Thursday, October 14, 2004

Building evacuation

This story requires a bit of lead in, so bear with me here.

As a result of the events of 9/11, I became a Floor Warden, responsible for the safety of the people here at the Help Desk. Lots of "Business Resiliency" meetings and such. It wasn't until 2003 that The City had worked out a comprehensive plan with rules for the various high-rises. One of those rules was that each year, every building over 10 stories tall must perform a drill with a full building evacuation.

Because our building was so tall, they were able to negotiate an exemption that allowed them to do two evacuation drills, each evacuating half the building. The October 2003 drill was to evacuate the half of the building containing The Bank and The Help Desk.

Except that The Bank felt they were too important to loose 45 minutes of their day. So, the email we received indicated that The Help Desk and The Customer Call Center would not be participating.

As Floor Warden, I was in a position to follow up on this and I checked with the Building Manager. He confirmed that the law states that participation is mandatory. If the alarm sounds, the building is to be evacuated. He admitted that Building Security was not in a position to enforce the mandatory evacuation and while the City Fire Marshal was fully justified in exacting fines for non-compliance, it was unlikely that he would do so. Even so, it was against the law.

I quit my position as Floor Warden immediately. I had significant ethical problems with my employer asking me to break the law and being an accomplice to that albeit minor crime.

For this year's evacuation drill, The Bank sent out an e-mail that said "All employees are strongly encouraged to participate in this drill as it is an integral part of both US Steel Tower and PNC's emergency response plans" which implies that the drill is a voluntary event. Last year's e-mails did say "mandatory" until they realized that it would bring The Bank to a screeching halt and The Management decided to ignore the law. I checked with building security and they confirmed that the law has not changed and evacuation is still considered mandatory.

So I have been lied to and asked to break the law again. The irony of having to troubleshoot user issues with a regular battery of Code of Ethics CBT modules is not lost on me.

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