Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Fire Drill Example

Up in the bathroom at work (in other rooms, too, I'm sure, but in no other room am I forced to sit still with no distractions and stare forward straight at it) is a fire escape plan. It details the most direct route of escape from the building from the bathroom. It also uses an arrow to direct which way you're supposed to go after you evacuate. In our case, everyone evacuating the building is supposed to gather in the parking lot of the building directly east of us.

I never understood this before our first work-wide fire drill (which was a joke because it turns out we don't have internal fire alarms or smoke detectors so they had to set off the burglar alarm and explain to us later how our building was a total matchbox waiting to light itself and how if we saw a fire we had to use our voiceboxes as fire alarms, but I digress). The bathroom is on the west side of the building and the gathering place is on the east side. In a fire, why would I want to double back by the burning, billowy building just to meet up with a bunch of coworkers, instead of running like hell in the opposite direction?

During those collective trips to the bathroom, I made my decision: I will choose the running-like-hell option, should the choice ever present itself. I didn't see what the big deal was about everyone gathering, as long as everyone was individually safe. Right?

Well, the fire chief told us a story. She told us that in houses where the family scatters - some end up in the front yard, some in the backyard, some across the street - a parent will panic when they see their child isn't in the immediate vicinity, run back into the house to save them, and die in the fire. Apparently, it's even common. So even small families have to have a meeting plan in case of fire. It's not enough to get out safely. Everyone has to see that everyone else is safe so that heroes don't try to be heroes saving their loved ones. The firemen even have to ask the people who have made it out safely whether everyone in the house/building is there. If they're not, the firemen are required to go in and try to save them.

The story, while told gruffly and a bit accusingly (we weren't very good at gathering quickly - we sauntered) made me change my mind about my plan. I decided that I would be willing to walk through an uncomfortable - not life threatening - vicinity to keep firemen or coworkers from reentering a building unnecessarily for me.

It always helps to change your mind when you know what will be the purpose or the outcome of your changing it. Turning it around to fit into the fill-in-the-blank of two entries ago -

Change is hard when you can't see a good reason to change.


Dan R said...

That's definitely true.

But I find change to be hard regardless of how good a reason there is.

In physics, change is very difficult. There are many forces acting on an object to prevent it from changing direction, position, or even form.

For example, a ball rolling along requires more force than the force that set it in motion to reverse direction.

Kerri said...

This is great info to know.