Shouting fire in a crowded theater could land you in jail; yelling ‘fire drill’ at work is a big, fat, colossal fail. While an exciting and welcome change of pace in fourth grade, workplace fire drills are a time-wasting distraction in the corporate culture. Before my inbox gets jammed from fire survivors, let me preface this post by stating I am not anti-fire drill, nor am I pro-fire. I just think the methods employed by most organizations are laughable.
THE TRUTH ABOUT WORK FIRE DRILLS
1) Don’t give me a mandatory meeting place in the event of a fire. I understand that employers want a headcount so that they can make sure everyone is out of the building (and cover their asses). But should disaster strike, you will find me acting in my best interest. If that means jogging three miles away from the burning building, so be it. I’m not suggesting I’ll trample helpless children, a la George Costanza, but I will look out for myself and my family before I follow some asinine company protocol that merely exists so someone in Human Resources can shuffle around paperwork.
A former employer had the nerve to reprimand me when I refused to meet at a “safe” spot after the NYC blackout in 2003. Where was I? Home. Because as soon as word started to spread that the entire eastern seaboard was affected, I ran straight for the bridge. Call me paranoid, but as someone who was stuck in midtown Manhattan after 9/11, I learned my lesson.
2) It should be obvious, but ancient Doris from clerical does NOT make a good fire marshal. Bob in accounting, at 280lbs., is hardly the ideal “searcher.” Certain people were not meant to hold positions of power, in this case, a potentially life-saving one. Some halfwit suit is always quick to ask for fire drill volunteers. And some unimportant has-been is always quick to apply. To apply to be a firefighter, most municipalities require that you are in your 20s, calm under pressure, and in reasonably good shape. To hold office workers to those standards, when the risk of a fire is rather remote, would be ludicrous. However, common sense should apply.
3) If there is a fire, I have my own plan. Do you? You should! Rather than worrying about educating us as a group (they only do this because it’s the bare minimum), employers should work out individual plans with each worker. We all have different needs and requirements. It might be a little time consuming from a personnel standpoint, but we are talking about life and death, no?
4) No one takes fire drills seriously, except the person running it. And that’s ususally a retired fireman who has decided that their pension alone doesn’t cut it, so they get into the ‘consulting’ business. That’s right, the man with the reddish-gray mustache didn’t show up at your office just for the fun of it. The majority of the time, they are collecting a sizable paycheck for their trouble. So not only do educated adult workers get treated like second graders, someone gets paid to reprimand them!
5) Aside from showing you where the nearest exit is, have you ever learned anything about protecting yourself or others in an actual fire? Since smoke inhalation is a major life-taking bastard, it’s always a good idea to have water and a rag within reach. I’ve had the misfortune of attending a fair share of office fire drills, and never has this important advice been shared.
6) According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace fires and explosions kill approximately 200 workers each year. The value of human life is unmeasurable, however, to put that statistic into perspective, 6,000 people die in residence fires each year. Hmmm. Looks like a home fire drill would have a lot more value than one at the office.
7) During a fire drill we walk, during a real fire we run. That’s just the way we humans are conditioned. It’s sorta like my puppy Kenji. He’s great at simple commands when we’re inside the house, but as soon as we step outside, the stimulus overload makes him forget everything. So I can get him to sit, stay and stand inside – big deal! My friends might be impressed, but these commands have much more value in the outside world (i.e. – if he tries to escape, etc.).
8) To be truly effective, I would imagine that fire drills should come without warning. For some reason, these exercises are always planned. If it’s not a mass e-mail alert, it’s gossipy whispers. I’ve even had fire drills canceled because of inclement weather. I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Fire won’t be as considerate. If you’re going to test us on preparedness, then employers need to randomly scare the crap out of us.
9) If employers really cared, there would be more than the minimum number of fire extinguishers lining the hallways. Old buildings would be outfitted with state-of-the-art sprinkler systems. Offices would be fit with Polystyrene fire-proof doors. These items all cost money. Serious money. Not time-wasting, fire drill-type money. Maybe if they cared about us being trapped, they”d even allow the windows to be opened.
Those are nine reasons off the top of my head why I think workplace fire drills are a joke. Where do you stand? Leave a comment below and let’s get this debate started!