I don’t want to alarm anybody, but that was an alarm

I THINK it is pretty obvious by now that I spend a lot of time in shopping centres, shopping.

Don’t judge me.

On Wednesday I was in a shopping centre during the lunch rush when a fire alarm went off.


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It was a rather loud siren and a recorded voice that repeated “Evacuate the Centre”.

So the message was pretty clear: Get the hell out now!

But no one did.

Everyone kept on shopping, eating, chatting, cutting hair and ignoring the siren.

Occasionally someone would say ‘what’s that – is it a drill’ and then go back to what they were doing.

Eventually a few people started heading for the exit, shop assistants stuck their heads out their doors to see what was going on and, again, everyone went back to their business.

Finally, someone in authority must have told someone to leave the centre because the tide towards the exit increased.

A café operator came out to tell her customers they had to leave immediately – the customers that had just paid for their food which they now had to abandon.

The bank closed its big doors, hairdressers downed tools, and everyone eventually left the building.

A lot didn’t bother waiting around and there was a mass exodus from the car park.

About ten minutes later, without any explanation, first staff and then customers were allowed back in.

It was a fire drill or a false alarm in the middle of the lunch hour rush.

Either way, as a trial run it was pretty crappy.

If it was a real emergency there would have been mass casualties because no one took it seriously, there was no co-ordinated effort to get people out and certainly no urgency.

So that sucks and is a big warning about preparing people for emergencies.

And if it was a drill it double sucked because it must have cost some of those businesses money as customers left and didn’t return and diners returned to cold, exposed meals.

England and the United States, due to past tragedies, have got mass evacuation down to a fine art.

In similar circumstances, in laid back, sceptical Australia, we might be in a bit of trouble.

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