Fire Alarm

It was just before the fifth block Thursday afternoon, I was in the dean's office speaking with a colleague when a horn sounded. Now, they've been putting in new alarms all the time and there are alarms sounding off every now and then. But it was coming out of a thingy on the wall that I had heard spoken of as the fire alarm.

I checked the door, opened it, and the alarm was louder outside and still on. So I quickly called to my secretary: fire alarm! and made the colleague leave with me. Teachers were standing outside their doors scratching their heads, I called out that everyone was to leave, fire alarm.

I did go back for my coat on account of it snowing, and shooed people out to the stairwell, down and out. Students spilled outside - and we wondered where to go? The inner quad or next to the fence? I marched off to the guard's room, to ask what was up. A colleague was there, pushing buttons on the fire alarm central thingy. I asked the guard if it was a false alarm, she said she didn't know, she couldn't reach the head janitor and she didn't know what to do with all the buttons.

The colleague said: all okay, you can go back in now. I asked if there was going to be an all clear signal. He said no, you can just go back in now. I walked back, meeting the head janitor on the way, he, too said: you can go back in.

The teachers were standing outside with their groups of students (most of whom seemed to be smoking). What if I told them to go back in and there really was a fire? We always had an all-clear signal in the US!

I did tell everyone to go back in, and then I wrote a letter to the chancellor requesting that we have some more guidance on what to do in case of fire, more training of the guards, and an all-clear signal.

The response, in my inbox this morning: We have a fire regulation and you are responsible for making everyone in your area aware of it. Typical German. We have a regulation for that. Find it.

So I googled it (our search system on our web page sucks) and found one from 2006 with the old name of the school. It defines the fire alarm to be 30 seconds of alarm followed by 30 seconds off followed by 30 seconds on. 30 seconds? That's forever! And that's not the continuous signal we heard! That is defined to be the stolen-beamer-sound. And indeed there is no all-clear signal. It also demands of us to gather at the posted gathering areas. No idea where that is.

I've suggested that we update the fire regulation to include the new name of the school, fix the alarms, make students and teachers aware of it EVERY SEMESTER and have fire drills once a year. That is, let's take fire safety seriously and not just cover our backsides by having a policy 99% of the people at school are unaware that we have.

What a novel idea....


Anonymous said...

I fear them Krauts will never change in such things!

...every time I get to an exit door here which doesn't open outwards, I feel I should find someone to tell how stupid this is. And when I push my mom in her wheel-chair or walk her blind friend, I notice how "unfriendly" things are here for the handicapped; and, surely, I don't have to tell you about the bureaucratic mindset one encounters, even in non-bureaucrats...


p.s. and a link (to the "Whatever" blog of John Scalzi) you might (also) appreciate:

"And Now, For No Particular Reason, a Rant About Facebook"

WiseWoman said...

We checked the signs next to the elevators this morning. Yup. There's a teeeeny tiny icon on there that marks the assembly points. The quad it is, right where the fire hydrant is.