I was recently selected to be the fire marshall for the tenth floor. Correction: I was selected to be the fire marshall for the tenth floor out of fifteen people. This is because I have consistently demonstrated to the building manager--I think his name is Dave--that I am capable of taking a command role in an emergency situation.
Should a fire break out anywhere in my section of the floor, it falls to me--entirely to me--to notify the proper authorities and evacuate the area to the designated stairwells and safe zones. If the building is burning down, my supervisor is counting on me to be the last one out.
I can also be called a fire warden, or, as I choose to designate myself, an Emergency Egress Coordinator (EEC). The position does not come with any sort of pay increase. But that's not why I do it.
Not anyone can be a fire marshall. In order to assume the mantle, one must complete the training. In case any of you are thinking of becoming an officially designated fire marshall for your office or other place of business, I would like to outline what the training entails.
Reading this in no way qualifies you to serve in the capacity of Officially Designated Fire Marshall.
If you have not gone through the Officially Designated Fire Marshall training, as I have, you will not be adequately equipped to handle a fire or other combustible scenarios.
The initial training seminar is led by a senior member of the Fire Department of New York. In my case, his name was Pauly. He had a mustache and a zip-up jacket that said "FDNY Hockey Team" on the right side, so you could tell right away he knew what he was talking about. He also carried a clipboard.
I'll get to that in a minute.
There were about twenty of us in the room. Different floors, departments, you get it. There are over five hundred people working in this building, though, so that means I'm in like the top 4% of employees.
"Ok. Welcome to da Fire Marshall Training Seminar. I'm glad you could all come; we got some important things we'd like to go over witchoo."
I am fairly sure he was alone, but understood that there may have been monitors, or "sleepers," interspersed throughout the assembled crowd, making sure we were paying attention. No slackers allowed in this club.
"Alright, so, we're here to tahk about fire safety. All of youse have been chosen--"
Chosen, you see?
"--as the designated fire marshalls for your areas. We're just gonna go over real brief what you should do in case a fire breaks out where you work. A lotta people don't know what to do, they make a lot of mistakes, panicky decisions, ok, that end up just gettin' in my guyses way."
He sort of jerked his head when he said that, and when he said of other things too.
"Now I'm gonna ask you a question. We got a few giveaways up here innis box, butchoo gotta raise yer hands, here. Ok. So, wassa first thing ya do if ya see a fire?"
"Pull the alarm?"
This came from someone up front who didn't raise their hand. Pauly stuck to his guns though, and didn't give them anything, even though it was the right answer. It's precisely that kind of chaos he's here to teach us to prevent.
So I got the FDNY baseball cap instead. I'm wearing it right now.
"Dats right. Now, fer da t-shirt...shit, where's da t-shirt?"
In short, more questions followed, and I learned:
- Water sprinklers don't all go off at once in the room. They go off where needed, creating a "water curtain."
- The water curtain will invariably destroy, via water damage, up to three floors of the building if not turned off right away.
- They will not be turned off right away.
- If a fire breaks out, you should cover expensive or irreplaceable items with tarps to protect them from the water.
- The water is not safe to drink.
- None of the fire extinguishers in the building contain water, as "water is usually not effective for putting out fires."
I sure learned a lot about water at fire marshall training.
Pauly also told us how to speak in appropriate fire terminology. Therefore, if you should run into an Officially Designated Fire Marshall, you may not understand him/her. I have provided a quick translation sheet. What you say on the left, what we say on the right.
The latter, when improperly handled, are likely to spread the fire. Therefore, under no circumstances are ODFMs supposed to use one.
Our training was complete when the clipboard came around. It was a list of signatures, every person's in the entire room. We were being sworn in. I felt very proud of this moment--I understood the gravity of it implicitly. My name is my bond, man. When I put my name on that paper, I made a promise to pull that alarm, get my day-glo orange and yellow vest, and start pointing people to the stairwells. Even at the cost of my own life.
God forbid the day should ever come, but I know that if it does, I won't even have to think. The training will just click in--it'll be automatic.
And I'll have Pauly to thank for it.