Monday, June 27, 2016

Evacuate the Building!

I was at a conference in Southern California this weekend and just as the keynote speaker was ready to go on, the building alarms started going off and a recorded voice said something like "this is an emergency, please evacuate the building immediately".

You don't have to tell me twice.  I was out of my seat and headed for the emergency exit but as I went out the door and held it for the people behind me, I could see that many people were still in their seats.  Another group of people were heading up the aisle of the auditorium, the way they had entered the lecture hall (which required them to go through a gallery, down a few hallways, and through an open atrium to exit the front of the building).

Since I exited through the back of the building, I had to walk back around to the front of the building where my vehicle was parked.  I stayed about 30 feet away from the building, noting places I could use for cover and/or concealment as I carefully made my way through various parking lots to the front of the building.

I guess people didn't want to get any sun on them because, as I walked toward the front of the building, I noticed that many people who had evacuated were right up against the side of the building they had just left so they could stand in the shade.

Myself and another group of people were under some trees about 30 feet from the building, waiting to see if we should leave all together or if it was just a false alarm.  Fortunately about ten minutes later, building staff came out and apologized for the false alarm and ushered us back into the building.

Here's some observations:

  • 20 years ago if such an alarm went off I would probably have just waited in my seat figuring it was a false alarm and also figuring that if people really wanted us out of the building they would come in and let us know.  These days, I'm up and out quickly since setting off an alarm is the fastest way to alert people that there is a problem.
  • On the flip side, setting off an alarm and waiting to ambush people as they exit the building is a thing so there's attention as you are leaving.
  • When you need to exit a building in a hurry, go through the nearest exit even if there are big, bold letters on the door saying 'emergency exit only alarm will sound'.  Well the alarm is already sounding so it must be an emergency so open the door and go.
  • I guess it was habit that many people exited the room the same way they came in which didn't make much sense in an emergency.  This put them further into the building and they had no idea if they were walking into an active shooter situation, a fire, or other emergency situation.
  • The oldsters weren't walking very fast.  Many people in the room were 50s on up.  A LOT of them didn't move very fast and from their physical condition it didn't appear that this was a possibility.  Hitting the deck in case of an active shooter looked similarly out of the question without possible injury from just getting themselves on the floor.
  • After you evacuate the building, stand far enough away that you will be out of danger.  If there had been a bomb that leveled the building, the people standing right up against the building would have been toast.
  • Have your EDC bag with you.  Even if I couldn't have returned to my vehicle, I had my EDC with me and would have been fine hiking back to the hotel if necessary.  I had my cell phone, a bottle of water, cash for a taxi or bus if needed, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a bandanna (all would have been useful for trekking in 85 degree weather), a couple of granola bars, etc.  
  • Since I flew to the conference, I did not have a firearm with me.  Obviously in any sort of emergency I would feel better with a firearm than without but there may be times when you can't carry.  I was definitely looking around for possible weapons to use if needed.
Overall this proved to be a nice little unexpected drill that reinforced a few training points and highlighted a couple of things that could have went better (if I would have had to hit the ground then crawl my way out of the building...well I haven't crawled on the floor since the grandkids were little so I probably should add such a thing into my exercise routine, the spouse should get a kick out of seeing such a thing so at least there will be a little entertainment value...).

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