Things You Never Think About:
As a few of you may know I am in lovely city of Manchester, England on vacation. And yes, I am having a splendid time, thanks for asking.
BUT early this morning Eric and I were suddenly awoken by what can only be called one of the most HORRENDOUS noises we have ever been subjected to – our apartment’s fire alarm. Not really my idea of a fun Sunday morning, but it happened and I lived to tell about it.
So 4 AM comes to the sleeping city of Manchester (well, mostly sleeping) and our apartment building starts to make this siren/scream/ambulance type hybrid noise and both Eric and I shoot up in bed, both of us in an instant adrenaline rush (author’s note: Eric tried to save me from whatever impending doom we were going to come across by putting his arm against my chest to push me back in bed. He loves me!) and then he is up and out the bedroom. First question we have besides, “WHAT in the hell is going on?!” is, “What does this alarm mean? Fire? Burglary? Terrorist attack? Last call at the bar? What? WHAT?!” Then when we decide it must be a fire alarm, and NOT because we see plumes of smoke bellowing out of the building but, because that just seems the most likely (though the last call thing did rank a close second) we then try to decide if the noise is just in our apartment, or if it’s building wide. So dressed in our pajamas which closely resemble shirts and underwear (okay, they were shirts and underwear) he peaks outside our door to see if there is anyone in the hallway as curious as we are…and yes, yes there is; one gentleman down the hall about 50 yards away looking about as confused as we are dressed in his pajamas (that actually were pajamas, good for him). So the noise, it is decided, is building wide, next…
Back to the window to look for plumes of smoke and/or panicked bodies flinging themselves from the windows into the river below our apartment: nothing. So the next big decision is, “What do we do?” Do we continue to stand at our window in our shirts and underwear looking for signs of terror (we figure that the big crowd of people walking down the street calmly is also a good sign that our building is not on fire. You would think that at least one of them would have pointed or yelled or something), or do we do the responsible thing and go downstairs and outside. Oh, did I mention that we’re on the 21st floor? Yeah, the 21st floor. What the hell are we going to do if there really is a fire??! For as little as I know about emergency situations I do know that if you’re in a building that is on fire you should NOT take the elevator, so where does that leave us? Huffing down 21 flights of stairs in our pajamas at 4 AM only to probably bake at about the 10th floor? Or become one of those “gotta-live!” types that throw themselves from the windows into the icy water below our building and hope that the water doesn’t break too many bones? And that we don’t suffer hypothermia? What in the world would we do? These are the things you just never think about…
And after about 5 minutes the alarm goes off (which is great since we’re both back in bed trying to go to sleep) and aside from the horribly morbid thoughts I was having like, “What if the alarm only turned off because the fire melted it?!” we were both calm, relieved and happy to be going back to sleep. So Eric tells me that true “preparedness” experts say that you should never stay above the 10th floor (thanks for telling me NOW!) because fire ladders only reach that high, not to mention the stairs issue. And that in the event that there is a fire not only do they have a plan for evacuation that they’ve practiced numerous times, but that they also have fire masks to put on so that if they do happen to have to run through fire, or smoke, or what have you, their face won’t melt off and they won’t sear their lungs from the inside out. Oh yeah, and that they would have a wet towel over their shoulders to stay as fire free as possible.
Because what my idea of safety was at 4 AM was to plug my ears and think about putting on my pajama pants, stepping into my boots, putting on my pea-coat and maybe run like the dickens. Of course, I would also probably be the type of person to get bake alive in their room which a coroner would later decide cause of death was “stupidity,” but I don’t really feel like playing that scenario out and trying to figure an evacuation plan for it.
So think about that next time you’re 10 plus stories up. And don’t forget your fire mask.