It wasn’t the first time it’s happened. It wasn’t even the first time it’s recently happened. I’m sitting at my desk, happily typing away on my computer, trying to make deadline, and the fire alarm goes off.
Now, some companies – especially large ones – have very strict policies on this: If a fire alarm sounds, everyone gets up and gets out of the building, pronto.
My company has a similar policy. In fact, I remember a team meeting about it, but I probably wasn’t paying attention.
But reporters are a different breed. We don’t get up for fire alarms. We keep typing.
Now, you might just say that it’s just me, or I’m too “old school,” but I ran into a fellow reporter later that day and recounted the story, and he laughed gruffly.
“Reporters don’t get up for fire alarms,” he agreed.
So, I kept typing.
It was probably just a false alarm, I thought. The building owner is conducting renovations. Sometimes, the construction workers kick up a little too much drywall dust and an alarm sounds.
Besides, I was up against deadline.
But the alarm didn’t stop, and others were starting to leave the building, a smart move.
After a minute or so, even the editorial side of the office was starting to look to the door. One mused that maybe she smelled something and maybe we should go.
I balked. This is an old building. Something always smells funny. I was determined to pump out our daily email newsletter.
Finally, the office manager told me we needed to get out of the building. I protested, but she reminded me that she was the appointed fire marshal for the office.
After typing the last few keystrokes to get my work done, I grabbed my jacket and reluctantly trudged down seven flights of stairs to exit the building and into the blustery cold.
Funny thing, by the second floor, I, too, was smelling smoke.
Turns out the building was on fire and I was being a stupid jerk.
(This is us, HERE.)
To be sure, it was just a small electrical fire and was put out quickly.
If I had stayed, I think I would have been just fine, five floors above the problem.
Possibly the worst that would have happened was I might have gotten dragged out of the building draped over the shoulder of a hunky fireman – a girl can dream.
But the fact is there was a fire. I was wrong. I could have endangered myself and those who stayed behind to ensure that I left.
If it had been a more serious fire, those few minutes could have made the difference.
That’s why there’s a policy in place. That’s why you should follow it, even if it’s annoying.
If your company doesn’t have an emergency evacuation plan, it probably should, according to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration:
“The purpose of an [emergency action plan] is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury and property damage.”
OSHA even offers tips on how to create and implement a plan on its website.
And trust me, creating, implementing and obeying a company emergency action plan is smart policy. And it also means never having to hear, “I told you so.”