Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Baptism by Fire Alarm

So far so good here at the new job. Jen is training me well, I'm meeting lots of people and my new boss has already implored me to sit down with him when he gets back from India so we can discuss where I will go from here after a year or so in this position. All of this is silver lined by being so close to home, the kids' school, and a good friend of mine who works on the other side of the building.

The building is an old, converted gun factory that did a tour as a mattress warehouse before becoming the quirky office space it is today. It's a solid building, partitioned from the company next door by a wall on the opposite side of my new office, a large room that Jen and I have been sharing for the past three days.

Around 9:30, while Jen and I chatted about our upcoming meetings today, a sudden, horrible sound burst from the wall above us. The fire alarm was wailing. It was an awful, industrial sounding horn, buzzing every second while the lights began flashing everywhere. It was the loudest thing I have ever heard--it sounded like a prison break alert. Jen leapt from her chair as I did the same, my chair slamming into the wall behind me and the two of us running out of the office to see what the hell was going on. Jen started screaming at everyone to evacuate, because in 13 years she has never heard that alarm go off. People around here violated many rules of fire safety: most of us went back for purses and cellphones, Jen called 911 from inside the building, many employees sauntered outside with laptops, it goes on and on.

While outside, a man poked his head out of the adjacent building and said, "Oh, did we set that off?"

Turns out the panel to the fire alarm system is next door on the other side of my office wall, and some company is testing and servicing the panel, but no one told us. We all wandered inside, Jen called 911 and cancelled the call, but by then the fire department showed up and asked me and Jen a bunch of questions, since Jen had said in her 911 call that she also smelled "an odor".

"Well, we may need to check it out if you think you smelled something," he said.

"I don't know. I mean, I thought I smelled something," Jen said. "Do you smell something? she asked me.

"Personally, there is always an odor around here,"I offered.

The fire department opted not to check out the entire building. They were happy we had called and at least evacuated, even if it did turn out to be a false alarm. But everyone's real issue was with the service company. It's common sense, people. You tell everyone in the building when you're servicing a fire alarm. Plain and simple.

If we're lucky, later the sprinklers will go off.


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