Last week I had my first fire drill at work. I don’t know what it was supposed to be like, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fire in Colectiv and many what ifs.
The alarm started ringing and shortly afterwards a previously recorded voice of a lady could be heard throughout the entire building, on speakers I had no knowledge of. The voice was telling us, in Romanian, English and French, to leave the building. Everybody was weirdly quiet and the general feeling that I was inside of some sort of living creature, with an inner voice of its own. It was loud enough so you could hear it regardless of where you were, but not so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation. In a real life situation, everybody would have been alerted and also able to coordinate with others on their way out.
Despite all walking calmly and no other real danger than stumbling because of wearing too high heels, the emergency staircases were super crowded. For some it was an open door to crack jokes and have a bit of fun at the office. To me it felt surreal. What if all the buildings had a system like this? What if they all had sprinklers? Why is the cost of the fire prevention facilities more important than human lives? Why did Colectiv have to happen?
When we reached the ground floor, a bottle neck had formed in front of the exit doors. They were too narrow. I couldn’t tell if dangerously narrow, but clearly we stayed there for what felt more than ideally. In front of the building, there were tons of people. We all just hanged out there and were very curious what was on next. Some guys wearing safety vests and holding clipboards, very easy to spot in the crowd, walked around. One of them came to my group and told us that we could either go watch the firefighters practice or go back in the building and that was it.
I decided to skip the cues for the elevators and staircases and took a tour to check out the firefighters’ exercise. Some carried some very heavy equipment, others set up, then were lifted on a 10 floor high platform that reached the last floor.
I noticed no one – not the men wearing safety vests, not the firefighters, not some other party, had any type of interaction with us, the people from the building. No one talked with us. No one taught us anything. We just left the building, stayed outside for 5 minutes and most immediately went back.
Since we were all gathered there, why not use this opportunity to teach us what to do in case of fire, other than just A. listen to the alarm voice instructions B. put whatever you are doing on hold C. leave the building asap? I for one have no idea what to do, other than run for help, if someone next to me or myself gets burnt.
Why didn’t the firefighters not involved directly in the practice come talk to us? They could have shown us the firetrucks, explained us the steps they take in case of a fire: what they do from when they take a call until the moment they collect evidence for the post-fire investigation, what we should do, what usually happens? Some easy to remember info, like how to recognize somebody is in shock – could really be useful and fast to teach. But they just did their thing and totally ignored us.
I am very happy I was able to participate at this fire drill. Now I know how much time it takes to walk calmly to leave the building, approximately how many people to expect to see in the staircase and what it looks like when the lights are on. In case of a real emergency, I am sure being familiar with the emergency exit ways would prove to be of help.
I am also very angry. After Colectiv, whoever is in charge with this kind of actions does not do the best to ensure our protection. The necessary minimum has proved to be deadly on and again. And still, this is what I witnessed at the fire drill. Why not be a community? Why not create trust between citizens and emergency services such as the firefighters? Why not transfers valuable know-how and make the most of a fire drill? Why not organize it in such a way that whoever is involved learns a valuable lesson that can be applied in case the scenarios do come true?
I wish we, as a country and individuals, did more, together. Because this is what will save us and ensure our moving forward, the extra mile we walk together as a community, not individual check lists of must do’s.