Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another emergency evacuation

I hate to think what would happen if we had a real emergency.

Last month I was in the emergency evacuation incident at Dubai's Terminal 3 and I posted about the problems.

Yesterday we were in Souk Madinat Jumeirah and at 7pm had just placed our order in Dome coffee shop when the automated alarm started.

The recorded voice told us "An incident has occurred in the building...don't panic...don't use the lifts...go immediately to your designated assembly points"

Friday evening is a busy time at Souk Madinat so there were plenty of people eating, shopping, wandering about.

The people working in the shops and restaurants obviously knew what to do and where to go, to their designated assembly points. That's what they did.

For the rest of us it was confusion.

Some, maybe most, people ignored the message. Others wandered outside and stood around wondering what to do next.

Not a sign of a security person, no indication that anyone, a real live person, was in control. Just an automated message repeating itself.

Outside the main entrance there were three security people standing around, allowing pedestrians and vehicles to continue to pour into the building.

My guess is that they were unaware of the instruction to evacuate.

Chaos reigned for a while. People leaving were milling about by the entrance, some sitting on the steps, while newcomers were trying to push their way in.

Still no sign of anyone in control, no security or safety people directing or giving information.

After 10 minutes we gave up and went back to Dome. The staff were back in and told us there was a gas problem, it was being fixed and the kitchen would be working in a few minutes.

It's the basics being wrong that worries me.

You need someone in control, who is seen to be in control.

A real live person on the PA system, not a pre-recorded tape.

You need visible security/safety people directing, explaining, in control.

If the building is to be immediately evacuated you need to stop newcomers from entering. So security people need to be stationed at the entrances.

Obviously they need to be informed of the situation, so they need to be equipped with radios linked to the control room.

If it's a real emergency there's urgency involved here. Action has to be immediate.

Get people out and well away from the danger, quickly and in an orderly fashion, prevent newcomers from coming in, divert traffic.

None of that happened.


Anonymous said...

They get people to "pose" as security from nepal or bangladesh or some other 3rd world country and pay them 900 dhs a month. What do you expect?

Seabee said...

What do I expect?

I expect major, government-related organisations to have adequate emergency safety plans and staff, regardless of where they're from or what they're paid, to be trained in the necessary emergency procedures.

alias said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rania said...

we have emergency evacuation anouncements about once a week in our 45 floor residential building. till now there were fake i.e. sombody activated the alarm by "accident". however, by now people stopped getting out of their appartments and walking towards the ground floor because they got used to the false alarm. and since there was never an anouncement by any of the security staff that it IS only a false alarm we will continue not reacting to the fire alarm any more. until we have a fire...
i live in 44 with three kids - i suppose the best i could do in a real case of emergency is getting up to 45 and sit in the pool until somebody might rescue us...

Seabee said...

Rania, I'm sure that's a not unusual situation but that there are disasters waiting to happen all over Dubai.

Reluctant and Recluse said...

Yup... i live in a year-old 38 story bldg in JLT, same thing kept on happening here as Rania's buildng until we put a rule that as soon as the alarm is tripped it is silenced and one of the security would physically check the alarm location to make sure whether it was fake or real... probably adds potentially harmful delay in the real alarm going off (God forbid) - but the problem is that the systems are sold, installed and managed by basically incompetent people all the way from the supplier on down, who more than likely took an agency or dealership of the product line just to sell it as much as he can.

Even if the company selling/managing their products is top notch in their field in any other country here, as Anon said, they will cut costs and get away with poor installation, training and support simply because liability laws and the legal system is so cumbersome

And, another reason is basically at the end of the day, especially people at the low-wage end of the spectrum don't really care or have any incentive to care about the quality of thier work - they are not vested in either the country, organization, or society - it similarly boils down to why customer service is so poor here.

To care about doing a good job, or to care about actually serving people (security or otherwise) someone has to be vested in the society, culture or even company. That will never happen for most workers here, and that is why you could have the best of systems or technology but not get the same result or quality of execution.

That's just my opinion, and i say it not to advocate Emiratis change thier laws or country etc. They have a rght to structure thier country as they want... But when you have a society built up mostly of guest workers (cheap or not) that's what you'll get...

Seabee said...

R&R, very true - a guest worker society in which the guest workers have no stake in anything has unique problems.

ZeTallGerman said...

"To care about doing a good job, or to care about actually serving people (security or otherwise) someone has to be vested in the society, culture or even company."
Exactly and agreed. Let's let our minds wander back to the Wafi jewellery robbery - remember the CCtv footage? The 2 cars come crashing into the Wafi, and the security guards? They run in the opposite direction as fast as they can... and who can blame them? Unarmed, poorly trained and hardly paid: why should they risk their lives?