I had difficulty sleeping and was awake when the alarm sounded.
So like a typical Singaporean, I just lay in my bed and just expected it to be just a false alarm.
I mean... That's what usually happens at shopping centers and other places right?
We hear the fire alarm, then we hear an announcement "The fire alarm has sounded, we are investigating the situation."
So I lay in my bed for around 3 minutes, expecting to hear some announcement. Some of the staff stay in the apartment complex so I was pretty sure someone would be looking into this.
3 minutes later, I decided to get up to check out the situation. I opened the main door and heard some noises. No one around the corridors. I thought, "Ok, probably someone else who got up and also investigating what's happening."
The alarm was still ringing.
Then I opened my window blinds. No bright lights, no smoke, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary.
BUT... I saw groups of people walking down the stairs.
WOAH!!! Not just one or two people. A steady stream of people were evacuating the apartment complex.
So I asked my wife to get up to evacuate as well.
So we walked down the stairs, bumped into a couple of other people who were getting out of the building as well. And we just basically got out of the building and hung out at an open area just outside of the building.
Some people got into their cars and drove down the multi story car park and parked in a big open air space.
After a couple of minutes, the security patrol from the nearby shopping center arrived to check out the situation.
(There's a shopping center nearby and they have security patrol 24 hours a day.)
A flashing fire engine appeared.
Seriously... It was a big, bright fire engine with the lights flashing.
We continued to hang outside for maybe 20 minutes or so. Then the fire engine started backing out of the driveway. And so we concluded that there was nothing really wrong and everyone just went back to their apartments.
So what lessons did I learn from this incident?
Well... things are different in US and in SG.
Are we too complacent in SG?
Fires occur regularly in the US. So the people will naturally just evacuate to be safe.
Chances are, the fire alarm is linked to the fire department. So the fire engine just came once the alarm sounded.
Whereas I think in SG, we will tend to wait for further instruction before doing anything. Maybe even in shopping centers the management needs to call the 995 before a fire engine is sent.
Which I think is a bad habit. Never know... even the instruction to wait by an "authority" might be the wrong instruction.
Remember what happen in the Sewol incident? Teachers, who were supposed to know better, told the kids to go back to their rooms, which resulted in many of the students getting trapped and drowning in their rooms.
After we got back to our rooms, we wondered... Maybe the folks who evacuated with their cars might be on to something. Maybe they had an emergency kit in their cars already and they just need to drive out and they would have resources, clothes, food, water, etc.
However, of course driving down might take longer than just running down the stairs.
We did note that we were definitely inadequately prepared for the situation.
We should at least have a bag ready to grab with money, our passports, and maybe a set of clothes already packed. Which is worth preparing.
Cos IF there's any real emergency, we'll need to have money and our passports with us. Then maybe we need to stay at a hotel for a couple of days, we need some clothes to change. Before we are able to go out and buy new clothes and such.
So even though the fire alarm was a false alarm, probably some malfunction, it made me think about how to react to such a situation.
Cos I think in SG, I really take it for granted. I probably wouldn't have evacuated the place and waited for further notice if I didn't see other people evacuating as well.
And for me, that was very risky. I need to be better prepared next time.
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