Monday, July 18, 2011

Emergency in a Hotel

What do you do when you're in your hotel room and a siren comes on and a voice screeches from somewhere in your room: "Emergency, evacuate immediately. Emergency, evacuate immediately?". Over and over and over.

I must admit this is the first time this has happened to me and what unfolded was not what I would have expected to happen.

It's a Sunday afternoon. The rugby is on the television, so my driver is slumped over the leather couch drinking a beer while I walk around the joint turning on lights, opening drawers to see what's inside and just generally having a good snoop when the siren sounds.

Of course this is the very last thing I expect so I freeze. In the meantime my driver gets an equally big fright and shouts at me from behind his beer, "What did you do?".  "Nothing," I shout back. "I'm minding my own business."

The alarm continues to sound and the voice continues to say: "Emergency, evacuate immediately."  A few seconds have passed and my driver is still perched on the couch, beer in hand and I am still frozen, but my eyes are scouting the place like a chameleons eyes. What's just gone through my mind is that perhaps if this noise doesn't die down we may actually have to evacuate.

Then all my senses kick in and I immediately begin to smell the air like a dog, wondering if something is burning in one of the rooms. I can't smell any smoke at all. I can't see smoke either but as good measure, I decide it's probably a good idea to open the front door.

By this time my driver has jumped up and is running around the room tracing my steps trying to figure out how I set the alarm off. Then he realizes we should probably evacuate and he runs to the back door and opens it up, shouting that we need to get out.

I almost run but then I realize that my camera is on the table, my lenses are in the bedroom, my jewelry is in the safe along with my money and my mobile phone. There's no way I can leave all this for the looters when they run in as soon as we run out.

My hand hovers over my camera as I try to think of the quickest way to get all my valuables together and how I will carry them all in my arms without destroying them. I'm still not convinced that I should be leaving the room, even though the siren is still sounding its alarm and the voice is still urging me to evacuate immediately.

My driver is outside the back door shouting for me to move when I realize the alarm is not coming from my room only, but from all over. Everyone has been urged to leave! I run for the door and as soon as I exit, another voice sounds, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please ignore the alarm. This is a false alarm, this is a false alarm!"

My heart is racing, my mouth is dry, my head is pounding.... And the worst thing is, if this really was an emergency, I really didn't get it! It took a good few seconds for me to realize what was really going on and then when I did, I was reluctant to leave my possessions.

Hours later, my driver and I debriefed and as I recounted what I had seen, my driver had a totally different memory of the events as they unfolded. He was adamant that as soon as the alarm went off he raced to the front door to check out the evacuation procedure. Just goes to show how different our thought processes can be from the reality of what happens. Who knows, maybe I never hesitated at all. Maybe I had already gathered all my belongings and was waiting outside at the muster point with everyone else....

How would you respond in a situation like this? Has this happened to you before? What would you do?

~ Vanessa

Legend: -

My driver - Kimo

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