Anyone who has ever worked in a high-rise office building knows the fire drill routine. At least in the New York buildings I worked in, this is an annoying monthly exercise where an insistent alarm sounds at ear-piercing level from the building’s PA speakers.
Everyone must stop what they’re doing and convene at a predetermined location on or near the fire exit, which opens onto an interior stairwell or an outdoor fire escape. Should you wish to remain at your desk because you’ve got something more important to do than congregate with your fellow floor residents, then the floor fire warden seeks you out and rousts you from your office. (These wardens tend to bear a striking resemblance in appearance and demeanor to the guys who ran the A/V department at your high school).
No one is ever very serious about these annoying drills. At least that used to be the case. Since September 11, I’m sure that these drills are seen as less annoying, and there were reports of fire wardens performing heroic and ultimately doomed service in the Trade Center towers that awful day.
For many of us, Easterners in particular as Andy Gluck points out in his monthly column on the Schwab Impact 2001 show (page 31), the scar tissue hasn’t formed over the wounds yet. As Andy tells it, it took some courage to go to the Schwab show. But once there, and despite a lower-than-normal turnout, the sessions were informative and the networking was rewarding, not least because there was a shared sense of purpose among the attendees.