We had a fire drill at work yesterday. The second one in four days. Before this week, it had been at least five years since I’d had to participate in one. (There was an instance when I thought we had a drill in college, but it turned out to be a real fire. Some girl in the dorm had a slight kitchen disaster. Yikes!)
I noticed, while trekking down the seven flights of stairs from my office to the street (twice!), that fire drills in the work place are a little different than they were back in school:
1) You can take your time getting out of the building.
In high school, when the fire alarm rang, you were immediately ushered out of the classroom and ordered to leave everything where it was. Nothing was more important than your safety. (That, of course, didn’t stop us from grabbing our phones, bags, etc. before being herded out the door.)
At work, however, the primary goal is NOT to get out the door. The number one priority, as listed in the last weekly update email, is to “log off your computer.” Number two is to “collect personal items if you’re in your office [or cubicle, I suppose].” And then, finally, number three: “go to the nearest emergency exit and descend to the ground floor.” Save yourself – as long as you log off your computer first.
2) No order necessary.
I distinctly remember being told, “Stay in line! If you’re not in line we can’t take attendance and we won’t know who’s here!” We marched (sometimes silently, depending on the teacher) out of the building and stayed in our lines. No talking to friends in other classes. No asking the teacher when it was time to go back in. No shivering because it was winter and you weren’t allowed to stop at your locker before evacuating.
Yesterday? Not only was there no order, but no one cared. Apparently, we’re all adults now (who knew?), which means no more lines and much more chaos. However, we do have one person in the office designated as the fire marshal. She’s supposed to keep track of everyone, make sure we’re all outside and safe, and wear a hideously bright neon vest so that we can find her in a crowd. She did NOT wear the vest.
3) You can actually go back inside, while the fire trucks are still there.
Fire drills in the winter were the worst because, like I said, there were no locker stops on the way out the door. And it always felt like the firemen took their sweet time examining the building and pronouncing it “all clear.” Seriously? We know it’s a drill. You know it’s a drill. It’s not that I want to get back in and take my test, but I’m freezing my ass off out here.
Lucky for us, yesterday wasn’t too bad weather-wise, but with the fire trucks sitting outside, we still weren’t sure when we could go back in the building. Fire Marshal #1 called Fire Marshal #2, as we all stood midway between the potentially burning building and the meeting point we were actually supposed to evacuate to (can you tell how seriously we took the whole thing?), and asked about the status. “Oh, I’m already back in the office – you guys can come back.” Communication is awesome.
One of the similarities between fire drills then and now? When you come back in from one, your productivity is shot to hell.
And don’t worry, with the time it took to log off the computer, I had plenty of time to get my iPod. Gotta have priorities.