Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Was Driving Slowly !

When the tones sounded on my radio for a fire alarm at building X, I knew it was going to be a difficult call. The time was 4:45pm, when most of the 300 employees in that building would be heading home. It was also a time where resources, especially volunteer ERT resources, would be significantly scarce. The danger of some evacuated employee being hit by a car was imminent. I jumped into my car, orange vest on, and headed off to the scene.

As expected, it was chaos. The front of the building had approximately 150 employees milling about in the aisles, while others attempted to drive their cars around the throngs. I immediately herded the crowd to the second aisle, and informed two people with cars parked directly within the crowd that I really needed them to wait a few minutes before leaving.

The Fire Department arrived, sirens screaming. First an engine, then a ladder truck, then the Batallion Chief. The Hazardous Materials team and the Urban Search and Rescue team followed shortly thereafter. With all of this fire equipment on scene, I still received the same question repeatedly:

"Is this a drill ?"

Ummm... no, it's not. The Fire Department never comes out for a drill, especially not a massive response such as this. It was a real incident, a blown transformer on the second floor, that had belched foul-smelling smoke across a portion of the building. This was most definitely not a drill.

Normally in these kinds of calls, there is a more complete response from the ERT volunteers. But the time being as it was, there were scant few of us to manage the massive parking lots and the foot and vehicle traffic within. There was nobody available to block the cars from coming in and out of the aisle that I, and the 150 employees, were occupying. I was trying my best to do all of these roles at once, and found out quickly what a challenge this was.

I was distracted momentarily by an employee asking me a question, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a brown SUV making its way towards me.

You have got to be kidding me.

Of the 5 aisles in front of this massive building, the driver picked this one to traverse to the other side ? The one where all of his fellow employees were standing ? What kind of moron would do something so stupid ?

I stopped him, and absent of my habitual politeness and compassion, I bellowed,

"What do you think you're doing ? There are 150 people standing in this aisle !"

His answer ?

"But I was driving through slowly !"

He was driving through slowly. So that makes it alright ? Endangering the safety of 150 people with his massive, gas-guzzling, air-polluting SUV is perfectly alright because he was driving slowly ??

"No. You cannot do that. Turn around, and go out the other way."

The sheer stupidity of people just boggles my mind.


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