When the fire alarm goes off at work and everything smells like charred electrical circuits that’s when you know it’s time to call it a day.
Let me explain.
Around 4:15pm yesterday, I was sitting at my desk typing up an email to accompany a spreadsheet full of information when piercing sirens blared through the floor accompanied by bright blue flashing lights that illuminated the ceiling. Wow, did my workplace just turn into a random dance club? No wait, it’s the emergency sirens!
I hit send on my email and stood up to see if anyone else was bothered by the blaring emergency signal. No? Okay maybe I’m just seeing and hearing things no one else can see and hear. Just to be safe I started rounding up my purse, sunglasses and iPod so I can get moving when a booming voice forced itself through the building intercom system and kept repeating the same message over and over.
“An emergency has been reported. Please vacate the premises.”
I started towards the stairwell. By this time, people sitting in other sections of the floor were heading out as well, but most of my teammates were still sitting contently at their desks. Screw team spirit, I thought. I’m getting out of here.
On the way down the stairwell, I chatted with one of my co-workers who is a graphic artist. “Oh, this must be the fire drill for the afternoon shift” she joked with me in passing.
“Excuse me” I asked, quite puzzled.
“Yeah, apparently the alarm went off this morning and everyone had to evacuate. I drove into the garage around 8:45 and people were just barely heading back into the building.”
Now, I was running late to work that morning and didn’t arrive until after 9:00am. I missed the whole thing. I had to know more.
“So, was the morning a fire drill or was it a false alarm?”
“Not sure, something about those silos or whatever is on the side of the building – they turned on unexpectedly this morning and it set off the alarm.”
That seemed to explain why people on my side of the floor took their sweet time to flinch or move with all the activity. They were tired out from the morning evacuation!
By now, I was standing in the parking garage in the designated spot for evacuations. I started thinking, I don’t know that I want to ever go back to that building. After all, just 3 months ago, another employee from the 7th floor asked me if I could re-send him anything I gave him in the previous week because a main water line busted…right above his desk and flooded half of the seventh floor. Yet, only people on the seventh floor knew about this. It made me wonder what other parts of the building have collapsed that I haven’t heard about.
Just then I recognized a colleague from the 4th floor. She saw us and asked my boss what was going on. Apparently, the alarms didn’t sound on her floor, which just fueled my theory that the building is falling apart.
When we got the okay to re-enter the building 10 minutes later, the security guards were explaining to some of us that something electrical set off the alarm while at the same time admonishing people for loading up the elevators.
“Spread out people. We don’t want to overload the elevators!”
I opted to use the stairs instead. I suppose I could have just gone home instead of going back in the building, but I left my water bottle at my desk and I wanted to fill it up for the ride home. I also wanted to properly log off my computer. I didn’t want to chance that I left an unsaved document sitting on my desktop. With the way my afternoon was going, I’d probably lose any work I’d done this afternoon.
When I got to the second floor, I could immediately smell, well, that something had burned or was burning. It smelled like burnt electrical wires. If you’ve ever had an appliance like a hair dryer or toaster start on fire, you know that smell. It’s not all pleasant.
Maintenance workers were moving section by section staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out where the problem was. Super – so they let us back in the building and no one knows exactly what started to burn? Which means that whatever it is could set off the emergency alarm again?
I grabbed my water bottle and ran back down stairs to use that water cooler, then ran the hell out of the building. One evacuation per day is enough for me.