Friday, February 10, 2006

Evacuation on a Warm Summer 's Day in January

Tonight I'm babysitting FIFO to distract him from his desire to tear something up while my parents are out for the evening. This is a perfect opportunity to write more about my not so recent adventures in between bouts of petting and general adoration.

Perhaps the most exciting event of January was the fire in the library. We were nearing the end of the lunch portion of an interview with a candidate for one of the open positions within CIT when the fire alarm started going off. Fortunately, it was in the new Bostock part of the building, so we heard the polite request to leave and not use the elevator instead of the excruciatingly loud buzz in Perkins. I actually haven't heard the Perkins one, but if it's anything like what we had in my building at IBM, it's awful.

We were on the second floor, so my boss headed for the stairwell. They are rated for four hours in Bostock and it's a fully sprinklered building, so it's safe. Besides, what are the chances that it could be a real emergency in a brand new building? Then we noticed that the fire safety people were running upstairs. We smelled smoke. During a drill, you don't tend to observe either of those things.

They didn't seemed to know where the problem was, but we somehow came to the conclusion that I should leave the building. Fortunately, PW and MG suggested that we go through the old part of Perkins to leave. It's sort of a windy path through special collections to get out, particulary since the first floor of Perkins is closed for construction. By the time we got out and back around to the outside of Bostock, the alarm had stopped so we could go back in.

Our offices, which are in the basement, smelled horrible and it was hard to breathe in there. We thought we would grab our laptops and go work somewhere else. As we were leaving, the alarms started going off again. The elevators weren't working again yet, so we had to go around again. Note that I said that we would grab our laptops. I did not say anything about grabbing my purse, keys or anything useful like that. In fact, my boss had gone in to get my laptop, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided I needed to go in to turn off my lava lamp, in case I wouldn't be back for a while. Unbeknownst to me, I ended up locking my keys in my cubical in the process.
I didn't realize any of this until I'd gone back outside to the main quad.

So, I had to wait outside the building for the alarm to go off again. You can see in the picture what it looked like at the time, with the firetruck between Bostock Library and the Old Chemistry building, but you'll have to imagine the flashing lights. After I got back into my cube, got my stuff and started heading home to work from there, I was interviewed by a reporter from Duke's student newspaper, the Chronicle. You can read the article. I also made the quote of the day on their masthead page, saying "At least it's nice out," she added. "Better being evacuated when it's 70 degrees outside."

It turned out that this all resulted from a malfunctioning air handler on the fourth floor and all the smoke got to the basement via an elevator shaft.

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