Fire Alarm and Building Evacuation, State and Jackson

Around 10:30 AM or so, things were getting along to a regular Monday start at the office… when the fire alarm went off. We’ve had drills in the building before, and on hearing the alarm most every suspected it was another “exercise,” to test the fire procedures.

Several folks began walking towards the office entrance, and began milling about. Sarah was in contact with the building staff, and we were technically supposed to wait for instructions to be broadcast over the loudspeakers. After a minute or so, Sarah conferred with the folks on the phone and we just all began walking down the stairwell.

For whatever reason, I didn’t bring my camera with me. As it slowly dawned on me that this wasn’t simply a drill and that people were being led out of the building… I began to document the process with my phone.

There were a few moments in the stairwell that made me antsy. When our company made it to the stairwell, there were already a large stream of people from the other floors, making their way down. At one point (after we got about a floor down), everything just stopped.

It stayed like that for a while, and I got a little nervous. It was difficult not to imagine a fire somewhere, and being stuck in the stairwell was not the place to be. For a moment, I had images of people pushing and shoving their way down the stairs.

On our floor, we had just gotten an alarm. On the fourth or fifth floor, the fire alarm had a semi-menacing voice that kept repeating something like: “Fire alarm has been triggered. Evacuate the building.” It may have been due to how slow everything was moving, but this voice didn’t make me feel any better. I remember thinking “Ok, I’d like to be on the ground now.”

Looking back at the intersection of State and Jackson. This is along the side of the building, with the main doors to the left of this photo. Another large firetruck was parked in front, on State Street.

I wish I would have gotten a few photos of the crowds, outside the building. As people left, we were told to move across to the other side of the street. Looking over, there were so many people standing around it looked like they were waiting for a parade to start.

Looking up, the sky was clear and no smoke in sight.

Our “meeting area” in situations like this is Chicken Planet.

Another shot of us, waiting around for the firemen to do their thing.

After a few minutes, I walked back and spoke with a few of the guards standing outside the entrance. They didn’t believe there was an actual fire, and suggested that maybe someone doing construction on the building may have tripped the alarm. But because the Chicago Fire Department was on the scene, they had to do things by the book: namely, they had to “clear” the building. I’m guessing this meant a combination of ensuring everyone was out, and also doing a sweep to make sure there wasn’t a fire somewhere on a floor.

Eventually, we were all let back in. It was only about 30 or 40 minutes total, and not too bad. Coupled with the major Blue Line delay on the way in to work, this made for a very interesting Monday morning.

DePaul Fire Escape, State and Jackson

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