Don’t Panic

We had an interesting experience on Saturday.

Pauline, James and I were at a local shopping centre having a quick bite to eat when a very loud alarm started sounding. It was like a quick, loud blast on a horn every second. We started looking around to see what was going on when there was a sudden and very loud clattering sound. It sounded as if the building was collapsing. It was terrifying. We then realised that a massive exhaust fan almost directly above us had just kicked in. I think they need to get it checked if it makes that noise every time it starts.

Danger Will Robinson

Next thing, the horn blasting stops and immediately a siren starts. The warning system had gone to a new level.

The weird thing was, no one seemed to care. People were still going about their business. I kept an eye on the shopkeepers thinking that they would be able to give some direction but the guy at the donut shop was still making milkshakes and no one else really seemed concerned.

After a couple of minutes a few shops started to close their doors and then the move was on. Everyone in the centre started moving very casually towards the exits. We all stood around outside as murmurs went through the crowd that it was a fire alarm. Still, no one seemed all that concerned.

Emergency Over

Ten minutes or so later the siren stopped and people were allowed back into the shopping centre. Maybe it’d been a false alarm or maybe they’d been able to contain and extinguish a small fire. Either way, the emergency was over.

What Just Happened?

I must admit that I’ve been left wondering what the whole episode says about us. There was an alarm sounding so loudly that it couldn’t be ignored. Massive exhaust fans were adding to the effect as they whirred above us. It was more than obvious that something was not right yet most people chose to ignore the warnings and continue doing what they were doing before the warning.

As far as we knew it was a false alarm but what would have happened if we really were in danger? Were we gambling our lives on the possibility of it being a false alarm?

I’m glad that people didn’t panic and go screaming from the area but what kind of warning does it take for us to take notice? Did we have to wait to see flames racing towards us before we took notice of the warnings?

Recognising Warning Signs

I wonder what other warnings we ignore? Health? Relationship? Spiritual?

Are there clear warnings that we’re ignoring until we see the flames? Until it’s too late?

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • I know what you mean Rodney. I had a similar experience at work recently. I heard a beeping noise sort of outside my area. At first I thought it was a truck reversing. After a couple of minutes I went to investigate and find it was a fire alarm. Those who knew what it was went to the evacuation areas. People like myself slowly came outside to look. Thankfully it was a fire drill and we all returned to work in about 15 minutes!

    • Nice to know you can count on your workmates to ensure your safety in an emergency. 🙂

  • Great post for getting people thinking. I had the same experience when I worked in a big library. We used to do evacuation drills regularly so that when there really was an emergency, everyone thought it was just another drill despite the staff telling the students it was serious and that they had to leave NOW! Students were refusing to leave their laptops behind and all sorts of things, even potentially putting their safety in jeopardy (fortunately all was ok). These kinds of situations show what people value most, I reckon – material possessions, pleasure and comfort more than their own lives sometimes.

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