Friday, August 24, 2007

Staring into the Face of an Emergency

I've lived a life free of dangers that were not manufactured by myself or in my own mind. True, I've done some dangerous, scary things but I walked into all but a few of those situations with my eyes wide open. True, Katrina passed over our community, but we were waiting and planning, and it was only a Cat 1 by the time it got here. Yesterday, I got the chance to find out how I would react in an emergency situation without the benefit of prior knowledge. When visiting a museum yesterday, alarms started blaring, emergency lights flashing.

I calmly took my children to the exit while looking for answers to what might be happening. Alright, I dropped my purse spilling the contents, but I rarely carry a purse so forgot I had it. At the exit, we were met by security who pointed us to the door through which we could join the other visitors and the staff who were not seeing to the animals, where we waited outside in the 105° temperatures with the sun quickly making leather of our dehydrating bodies. Once the museum was checked, we were allowed back inside. Supposedly, dust from the construction of a new exhibit caused the alarms to sound, the fire trucks and police to arrive, and the building to be evacuated.

We were safe, though hot, and I got to see how I, and my children, face emergencies. When we got back inside and continued our tour, I noticed that we were 50 feet from an exit and yet walked almost the entire length of the museum to evacuate. When I pointed out the exit to the children and told them we should have gone out that way, my son said, "Mom, I tried to tell you." I guess I was too busy picking up the contents of my purse to notice or listen. I realized that though I remained calm and my pulse never elevated, I could have gotten us killed anyway (if there had been a real emergency) by wasting time taking the long way out of the bowels of the museum.

Have you ever been evacuated from a public building? Would you have stopped to pick up the contents of your purse?


ZBTzahBTzoo said...

I think it sounds like you did pretty well. At least you didn't panic.

Freshman & sophomore year I lived in the rowdy dorm. It was nine stories high, sprawling with multiple wings, and housed most of the football players who chose to live on campus. Almost every weekend night there was a fire alarm -- false alarms, pulled by drunk kids.

I probably under-react to alarms.

mull-berry said...

A couple of times:

Lowes - the lights suddenly turned off for 5-10 seconds before a back-up generator switched them back on. It was pitch black long enough to assimulate what had happened but not long enough to panic. My older son was with me and I'm glad he was within arm's reach.

Wal-Mart - shopping alone during mid-day ... an electrical fire, more of a fizzle on the roof. The store called a "code red" for all the employees to meet at a certain location (for briefing). Shortly thereafter, a code red was called for the entire store to be evacuated. With no obvious signs of smoke, just that electrical fire smell ... the shoppers were reluctant to leave their carts behind and go out the door. The evac lasted 20-30 minutes.

I'm glad you fared well with your emergency. Now that my kids are older and able to read signs, I have had to force myself to listen to them ... they are usually right.

Melora said...

I probably would pick up the contents of my purse (or at least grabbed my wallet -- the rest is mostly tissues and old shopping lists) unless I was really convinced it was an emergency. We were in a hospital in Gainesville right after that business with the anthrax in Washington and someone saw suspicious white powder and they evacuated the building. Ed got pretty excited and rushed us out (K. was still in a stroller and T. was little too), but I wasn't hugely concerned because that seems like a very localized sort of crisis (not like a bomb or poisonous gases or anything). I'm not great in actual, blood-is-flowing sorts of emergencies.

Wisteria said...

Y'all are so brave!!

Kate in NJ said...

Yes, I would pick up my purse and contents. I'm "funny" that way.
Yes, I've been evacuated from places I worked several times, and I always take my purse (how else would I get home if the building burnt down?)
After 9-11 we had many "drills" where I worked and we would get yelled at for taking the time to get our bags each time by the "safety" guy.
I pointed out I would need my keys to leave. :-) I'm glad you were all ok.