Monday, January 19, 2015

Fire Drill of the Moment – Is Everything a Crisis?


Not too long ago, I dropped Rebecca off at school where we were greeted by a mob of students.  “That’s strange,” Bec noted, “I wonder where everyone is going.”  That night, she told me that the school had an early fire drill.  A few days later, klaxons went off at the office I work in…yes, you guessed it; we were having a fire drill.  This is an important rite of passage and an important process to learn what to do in the case of an emergency.  In a world gripped in the reality of terrorism, or random acts of violence, it is extremely important to know how to react in an emergency situation, whether in the case of a fire or lock-down mode, where to head for safety or the locations to meet in case of disaster.  We are rightfully learning to react quickly and intelligently.

In an age of instant gratification, fast food, and hyper-quick camera cuts on television and movies, have we all developed a fire drill mentality?  At work, the imaginary bells start ringing with an emergency assignment – time is of the essence and ten minutes later as you go running in with your spreadsheet printout, the perceived crises has been averted or forgotten and they greet you with blank stares.  At a club or organization, where you talk things through and plan events…all-of-a-sudden the alarms sound and everyone is in a panic as something unexpected happens.  Usually, cooler heads prevail and the situation is averted.  I have run projects over the years where someone will mention one minor negative thing to a manager that has not been closely involved in that project; that manager reaches for the fire alarm and all hell breaks loose - meetings happen, panic sets in – you would thing the end of the world is happening.  24 hours later, things progressed as planned…and the fire drill is forgotten.  Even in a social setting, someone can ask a question and “Whoop, Whoop, Whoop”, the bells toll and everyone whips out their mobile devices to get the answer – gone are days of just talking things through.

More often than not, we simply react and there is no thinking involved – we are confronted with some type of stimulus, we react then ask questions (ready, fire, aim).  It has become engrained into our brains to simply respond as quick as possible.  How can we combat this practice, which in some cases distracts us from our goals, places focus on unnecessary activities or just wastes our valuable time? 
  • Step back and take a deep breath – We all get caught up in the “hurry, hurry” moment.  We need to learn to stop and take take a step back to understand what is going on before mindlessly doing
  • Learn to ask better questions – Once we have caught our breath, it is important to fully understand what the issue is, or in many cases, why there is a perceived issue and the originating source
  • Open lines of communication – In the heat of the moment (pun intended), we forget to provide information and feedback.  This is important to lessen the chance of the fire drill
  • Identifying risks upfront – At the beginning of any project or event, vette out the potential risks and how to mitigate them so if one of them rears their ugly head, everyone knows what to do (yes, there is always a possibility of missing one or two)
  • Make sure we have all of the information BEFORE reacting

Most importantly, leave fire drills to the professionals.  Support your local fire departments and the firemen that risk their lives for the safety of us all.