I hate hearing fire alarms.
I don’t just mean I hate their penetrating insistance – of course I can’t stand that! No-one can. But there is something a little more sinister behind my reasoned dislike.
I can appreciate the point to their annoyance – they’re designed so we find it very hard to ignore them… potentially saving a life when absolute attention is required. That is all fine and well.
What bothers me is when I hear fire alarms that *don’t* actually save my life, usually as part of the testing process.
This may sound very impatient of me: why not put up with the sound occasionally, for the sake of increased safety?
Well, I’m beginning to believe that there is a certain frequency of testing that actually becomes *less* safe. The problem is not so much that I don’t “put up” with the racket; but instead I am being trained to ignore it.
Ok, this might be easier to argue with some “slippery slope” argument. For example, hearing an alarm every day, or every few hours… and maybe some of you would agree with me in theory. However, I think the reality is far scarier – it is possible to train yourself to ignore the sound on far less ‘exposure’ than that. Probably weekly, possibly fortnightly, exposure is sufficient…
This may sound ludicrous. I would think so myself. But what really gets to me is that I know what has happened in my own experience: I have slept through minutes of a fire alarm drill; I have worked through a whole fire alarm test without noticing it – until the announcement came over the tannoy that “the fire alarm test is now complete”.
Oh…. “please react to any further alarms”. Yep, thanks for that! I’ll try and remember to… if I’m not too busy working, or something!
At least I’m no longer living in halls….