exists before hashing.

    if (! document.getElementById) return true;
    var loginform = document.getElementById(formid);
    if (! loginform) return true;
    // Avoid accessing the password field if there is no username.
    // This works around Opera < 7 complaints when commenting.
    if (checkuser) {
        var username = null;
        for (var i = 0; username == null && i < loginform.elements.length; i++) {
            if (loginform.elements[i].id == checkuser) username = loginform.elements[i];
        if (username != null && username.value == "") return true;

    if (! loginform.password || ! loginform.login_chal || ! loginform.login_response) return true;
    var pass = loginform.password.value;
    var chal = loginform.login_chal.value;
    var res = MD5(chal + MD5(pass));
    loginform.login_response.value = res;
    loginform.password.value = "";  // dont send clear-text password!
    return true;
Jun. 25th, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)
Aw, crud. Sorry, that was me, clicking, poking and tabbing around =P =D
Jun. 25th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
No worries. It's still a problem in Opera 8.01.
Jun. 25th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
As the fire warden for our company, disabled people who require assistance to get out can block others from getting out. It's better for them to stay where they are, have their fire warden advise the head building warden what people have been left behind and where, and have the fire fighters retrieve them with the fire fighter elevator* as this is faster and safer.

Pretty much it *is* a kind of "survival of the fittest" as in the case of a live fire alarm (as opposed to just a drill) everyone needs to get out as quickly as possible. Disabled people can slow others down. Sounds awful, but it's the truth. :S

*There is _at least_ one elevator out of each bank of elevators designated for firemen. They have master keys for it and can override the "go to ground" orders that all elevators have in the case of a fire alarm.
Jun. 25th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
I know, and I was being crabby. It's a fact that there is no optimal solution for being mobility impaired on an upper floor in an emergency.

What bothers me about using Areas of Refuge is that communication with the responders is a weak link. Of the places I've worked, none of the areas of refuge have had any possibility of communication with the outside. That means I'm relying on someone else to think to notify the responders that I might be there. That's not particularly acceptable to me.
Jun. 25th, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)
Just two more items...

I worked with a man who quit his job at Hewlett Packard because he was left behind during a fire drill - he worked on an upper floor. When he questioned the emergency response team about it, they told him not to worry about it - after all, it was just a drill. I believe it really scarred him, psychologically, for life.

I was staying on an upper floor in a hotel when the fire alarm went off, due to a guest setting off a fire extinguisher in his room. With bizarre presence of mind, I was in my chair, out of my room and in the elevator just as automatic fire doors started closing on the elevator alcove. I took the elevator down to the lobby and a surprised hotel employee let me through the fire doors blocking the lobby elevators. What was disturbing was that the hotel staff had absolutely no comment on or interest in the fact that I had rescued myself. So if I can get out using the elevator before the fire department shuts it down, I will.
Jun. 26th, 2005 06:34 am (UTC)
Do you have a cell phone with texting capabilities? One interesting thing we were told at the last fire warden meeting was that text messages are carried on a different network than regular cell calls. So if you are unable, in an emergency, to contact anyone by cell, use your texting system to let someone know. This does, however, require that you have someone available who could actually DO something, but it is an option.

The worse thing with our building is the fact that we actually DON'T have any areas of refuge in our stairwells. :S
Jun. 26th, 2005 04:44 pm (UTC)
I am one of those sadly anachronistic people. While I do actually have a cell phone, I never have it with me, and if I do, it's not charged, and anyway I have the super basic no frills no SMS service.

But I may just have to learn to live in the 21st century. I got stuck in the elevator at work a couple months ago, and that's when I discovered that a) the emergency phone in the elevator was never hooked up, and b) the alarm button makes a loud noise that nobody in the building recognises and doesn't ring at security anyway.

We don't actually have any areas of refuge in our stairwells either, we just call them that. The company I work for now has no buildings more than 5 stories, put me on the emergency response team, bought an evacuation chair, and has drilled with it, so I'm pretty happy with that.


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