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Bells, bells, bells!

October 14, 2007, 12:23 AM

I got to experience something new on Friday – a fire alarm at work. It was around 11:30 AM, and I’m working on some odds and ends in my office, and I hear a bell start ringing. So I look up. I see flashing lights. We all know what that means. Something set off the fire alarm in our building.

Now as the fire marshal for our floor, I have special duties when the fire alarm goes off. I put on an orange safety vest and hard hat, and do a sweep of the floor to ensure that everyone has cleared. Once that was done, I headed out, and joined my coworkers at our designated meeting place. The fire trucks quickly came and went, and it turned out that the alarm was caused by burned food.

This would also be the first time I’ve had to evacuate a building where the alarms were actual bells. I’m most accustomed to horns, where the tone to evacuate is a buzzer or a screech or thereabouts. I remember my previous fire alarm experience in Washington was with horns set to slow whoop in the Hecht’s (now Macy’s) at Metro Center. This was my first bell evacuation, so it took a second to click with what it was. Of course, the flashing strobes gave away the fact that it was the fire alarm. We do have one horn in our office, a Wheelock MT, and I learned that it was set to continuous horn. How boring. With eight different tones to select, you’d think that people could pick a more interesting selection than continuous horn.

Meanwhile, this whole evacuating-a-big-building thing inevitably drew some comparisons for me with the time we had to evacuate Wal-Mart due to a bomb threat. In the building where I now work, everyone left pretty quickly once they got the signal to evacuate. At Wal-Mart, it was something else entirely, as customers almost had to be forced out of the building. I don’t think the customers particularly cared if the building was burning down or potentially going to explode – they were shopping, and who were we to tell them they had to leave the building. I remember when we did our sweep through the checkouts, and the customers ignored me as I told them that they had to leave the building. They didn’t realize we were serious until I turned off the register light and whisked their cashier away.

Still, let’s just say I can evacuate a building like a pro. And I look really good in my fire marshal vest…

Web site: And yes, my fire marshal safety vest is none other than the FliteStar 110, but it's palette-swapped from my Metro one. My Metro one is yellow with orange stripes, while this one is orange with yellow stripes.

Song: The theme that slate.com uses with their podcasts...

Quote: And you know what's funny? I just happened to be wearing an orange shirt on Friday, and everyone commented how I appeared to be all color-coordinated with my orange shirt and my orange safety vest...

Categories: Fire alarms, Work