Thursday, September 21, 2006

Minor SHTF in Philly Today

We experienced a minor SHTF event today in Philadelphia due to an electrical fire and explosion on south 15th Street, very close to City Hall. I work in a high-rise at 15th & Market, right near the epicenter. I later found out that a 36-square block area was closed off to traffic and about 5,000 people had to evac the immediate area.

Around 1300 we heard a kaboom. For the next 10 - 15 minutes everyone was wondering what had happened. At about 1315 the message was passed to evacuate the building. For some reason the fire alarm was not activated nor was the building’s P.A. system used. Rather, the floor captains were telling everyone to leave. They have Blackberries to send and receive text messages in emergencies.

Shortly after the kaboom I grabbed my stuff and made to ready to evacuate in case the order was given. I got my jacket and bag ready and shutdown one of my PCs. So, when we finally were told to leave all I had to do was to close my laptop and put it in my bag, put on my jacket, and go.

A few things disturbed me about how the whole thing was handled and I intend to (nicely) speak to our HR person tomorrow. First, within a few minutes of the kB, I saw one of our floor captains leaving the building. Considering that it’s a floor captain’s job to make sure that everyone is out, I regard this as abandoning her post. Her panicked reaction demonstrates that she’s unsuited for the role.

Our other floor captain performed his job but left his emergency bag behind, which he immediately regretted. The floor captains’ emergency bags contain stuff like a hard hat, megaphone, flashlight, etc.

Also, although we had fire drill on Tuesday, today’s event was a real cluster. Communication was fragmented, nobody responsible thought to activate the fire alarm, and no use was made of the building’s P.A. system. When people were told to leave the building they weren’t told where to go until after milling around outside for about ten minutes.

Natually, the rumors started flying immediately. The first was that the boom was due to a gas leak, and it wasn’t for awhile that we heard the true cause.

I carry some basic survival supplies in my bag: water bottle, a snack bar, small first aid kit, bandanna, Gerber Multiplier, chemlight, Princeton Tec LED flashlight, poncho, and a space blanket. I’m strongly considering adding my Yaesu VX-5RS ham radio which has wide-band receive, although I've learned that Philadelphia recently implemented a trunked Motorola system for the police and fire departments, so I'm not sure how useful it would be.

No comments: