The time-frame to walk down 20 floors of a hotel, discover the emergency is a false alarm, and then take an elevator back to your room is 15 minutes. I know. Just did it.
I was in Las Vegas to teach a class last week, staying in a nice casino on the strip where the class was to be held. I was happily surprised when my room was upgraded to a suite on the top floor because of my single night stay. Of course, as luck would have it, at 11:30 pm as I’d fallen into a deep sleep, the fire alarm went off.
I did what I was initially trained to do in grade school: checked the door to see if there was fire directly outside; grab my keys, phone, and wallet; and find the nearest exit by stairs and start descending. I was part of a group of people all doing the same thing.
When we got down to the ground, we noticed that Vegas was still Vegas. No fire trucks, no throngs of evacuated guests and customers. As it turns out, it was a false alarm and 99% of the hotel had no idea what happened. Thankfully for me, the elevator to my tower was operational and I ascended happily knowing that taking the stairs back up would not be required!
False alarms can at first blush be considered an annoyance. In reality, they are a great learning opportunity. In my consulting practice, I discuss the concept of “close calls” with my clients. A pattern of close calls generally turn into a crisis if left unattended to. This concept is real in operations both physical (near collision by forklift or vehicle) or mental (data input errors).
We all deal with close calls professionally and personally. I encourage you to not brush them off as happenstance, but to add one important activity – to consider what was learned to be better prepared.
What was my lesson in the evacuation from the 20th floor, you may ask?
While I did seemingly bring the most important things with me, one more thing could have been included. It would have taken no more time to throw my laptop into my bag and bring the entire thing with me. There’s important information stored there and in the event of a real emergency, would have taken extra time to recover.
Bottom line – in your next close call – whether it be a near miss in traffic or a false alarm at work, make sure that you take advantage of the lesson it will offer you.
Post script: The exact same thing happened to me exactly 10 years ago except it was January in Providence, RI and about 70 degrees colder outside. That time, I didn’t bring my cell phone with me, so I’m getting better at it!
Quote for the Day:
“Experience is simply the word we give to our mistakes.”
~ Oscar Wilde
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