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.

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