A Brisk Walk Downstairs

You might notice (if it hasn’t been pushed off the front page yet) a Chicago fire story at the Drudge Report. I work on the 20th floor of that building. So here are a few short observations of my first real building evacuation.

1. The authorities are somewhat more confused than they are during a drill. In this case, it didn’t show up in an important way but we got early clues that we were in a semi-self serve sort of affair. There were a few minutes of hemming and hawing over the building emergency announcement system, ummms, throat clearing, and most entertaining a bit of internal chatter inadvertently broadcast through the public announcement system with the fire alarm strobes flashing. By the time the official announcement came that there was a fire on the 45th floor, we’d all already gathered, agreed to evacuate and were on our way out the door. By the stream of people already in the stairwell headed down, we had organized ourselves at about the same time as everybody else had. We were not asked to evacuate the building but merely to get to a safe place. For just about everybody, that meant outside.

2. If you have a train pass in your briefcase, take your pass or take your briefcase. You may get sent home via cell phone before you have a chance to retrieve your stuff.

3. If you’re the one who’s supposed to grab the backup tapes on the way out, toss them in a bag. Carrying them downstairs is perfectly practical but hanging onto 6 DLT cartridges in your hands gets to be uncomfortable. You don’t want to drop them.

4. 20 flights down stairs, turning in one direction makes me somewhat dizzy.

And finally I would like to salute the one fellow who I saw climbing up into a burning building. No firefighter he, from his looks, he was me in 15 years (if I lose a great deal of weight), gone out to get lunch and needing to get back into the office in order to get his own backups out. He didn’t ditch his lunch, though so the sight was a great tension reducer.

It looks like the fire never really got past the roof installations. Hopefully we’ll be back in the building tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “A Brisk Walk Downstairs”

  1. I’m glad to hear you weren’t seriously affected. WRT backup tapes, were these intra-day backups? I would think it would be wise for someone routinely to take a set of backups off-site at EOD as insurance against this kind of event.

  2. Jonathan – I think that it’s inbounds to say that our evacuation plan includes taking our most recent tapes off site as we leave but not much more. I’ll just say that what you say would be a very good idea for a medium security company. For a low-security company it would be overkill. For a high security company, it would be insufficient (you’d do something like have dedicated dual backup off-site real time). All backups are compromises. That’s one of the reasons why so many of them fail. It’s just a fact of life.

    Lexington Green – Thank you for the good wishes.

  3. An Irish woman and her cow, in combination, are a WMD. The devastation would have been far more widespread.

  4. “For a low-security company it would be overkill.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. Even at the lowest-possible-security company, if there’s any point to doing backups at all, it’s worth moving rotating them offsite to provide geographical redundancy.
    Especially when the cost of doing so is tiny.

  5. Kirk Parker – There are plenty of companies that can get by on end of week instead of end of day rotations offsite. It’s the idea of daily moving stuff offsite that I deemed overkill for some businesses.

  6. Glad everything was okay. Didn’t realize you were in Chicago also. I sometimes wonder if I pass someone I read, when I’m walking around the loop on lunch.

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