Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A fire drill to nil

They’re out we’re in

The day at the office was not supposed to be as eventful as this. My main system at home had a major hiccup such that what I used to be able to do at home now had to be done at the office.

The hours of the mid-afternoon, I looked out from the window of my fifth floor office to see people trooping out of the building as if for a fire drill.

It had me wondering why people from one wing were being ushered out and the rest of us being left to burn, in fact I did surmise to colleagues about their testing the firewalls just to ascertain that they were fire-proof.

Beckoning our charred remains

A few minutes afterwards the alarm did sound at our end of the building and an announcement was made in Dutch for us to vacate the building with the instruction not to use the lift.

I picked up my hat and cane and made for the stairwell walking down at pace in order not to hold anyone up; on the ground floor we were held back by the automated pass-entry system which each of us had to use to step out to the reception where another crowd waited to get out.

Once we were out we were herded like sheep, no instructions, no guidance just taking the cue from those who had gone one before.

After we crossed the road to the other side we noticed a fire engine, a fireman disembarked with a portable fire-extinguisher and entered the building we none the wiser about why we had to leave the building.

No (E)mergency in this Respons

Soon afterwards a Quick Respons Team vehicle arrived, it made me wonder whether the sign-painter was trying Dutch, English or a Dutchified version of Response without the “e” and there was no space for the “e” in case you thought the “e” had fallen off.

The fireman came out of the building a few minutes after and we were ushered back into the building in what might well have been a fire drill but not by any standards brilliant.

Why it failed

The questions I had in mind were many:

Why the alarm had been going on at in one wing of the building without notifying the other parts of the office block.

Why the announcements were only made in Dutch when it is clear that most functionaries in the building work in a bilingual situation with the possibility that a good few did not speak Dutch but at least manage English.

Why the exit gates were monitored when they should have been open especially if the exit process involved panic or a stampede.

And what for?

Why no one bothered to explain what the reason was for evacuating the building – even if it was a fire-drill, it would have been to simulate the process to managing emergancies that could be fires, bombs, leakages or any dangers that would have necessitated conducting the exercise.

In my view, for all the people in high-visibility vests appearing to know what they were doing and probably returning to some debriefing to pat themselves on the back for a job well done; this was a farce at best and I really do not pray I am in this building when something really serious happens because I honestly cannot trust the “Quick Respons Team” to get me out quickly, safely and securely.

Fire drill assessment – Fail.

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