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On Tuesday, at work, we had a mock fire drill. Mock fire drills are necessary in order to teach basic survival techniques in the event of an actual fire and to measure the efficiency of the Emergency Response Team’s (ERT) response.
The only problem with this particular setup was that it was preannounced on Monday that we would be having a mock fire drill on Tuesday. That’s a terrible way to conduct a mock fire drill. Human beings being human beings, give them extra information and you are certainly inviting disaster. The response during the pretimed alarm at 16:30 IST was as I expected:
- Overheard at 16:20 IST: “Why don’t we go outside right now? That way we can beat the rush.” and “Oh…there was an Excel sheet suggesting seat numbers and emergency exits? I did not open it at all.”
- At 16:30 IST: Inside our [sound-proofed] project area, the fire alarm sounds more like a distant hum. Confusion everywhere. Is this the real thing? “It’s 16:30. We better leave now.”
- On the way to the emergency exits: People moving around casually, chatting, joking, drinking coffee.
- Finally outside. A significant number of people head to the coffee shop while the ERT demonstrates survival techniques.
- All-OK whistle blown. It’s 16:45 and time to go home.
Management Tip: If you really want to measure your organization’s response to an actual fire, by all means conduct a mock fire drill, just don’t announce it in advance. Real fires don’t flare up with prior announcements.
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