Friday, January 20, 2006

Screaming Won't Change Reality

It has been an absolutely crazy couple of days for the volunteer Emergency Response Team here at work. One building had a water main break, my building had an 8-hour power outage that spilled into the workday, we had two calls for suspicious odors, and two medical emergencies. All within 48 hours. I only went to half of these calls, and I am exhausted.

What amazes me most is how people think that arguing, yelling and persisting with the volunteer crew will change the situation at hand. Case in point was the water main break incident.

I was assigned to the evacuation assembly area. Since water was gushing from the break on the second floor, seeping through the ceilings, and pouring onto the electrical equipment and labs on the first floor, an evacuation was necessary. There are obvious safety issues with people being in this environment. As they were supposed to do, employees quickly exited the building when the alarms sounded, many without bringing along their various possessions.

Several people inquired to me as to if they could reenter the building to retrieve their wallets, car keys and laptops. They understandably wanted to go to lunch, work from another building, or work from home. Unfortunately, this was not possible at the time they asked due to the safety issues.

One particular employee was especially insistent. She was the best exercise in patience I have had in a long time.

"Can I go back in to get my car keys and laptop ?"

"I'm sorry, but right now the building is closed. Water is still flowing, and we are working on stopping it and shutting down the power. The building isn't safe right now to enter."

"But I really need to get my stuff !"

"I know this is frustrating, and I'm sorry. But there is a life safety issue right now that we need to take care of."

"That's so stupid ! Why can't I just get my stuff ? I'm nowhere near the water anyway !"

"I'm sorry, the building is closed."

"$)#%)*((*$)!*!*)!*^*-#*!#%*#$*#*^:$ !!!!!"

"The building is closed."

"!+**#$)!*^*-#*!#%*#$!(!#**#$~`?::#$% !!!!!!"

"The building is closed."

Repeat as necessary. Keep even tone to voice. I've done this enough to do it instinctively, but it was still taxing on my energy.

Then of course, another employee mentioned she had some medication that she needed to take at 12:30, long before the situation would be resolved. I referred her to the Incident Commander at the main entrance to the building. Of course, the screaming lady smugly followed her to see if she could get in, too. Whatever. I'm just glad she was no longer in my hair.

Eventually, once the life safety issues were dealt with, we did provide escorts into the powerless building for employees. This happened when it was safe, and not because of the screaming. Imagine that.

I feel bad for the guy whose cube was Ground Zero for the water, and could only salvage some family pictures from all his possessions. He was obviously distraught. Laptops and computers can be replaced; some things cannot. I hope he had copies of the waterlogged pictures.

Seeing this makes the inconvenience of not having your car keys and laptop for 2 hours a little less important.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It *has* been a crazy week. As I type this from home, I'm listening to you guys on the radio on 20 trying to find THIS patient. "Unable to locate" was the key term of today.

And it has been a CRAZY week for callouts.

Doncha just hate when that happens?


January 20, 2006 at 4:44:00 PM PST  

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