I’d just picked up the phone and started chatting to someone at work today, when I heard a low-key siren and a fairly monotonous voice come over the tannoy at work. Assuming it was a fire alarm test, I tuned it out and went back to chatting, until I noticed everyone around me standing up and heading to the stairs. Interesting.
It was, apparently, time for the yearly Emergency Action Plan briefing, which is set to prepare New York workers in high-rise buildings for “non-fire emergency” – a subtle turn of phrase I’m sure you’ll agree – and was introduced as a mandatory requirement just after September 2001. Let me share with you the steps.
1. Shelter In Place
Unlike in a fire, fleeing the building may not always be the case in a non-fire emergency. Indeed, it may be dangerous to venture outside if there’s something like a steam explosion (like the dramatic one that occurred in NYC in 2007) or…nope, that’s the only NYC non-fire emergency mentioned so far.
2. In-Building Relocation
Whilst it may still be the case that staying in the building is the safest thing to do, due to copious amounts of
terr steam on the streets, it may become necessary to shepherd the ‘workers’ (makes us sound like busy little bees doesn’t it?) to a certain point within the building. The terrifying example here was that of a precariously overtilting crane.
3. Partial or Full Evacuation
This one does what it says on the tin; the only item of real interest was that use of the lifts (sorry, el-e-vay-duhs) may be authorised by the lobby command post, manned by the Executive Vice President, Global Head of Security and Building Operations for 195 Broadway. Or Dave, as he’s better known. They do love their titles over here.
If evacuated, we should proceed to whichever of the two designated meeting points is safer and more accessible: 7 World Trade Center or New York City Hall park. Frankly, in the event that the non-fire emergency turns out not to be a misaligned crane or a gushing steam vent, those seem like two destinations I’d avoid.
One particular word was glaringly omitted from the entire 20-minute briefing. Looking out of the office window at the building site over the road, I can kinda see why.