What would you do if you were in a public building and the fire alarm sounded? I guess if you had any sense, you would evacuate. In fact, even if the building was not classified as a public building, but was just your place of work, I suspect you would evacuate.
I’d go further to suggest you would be made to evacuate by one of those Health and Safety officials. And I’m sure my mate Mr Plenty would back me up on this!
On occasions, these officials would probably, if they are doing their jobs correctly, sound the alarm as a test; sometimes without warning the employees to monitor their response.
So what happens when the alarm does sound and no one is expecting it?
Well, in the days when I worked in an office, the routine would be that the majority of employees would make their way out of the building and would gather at a designated assembly point.
One or two lucky individuals would have to stay behind to ensure that the building was clear; obviously without putting themselves or any one else in danger. Once they had satisfied themselves the building was clear, they would then join the assembled throng.
Also, someone would probably take a roll call to ensure all were present. This of course makes a huge assumption that they knew who was in the building in the first place!
And the routine was fairly similar when I worked in a public building. Certain employees were tasked with ushering out the public whilst the others gathered as above. Of course one major difference is that it would not be possible to take a roll call of the public!
In either case, once the building had been evacuated, someone had to ensure that no one re-entered it until the all clear was given.
So why am I telling you all about what used to happen when I worked in these places?
Well, I have just walked along the high street and passed a public building in which the alarm was sounding. And, just as described above, people were filing out and assembling.
However, no one cleared the public from the entrance!
The staff were all gathered a hundred metres away, where someone with a clipboard was checking off names, but the public were still standing around the entrance of the building.
Even when the fire brigade appeared at the scene, the staff stayed at their assembly point and the public remained directly in front of the building.
It seemed to me that no one really cared whether there was any real risk to anyone; staff or public. If the building had been on fire, there could have been a risk of falling masonry and glass splintering over the street when the windows blew out.
And what if it had been a bomb?
I know we all ridicule some health and safety officials when they do silly things like Nottingham council recently who sent a workforce out to pick all the conkers so that nobody got hurt when children tried to knock them out of the trees. You think I’m joking? Read this! But sometimes, they really are there for our benefit, and I cannot understand anyone risking lives in these situations.
It’s a sad fact, but we just do not take alarms seriously. How many of us walk past a building and ignore the alarm; be it a burglar alarm or fire alarm? How many of us ignore car alarms?
Unless we actually see flames or smoke, or someone breaking in, we do nothing.
As it turned out, this was just another false alarm – but who knows with the next one?
And, I suspect I know why the staff were so far away and the public were right outside the doors. This building was a bank, so the employees didn’t care about the contents, and the public were getting ready to rush in and save their life savings! 😉