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A Jackie/Six production

Wednesday, March 01, 2006 |
Evacuation? aka Lessons NOT Learned From 9/11
Water, water, water., email, call messenger service. Shuffle papers, prepare FedEx package, print pictures. A perfectly normal work morning.

Until the fire alarms go off.

Since the speaker is in the next room, I pause my phone conversation and strain to hear ...

"fire department is responding to reports of strong gas odor in the building. However, the building is not equiped with gas. We are investigating and will update shortly, there is no need to evacuate the building."

Shug my shoulders and continue with my conversation, something about stopping by the Village to pick up naughty party favors for former co-worker's friend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. And think nothing of it until half an hour later I hear.

"This is your fire safety director. The fire department has responded and is investigating building next door, as gas smell is coming very strongly from there and it is underconstruction. We will keep you informed if the need to evacuate arises."

To which I figure, no big deal. Maybe a leaky pipe next door, no biggie. Probably a screwup in installing a stove for some retail restaurant.

Finally, the last announcement arises, that it was ConEd working on a gas main on Pearl and Broadway that was the source, and all is well and good.

And then I think. That's a lof of gas for so many people to respond. These are pretty tall building around here. If there had been so much gas, it might have been a main. And if a main gas line had blowed up, it wouldn't take much for these buildings to domino. I work on the 10th floor, which means in any scenario, I'd have been screwed. Badly.

The lesson of 9/11 was simple: Evacuate early and evacuate often. And I don't speak of this as a flippant response, this was the heartfelt advice of my former coworkers, 11 survivors from the 89th floor. At the first sign of trouble, pack it up and take a walk. Flase alarm, then you get a nice cup of coffee at Starbucks and get a good excuse to get out of the office for a change. Real emergency, then you'll be glad you're not inside. Unless you get the all clear, ALWAYS evacuate first, and ask questions later.

I'm reading news reports now of how neighboring buildings all evacuated. I really should have left the office. Thank goodness it was all a false alarm (apparently now they're saying a power plant in Jersey).

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