Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sh*t I Don't Understand: Fire Drills at Work

Got to work the other morning and opened up the ol' Outlook Express just to find a "Fire Drill at 10:00" email for the whole building to read. Great, so as soon as everyone really gets rolling on the day, a piercing buzz will emanate from God-knows-where and we'll be forced to go outside and stand in the parking lot for an indefinite period of time.

I have a problem with this on multiple levels. First, fire drills do not replicate a true fire situation. All it consists of is walking out of the building. I've never been in a building that has caught fire and hopefully never will be, but I bet the whole "remain calm, don't rush" stuff goes by the wayside pretty quickly once the smell of actual smoke or sight of actual flames come into play. And if it were a true fire, I don't know about anyone else, but I'd be getting in my car and driving away from the burning building, not congregating in an assigned section of a parking lot. Another thing about fire drills - their occurrence often depends on the weather. More than once at work we've had fire drills rescheduled for weather reasons. Not that I really mind being spared a pointless fire drill when it's cold and/or rainy, but it does make me chuckle a bit. Life does not stop and start at your convenience. You can't just cancel a fire because of the weather, but you can up and cancel a fire drill because of the weather - further evidence that a fire drill does very little in terms of replicating a real-life scenario.

But what gets me most of all is the fact that it's even deemed necessary for grown-up, college-educated individuals to go through a fire drill at work. I think we've all been through enough fire drills in the earlier stages of our lives to be able to handle things if a fire ever did happen (that is, of course, assuming that fire drills are effective in the first place). So you're telling me that if the building catches fire, I should get out in a timely fashion? Well, I'll be damned! I was just going to curl into the fetal position under my desk and cover my eyes, thank goodness someone told me I should get outside if there's a fire! I'd have been a goner for sure! Part of me wants to try to jump out the window (relax, I work on the 2nd floor) just to create a stir during the fire drill - hell, maybe it will make the whole effort seem worth it, like "hey look, there's someone that doesn't know what to do, he's panicking! This exercise in fire safety has been educational after all!"

I get it. I know what it boils down to - the building managers/company have to cover their asses, and having a few fire drills a year minimizes liability. What liability, you ask? Well, say there is an actual fire and some oblivious mongo gets a 2nd degree burn. You know they're going to try to sue whoever manages the building if they'd never had a fire drill, claiming they were never instructed on the proper evacuation procedures. Riiiiiight. This is the reason that new cars come with the seat belts already fastened (thus providing a built-in seat belt tutorial), because auto makers and dealerships have been sued by jackasses who got into accidents not wearing their seat belt and then claimed they were never instructed how to use this newfangled seat belt contraption. I wish I were making that up. Perhaps that's the essence of my disdain for the office fire drill: it's a snapshot of the things we must do in modern day America in order to protect ourselves from human stupidity. Common sense just ain't too common anymore, I suppose.


  1. That picture you displayed here is actually a poster I have in my classroom!

  2. Which is perfectly fine since you work among 7-8 year olds. I'm counting the days until one shows up on the wall at my office.