This Public Service Announcement is brought to you by Fire, the deadly element that wants to kill you. Yeah I said element, Earth, Wind, Water and Fire, didn’t you guys play AD&D?
So here is the deal. When there is a fire, leave. When you hear fire alarms, leave. When you smell smoke, leave. Every time the fire alarm goes off in the seven story building where I am employed I hear the same refrain as I grab my phone and walk out the door, "Should we leave? Is this a test?” As if it being a test would mean we should all stay. You'll be failing the test, how do you expect to react if it was real? How would you know it was real?
I think of the fire at the Station Nightclub
in Warwick, Rhode Island that killed 100 people during a Great White concert and how nearly everyone died at the doors they came in through. Employees who were aware of other exits survived. Human nature is to enter and exit a building the same way. That day I found every exit from my office to the outside of the building, every single route of egress. Took about 15 minutes.
There are countless instances where people have refused to leave buildings because they were too busy. I recall in the Boston area a few years ago a fire that killed a dozen people in a small office building. Plenty of fire exits, plenty of time to leave, but they stayed because they were too busy working. They literally pulled bodies from cubicles. Apparently people succumbed to the smoke while on the phone even while the alarms blared.
Now take the opposite example, Morgan Stanley
put in place a plan for the evacuation of their offices in the World Trade Center. After the first plane hit the opposite tower the plan was immediately put in effect. No time was wasted on “What was that?” and “Should we leave?” Everyone entered the stairwells and proceeded to walk 22 blocks to the designated back up site. 2500 employees survived, six died.
It is so easy to survive one of these emergencies. Just leave. If you are at work, take a break, you deserve it. If you are with friends at bar, crack a joke, "I need a smoke break". Just leave. Forget the ipod, forget how silly you'll look, forget the value of the plate glass window you are about to throw a chair through. Exit the building. And then you live. And you get to tell a story. Either about the time you totally overreacted to a situation, or to how you survived a fire.
That is all.