Excess fire alarms

In the past week, I have been involved in evacuating two large buildings after fire alarms went off.  Oddly enough, those buildings were a theatre and a library, given that it often seems as though I barely spend any time anywhere else.

First, the theatre.  The cast had bravely battled through our second performance – a Thursday matinee – and had breathed that strange sigh of mixed joy, relief, grief and emptiness which came at the end of Titanic.  Then, a mere second or two after the curtain hit the floor, we could hear a muffled announcement being made in the auditorium.  Puzzled glances were exchanged among the cast before a member of the crew told us to get out by the nearest exit, which was (for added drama) one that none of us had ever used before.  So, in our many and varied costumes, we trooped out into the car park.  The surviving female characters were mostly wearing their husbands’ coats, uniforms were half on/half off, one lady was barefoot, and we were accompanied by a gaggle of children and a very large dog.  As we gathered to have our names checked off, the men of the cast who were still in jackets gradually gave them over to the ladies, since it was rather cold outside and their dresses were not the warmest items of clothing known to man.  The audience washed past us, out into the darkness, calling congratulations and good wishes, thanking us for an excellent show.  The roll call seemed to last for hours as the large cast, orchestra and crew were all accounted for one by one.  Then, huddling together, trying to keep out of the way of the fire engine, we began to sing.  Mr Guggenheim (or rather the actor playing him) started us off on ‘Godspeed Titanic’ and we gradually all joined in, fairly quietly, but in harmony, conducted by our musical director who stood on the other side of the road.  The sopranos and tenors chickened out of our final screechy C above the staff, but it was nevertheless a rather lovely moment of togetherness among the company.  A few minutes later, we were allowed back in, and not a moment too soon.  It was beginning to rain, and the microphones we were still wearing would not have been very pleased.

Back at work the next week, trying to catch up with the backlog of queries that clearly nobody except me could answer, I was sitting offering “User Services Support at the Issue Desk” when I heard a familiar sound.  “That’s odd”, I thought, “they normally test the fire alarms much earlier than this…”  The ringing persisted, and a few seconds later, we leaped into action.  Announcing in a loud voice that those in the foyer should leave, I made my way over to the help desk, where I was issued with one of the evacuation routes and set about dislodging the students.  As I headed through the periodicals, I discovered that most of the students were still sitting at their desks, happily ignoring the rather loud alarm bells.  Thankfully, it is much harder to ignore a librarian with theatrical experience bellowing “Can you please leave!” at top volume, which is, believe me, very loud indeed.  After a few minutes of pointing people in the direction of their nearest fire exit (because the big green signs obviously aren’t clear enough), my designated areas of the Library of Doom were cleared, and I was able to leave by my allotted exit and make my way to the car park with my colleagues.  Sadly there was a distinct lack of singing this time and also a distinct lack of people telling us how good a job we were doing (even though the library has an excellent fire evacuation plan).  The all clear was soon given and we filed back inside, somewhat irritated to see that the students had been allowed back in before the library staff.

Neither of these evacuations was a planned drill as far as I could ascertain (I don’t think fire fighters normally turn up to drills), and I am still in the dark about their cause.  I have a taste for them now, though.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I am evacuated from, or help to evacuate, another building next week.  They do say that things come in threes, don’t they?

  1. Probably just testing to see if you are on your toes. The local teenagers set off the fire alarms sometimes to get everyone out of the building. It can be disconcerting to hear the sound somtimes. It is very hard to know if the alarms are real.

  1. April 14th, 2012

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