On a warm afternoon in April, my colleagues and I were startled when we heard dozens of sirens screaming towards our high rise building in midtown Atlanta. Looking out our windows, a brigade of first responders were grabbing gear and running towards our lobby. Right behind them, we saw biohazard suits and portable oxygen tanks being attached to people who could have been in the Dustin Hoffman movie “Outbreak.” “Wow,” we all said almost in unison, “this is not a drill.”
Being in the preparedness business, Preparis has an excellent crisis team and plan to put into action. I was the designated Crisis Leader, so in seconds, I donned my crisis vest, grabbed my mobile phone and ran down the stairwell to “read” the crisis. I immediately went up to a first responder that was barking orders. He saw my vest, came up to me, and our eyes greeted each other with a level of respect that I had some crisis training and responsibility for people in the building.
I quickly said “I’m the Crisis Leader for a company in the building. Can you tell me what’s going on?” “There’s a white powder envelop that was just opened on the 7th floor,” he replied. “Has the building shut off the HVAC system?”, I asked, as that is priority number one to keep particles from spreading throughout the building. “No” was his reply. “The property manager doesn’t know what to do.” “Has the building issued an evacuation?” I then asked, knowing that getting out of the building is the right thing to do. “Not sure” he said. I, however, knew exactly what to do and went into “react” mode for my company. I called my other Crisis Leader and issued a response to immediately evacuate the building to our primary evacuation spot (a Starbucks, of course). He took action by getting our employees out of the building and also sent an emergency notification message via text, email and voice. With his training and access to Preparis’ threat protocols, our Crisis Leader provided precise instructions on what to do during a bio threat. This all happened in under 60 seconds.
As I was heading to our evacuation area, I glanced looked up at our building as the team of hazmat suits were just starting to enter. Faces pressed against the glass, on every floor and just about every window – were people. Thousands of them. Stationary as statues, peering out their windows watching the reenactment of “Outbreak” unfold right below them. Our building provided them no information on what to do. The companies in the building did not know what to do. We were the only company that took action and I knew we would be safe.
There are so many lessons learned from this experience. Many office buildings do not know what to do (but they should). Companies in multi-tenant buildings must have the ability to take action on their own during a crisis because first responders, buildings, and the media may not provide any guidance when you need it most.
Oh, and the biohazard incident turned out not to be a lethal white powder. But the building – they became a Preparis customer shortly thereafter.
Founder & Board Director