Don’t be victim of false security

We were stunned by the number of people ignoring the alarm and continuing to go about their business.

A firefighter’s biggest enemy may not be smoke or flames. A firefighter’s biggest enemy may well be apathy.

Last week was fire prevention week. Oak Bay firefighters were out at schools and municipal buildings making sure kids know how to exit safely, making sure employees know how to use a fire extinguisher.

Our own Athlone Court building had fire alarm testing done that week as well. All day we heard the bells chime, chime, chime, then stop for a while, only to begin again later.

The silence was golden when it was all over.

Just two days later, around 11 a.m., the fire bell began to ring again. More of the same, we thought. But the bell continued to chime.

We stepped out into the hallway, as others had done. We looked around, we smelled the air. We watched as the building manager began to inspect the area. A false alarm it seemed. Then we left our office.

We walked down the stairs into the parking lot to mingle with the dozen or so others who had also left the building. We chatted, joked and waited for the fire department to come. It was a nice day in the sun, not too chilly. The company was good. We talked of knitting and theorized about what was causing the alarm. Most of the people waiting with us were employees of Fairway Market, which had escorted customers out and closed its doors.

As we watched the firefighters begin their inspection of the building, we decided to take a walk around and see what was happening out front.

We were stunned by the number of people ignoring the alarm and continuing to go about their business.

Yes, this was a false alarm, triggered accidentally. But fire, especially in an office or apartment building, is not always obvious. It can be lurking under the roof, in the walls or even in the underground parking.

False alarms can lull us into a false sense of security. Don’t consider a few minutes spent in the sun, meeting new people, ensuring your personal safety a waste of time. Consider it an investment in your future.