Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In the event of fire...

Today we had an emergency fire evacuation drill in our IT Park. I must tell you this was the best ‘event’ of its kind in all my years here. As it was an 'emergency’ (a mock one though) we were informed at a very short notice to assemble at the ‘Assembly Points’. When the person-in-charge of the ‘show’ (the expert Mr. Moiz Ahmed from Bangalore) saw most of us walking leisurely towards the lawns he began to shout into the mic, ‘walk brisk ! walk brisk!’. Apparently, it was his way of replicating the sense of urgency in the event of real mishap. But most people were very casual and didn’t seem to pay attention to his call. In fact, we took it up as one of those routine drills when we are trained to use the emergency staircases to reach the ground floor.

Next minute Ahmed turned pretty serious and made us realize the importance of such a drill and how we should prepare ourselves for such a calamity. Nevertheless, he didn’t seem satisfied with the response of the people around. What was interesting in the whole exercise was the way in which he could motivate us to listen, realize the significance and involve ourselves in the demonstration. Instead of a theory class on crisis management, Ahmed used several techniques to make it an inspiring call to handle such crises in real life. Here are some points from the way he managed the whole ‘event’ successfully:

  • Loud voice on the mic and a stern tone that was audible to remotest part of our IT Park
  • Use of humor and wit right from the time he introduced himself through conducting the whole show, narration of real life stories about how people lost their lives in such incidents
  • Examples from landmark fire accidents in our country, that could immediately grab our attention and make us want to listen to him
  • Use of some key words like 'it’s not the fire that kills you, it’s the smoke and panic' lecture-demos, wherein we could comfortably view how one should handle such a disaster
  • Appreciation of volunteers from the audience and make them feel special, for instance, he referred to them with the names of celebrities
  • Professional demos on operating the fire extinguisher and dealing with casualty

It really requires some extraordinary people skills to turn an uninspiring topic like fire safety into an ‘entertaining’ show that invited public applause at regular intervals. At times, Ahmed resembled a magician who performs several feats on the stage and invites participation from the audience. This was a good example of how one can add elements of edutainment in a serious topic. Well, thirty years of experience in Fire Department is not something that can be taken lightly! On my way back home, I saw him repeating this session for other buildings in the IT park with same gusto and fervor.

Monday, June 11, 2007

OTC drugs at Medical retail outlets

Last weekend was my annual bout of cold and viral infection. It was time for me to 'update my anti-virus' with new dosage of antibiotics prescribed by my physician. Whenever I fall sick, I prefer to call the medical shop for home delivery of medicines. This time when I called up, the shop, the counter guy promptly told me that there was nobody available for home delivery and it may take hours since it was a Sunday. Nevertheless, I reeled out my list of medication on phone and told him that I’d come and collect it personally. Well, it was not all that comfortable when I had to gear up for that quick drive with my running nose, sneezes and feverish feeling, coupled with the general irritation that there was nobody around to help me avoid going out in that muggy weather.

Of late I started visiting new MedPlus retail chain, because that’s the closest to where I live. In fact, you can find at least four such shops in about 2 kilometers radius. (I'm not sure if such a mushrooming of medical outlets is a good sign keeping in view the general tendency of people to pop in a pill at their own risk)

In the shop, there were already five customers waiting for the medicines out of which only one had a valid prescription. Others were all OTC customers with 'self-prescribed' drugs. One of them was reeling out names of several tablets and capsules (most of them seemed to be vitamins and dietary supplements) and when the guy at the counter was unable to match his speed, he even helped him with the numbers/codes with which they classify the medicines. I was simply amazed at the ease with which he recollected the numbers and location of those rows of identical boxes. Perhaps, he was a regular customer and he could point out where which medicine was stored. Of course, his unusual memory helped the shop guy to speed up his search but it suggested a quite a dangerous trend - how easily people can buy various types of drugs without any formal presription from the physician! To top it, 'customer-friendly' retailing such as home-delivery and 24X7 availability also encourages people to pick any pill that they feel is right for that moment - right from vitamins to antibiotics.