Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Woop Woop Evacuate

TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2015

What an eventful day I've had.

I was awoken in the wee small hours of the morning to a familiar 'WOOP WOOP, EVACUATE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.  'WOOP WOOP, EVACUATE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.'  I say familiar because we hear the emergency signals being tested often at work, along with regular practice evacuations and the odd genuine evacuation.  One small problem, I was not at work and it was 3.40 am.  I know this because the bedside clock in the hotel has nice big clear numbers on it.

Never the less, the hotel wouldn't pull an unannounced drill at such a time, would it? So I pulled on some trackie daks and runners, grabbed my phone and handbag and walked out the door.  Looking for a fire warden or other people I was wondering to myself where the assembly point was.  Darn it, I couldn't remember.  Whilst I usually read the hotel blurb when I arrive, that seemed so long ago and there was so much of it and am I awake or is this all a dream?  Hmmm no, that alarm is too loud to be a dream.

Still surprisingly calm and seeking further direction myself, I pointed out the stair well to a few other people as I made my way to the stairs.  Never use the lifts in the event of an emergency they say.  So why were people still taking the lift?  Why were the lifts still fully operational? Where was the fire warden?  Should I bang on the doors of the rooms I pass on the way to the stairs?

It became clear that we were all responsible for ourselves. I caught a little whiff of smoke that was quite acrid to the taste, so I decided to take the stairs and look for the fire warden once outside.
As I made my way outside, the air clear and crisp, the fire truck sirens wailing and the 'WOOP WOOP, EVACUATE' still going, still there was no direction from anyone.  I asked a few people if they knew where the assembly point was, no one had any idea.  We waited, we waited.  Some people had a cigarette, some were on their smart phones, some did both. I myself did a quick post. Then I waited some more.

This is basically a knitting blog and, like the father in the movie 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' who could make any word a derivative of the Greek language, I too can have a go at turning anything round to knitting.  Tired of waiting, I sat and pulled out needles, a ball of wool and a pattern and started g a head band.  Thank goodness I was quasi organised the night before and had my bag packed for work the next morning.  (Tuesday is knitting group day at work).

A couple of rows in and the sirens finally stopped.  Was it safe to go back in? Can we take the lift now or should we still use the stairs? We waited.  Nothing.  We started drifting back inside.  The queues for the lift were long, but not as long as I thought they would be for a whole hotel of people, so I wonder how many didn't even leave their room?  I made my way to reception.  I asked the concierge where, what, etc. 'Oh nothing, everything's fine, the fire was in the adjoining building, you can go back to your rooms now'.  That's it. I asked where the fire wardens were.  They don't have any.  I said fair enough, I guess you do have limited staff on the front desk overnight, but surely an announcement over a PA system?  'No' I was told, no need.  I asked about the lack of advising where the assembly point was and was told that there is a sign on the back of the door to each room with the emergency evacuation routine.  I pointed out that possibly not too many people, myself included, look at that on a regular basis and remember all the detail in it.  Shrug of the shoulders was the response.  He said that because it wasn't an emergency, he thought it best if he just stay at reception to answer any questions people might have.

All in all, I was appalled at the lack of care, concern and direction by the hotel staff.  I was calm and collected throughout, but I think this may be in part to all the fire drill training we have at work. However, there were others that appeared to be a little frightened and confused, to these people I tried to assure as best I could that we were safe.

Tired and weary I made my way back to bed but had only just dozed back to sleep when the 6am alarm woke me for work.

I started this post saying what an eventful day.  It wasn't over yet. ...

This afternoon I left work early to go and donate blood at the Red Cross centre in Bourke St, a couple of doors up from the mall.  Usually I would go via Spencer St then turn right in to Bourke St. Today I decided to do the other 2 side of the square, along Collins St, left in to Elizabeth St and a short left in to Bourke.  I made it as far along Elizabeth St to Little Collins to Police tape blocking any further progress. Darn it, now I was going to be late, huffy, puffy and my blood pressure and pulse would go up, then I'd have to wait, blah, blah, blah.  All first world problems compared to what lay ahead.

Making my way through an arcade I came out midway along Elizabeth St, between Collins and Little Collins.  When I got to the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke, the corner was cordoned off to oncoming pedestrians and traffic.  I still didn't know why, but made my way around the corner, before crossing Bourke to the blood centre.  I wasn't allowed to cross and then turn the corner.  I gave blood (one of my quickest bleeds) and was enjoying an after cuppa rehydration when finally I could see what all the fuss was about.  A man was on the roof of the Optus awning on the opposite corner.  A number of police and firemen were up a ladder negotiating with him.  by that stage the streets were completely empty of people, cars and trams.  I was ready to go, so I made my way downstairs and out on to the street.  It was eerily quiet.  The silence was almost deafening. I thought to myself "What a good time to return my daughter's phone call, I'll be able to hear her" and sat down on the park bench.  Chatting away, I was oblivious to my surrounds when a Mr Plod sidled up to me and suggested I move back inside.  I asked if the man on the roof was dangerous, to which the policeman replied "Only to himself".  Don't know why I had to move then, but I took it as an opportunity to hide out in Lincraft.  Turns out I had the whole store to myself. Lucky me!

Once another customer came in some 20 minutes later, I knew it was okay to leave.  Emerging on to the street from the basement where Lincraft is, it was interesting to see the city come back to life, as if awakening from hibernation.  As I made my way to the tram stop, the cars started to drive by, a busker started playing his music and people appeared, from where I know not.  The noises increased, horns tooted, people shouted and then as trams started moving again, that familiar 'ding ding' as people criss crossed the mall.

Once safely back at the hotel, I watched and listened to the news on a few channels to find out more.  No mention of a middle of the night hotel evacuation, no mention of the man on the roof.  I just hope that if next time there is an evacuation there is some actual help and guidance for those not familiar with the sound of 'WOOP WOOP, EVACUATE'. As for the man on the roof, I hope he is okay and receives the help he needs, for whatever it is that caused him to bring the middle of the city to a stand still.

Like I said, an eventful day, but all my problems were first world.