Monday, September 14, 2009

Fire! (Not)

I had an exciting experience yesterday. I was in Chicago for a conference, staying in a nice hotel. I woke up a few minutes before 6:00 am to use the restroom. Before I got to the bathroom, some pretty loud beeping started, and I thought to myself, "Wow, that person has a really loud alarm in their room". Almost immediately I heard voices, which I thought was said person's really loud radio. After a couple of seconds when it didn't go off (because I figured if I could hear it, said person surely would and would have turned it off), I listened more closely, to hear this: "This is a fire emergency, please evacuate".

Not the way I wanted to start my day.

I poked my hea
d out the door, as did a few others; we all looked at each other and said "Guess we need to go".

I threw on some clothes, grabbed my purse, my cell phone, and my laptop and headed down the stairs.

We all ended up staying outside for about 25 minutes.

The experience has made me think about a few things.

First, I'm glad I was only on the 3rd floor. I hate to think how the evacuation would have been if my mother, with her 2 bad knees had been traveling with me, and
especially if we had been on the 12th floor. From now on, when traveling with Mom, I'm going to request the lowest floor possible. We never think this is going to happen, and despite all my years of emergency training in the hospital, I just never thought it would happen.

But I'm glad for all my years working in hospitals, because I knew what to do in a "fire emergency". I knew not to go to the elevator. While I did take a moment to change, it was only because my clothes for the day were already laid out. I only grabbed the laptop because it was stowed in it's bag and I could easily carry it, and I did these things because I had assessed the situation and did not smell any smoke on my floor.

Now, I learned today that there really wasn't a fire emergency. The person who sounded the alarm needed an ambulance, and thought that pulling the fire alarm would result in a quicker response. It may have, but I'm glad I'm not the one responsible for forcing a few hundred people to needlessly evacuate a hotel at 6:00 am.

I hope that everyone will take a few moments and think about their own disaster plans when traveling. It only takes a few minutes to review the fire evacuation maps posted in every hotel room. And if you ever wondered if a fire alarm would be taken seriously, I can tell you that it is in Chicago!

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