The practice of being prepared

I woke up to the sound of alarms and bustling in the hallway of the hotel I was staying in.  As I came to consciousness, I realized a total evacuation of the 25 story building was underway.  All the Red Cross training and reading I have done over the last 6 months kicked into gear.

I looked for signs and smell of smoke.  I went towards the room door, no sense of heat.  In the same moment, I grabbed my glasses (my sight is quite near-sighted), a pair of shoes, my purse that was nearby, and a blanket.  I left everything else.

As I went into the hallway, I saw all the hotel guests taking the elevator (they were still operational), so I took that in, checked the fire exits (didn’t see anyone going down the stairs) and realized that maybe the evacuation was a drill rather than a full-scale event.

Hesitantly taking the elevator, I could see others on each floor, like myself, in pajamas, robes, disoriented, moving toward exits and elevators.

As we got to the lobby, the fire department announced that the hotel was ‘clear’ and apologized for any inconvenience.

But in that first moment, of hearing the alarms, grabbing basics to protect myself and possibly others, I realized how the practice of being prepared had integrated into my psyche.  It was more instinct than thought.  I think disaster and preparedness training should be that way, because if the evacuation had been for a real fire, or terrorist threat, the commotion would have been even larger.

If the elevators were not working, I would have taken the fire stairs, it would have been a good workout (17 flights!).

It took me a few hours just to shake off the feel of ‘being on alert’.  But I am grateful for having gone through training so that if such an event happens again, I can be of assistance to both myself and others.


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