Why didn’t they use the fire doors?

The other day, just after I finished my post on the “communication shutdown” supposedly in aid of autism, the fire alarm went off in the Bentalls centre in Kingston where I had written it (in the Apple Store). Of course, I had to ask the staff whether I was meant to be evacuating, as hearing alarms of one sort or another happens a lot there and nobody seemed to be in a hurry to leave.

I couldn’t help but notice loads of people crowding round the escalator which would have been pretty dangerous if it hadn’t been a false alarm. When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated by the thought of going through one of those doors you couldn’t go through (except in an emergency), although anyone who’s ever been a delivery driver knows that there’s not much exciting behind them, only long, dimly-lit corridors with breeze block walls. However, yesterday I headed for the nearest fire exit and probably got out quicker than if I’d waited for a place on the escalator. Perhaps they should make the signs light up so people know they should use all the exits.

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  • africana


    yes, you should always determine the location of the fire exits in places where people congregate. that’s the first thing my father does when my parents stay at hotels.

  • Tim

    Maybe the thought there was a fire behind them.

  • The shopping malls should actually do mock fire drills like schools do to make sure staff, customers and security all know how/ where to exit such large complexes.

    If a major incident happened in one of those buildings, (Allah forbid!) there would be many fatalities.

    Most exits are not that easy to find.

    Good reminder though, I’ll be teaching this to my kid just in case!

  • Well, I’m not sure fire drills would be much use to customers - after all, they’re not going to do it on a Saturday afternoon when the place is full, are they? It’ll cause chaos, lose them money, and it’s unlikely that too many customers will get the practice. But they should have fire drills for staff, so that you won’t have staff milling round when they’re supposed to be evacuating the customers.

  • Ok, I have to agree to a point there.

    But, fire drills are a good idea, most employees know where their meeting points are but not how to escape from such large complexes so they will be of little use to customers who will not be as familiar with the building especially since some exits could be blocked.

    Large companies do not train staff regarding what to do in case of a real fire, they only mention to them what they should do. Mock drills would help to hammer home the message of how they should escape (taking customers with them).

    It does not have to be on a large scale (so no profits will not be at risk), It will empower staff to deal with a serious situation therefore saving more lives than relying purely on instinct.

    I’m just thinking of situations like the London bombings and the last Brixton riots which I was actually caught up in. I worked in a large store (Morleys, is it still there?) and we were all useless. We could barely save/ protect ourselves let alone customers.

    Also, as a customer, there are restricted areas or doors that you cannot go through so some people would think they might get into trouble for using them especially if there does not seem to be an actual emergency.

    False alarms happen more often than real emergencies and there should be a tannoy system too so people can get some sort of a warning when life is in danger.

    Maybe I sound a bit far fetched on this but I’d rather be in a place where I can escape from than one where I don’t know where I’m going or what to do.