Fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza…

3 minute read

August 2, 2019, 8:23 AM

On Tuesday, Elyse and I were out with our friend Kyle Garcia, and among other places, we stopped over at Wheaton Plaza (Westfield Wheaton) for lunch.  As we were finishing up, we suddenly saw strobes flashing and then the speakers started up.  Yes, after twelve years of living in MoCo, I finally caught a fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza.  Elyse, Kyle, and I all got video of the alarm, while everyone else paid it no mind.  Here are my two videos of it:

I had never heard this kind of voice message before, where it tells you to cease operations.  And everyone ignores it.  I wonder how much of this is an effect of too many fire drills growing up.  After all, schools typically had fire drills once a month, and it was always the same thing: alarm sounds, go outside, stand out there, wait for the all-clear, and then go back in and go on with the day.  It was never an actual emergency.  So familiarity breeds contempt.  The idea is that the fire alarm’s going off never means an actual fire, and so no need to hurry, or even to pay it any mind at all.  It’s why I’ve said that all fire drills should be preannounced, and that there should be fewer of them.  That way, you are conditioned that if you hear an alarm without some sort of official communication preceding it, that there might actually be something wrong, and you might just want to evacuate with a sense of urgency.  The idea of the surprise fire drill, and thus no distinction’s being made between yet another fire drill and the real thing, is a bad thing, because all of the fire drills drive the urgency out of what should be a serious matter.

In any case, soon enough, they shut off the audible message, and then the strobes stopped a minute or so later.  No all-clear announcement or anything else was ever made.  Just kill the alarm and go on with the day.

I also got a few photos of the strobes:

As this was in a mall, i.e. a large space with lots of strobes, all of the strobes were perfectly synchronized.  The idea, according to a Wheelock sales video from the 1990s, is that if there are more than two strobes in a field of view, and the strobes are out of sync with each other, you could end up with a composite flash rate of six or more flashes per second, which could cause a person with photosensitive epilepsy to have a seizure.

So there you have it.  I enjoyed that little interruption to our day, as did Elyse (with her own video) and Kyle (with his own video).

Categories: Fire alarms, Wheaton