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Saturday, July 14, 2012

2-4-6-8, Everyone Evacuate!

Yesterday morning, I’d set up the co-worker with my MacBook Pro because his Dozebox wouldn’t open the files he needed to work on. I had two things to do, and one of them I could do on my own Dozebox, so I hooked it up and got at it. Things were going well enough, when…

braap braap braap

The fire alarm went off. They were doing some testing on Thursday, so at first I didn’t think much of it. It goes off once in a while, and usually quits after a few seconds. But, a minute later, it was still going.

“Must be a fire drill,” I said, and meandered out the door without much further thought. We’d finally got some rain here on Planet Georgia, and it was threatening more, so I stayed under the overhang just outside the door. I thought, If they’re timing us to see how quickly we clear the building, we’re failing miserably. While there were a few dozen people in the back parking lot, there were more still toiling away at their desks.

After a few more minutes, the alarm was still going. I meandered over to the other end of the parking lot where the supervisor was standing. “Hear anything?” I asked him.

“Nope.” Others were joking about what it could have been; I assumed something in one of the labs started smoking.

Finally, someone stuck his head out the door. “All clear, you can come back in,” he said. We headed inside and started chatting about one of the projects I’m working on. We hadn’t been in for two minutes when another guy came by. “Everybody out! Again!” he said. Shortly after, I heard a fire truck approaching in full howl.

Something wasn’t right. I went to my desk to get my Kindle and umbrella, then went out the side to where my car was parked. There were a couple more of my co-workers, whom I joined after putting my stuff in the car (Daughter Dearest’s car, since mine’s in the shop for a power steering issue). That’s when word started getting around: a suspicious package was delivered to the Legal department, and it spilled some white powder.

Someone came from around the front, and said the fire truck was putting some people on the roof. “Why don’t they turn off the ventilation?” I asked. Nobody had a good idea why.

One of the upper managers came by. “We’re going to be out for two hours,” he said. “After that, they might let us back in.” It was 11:15—a little early for lunch, but I did have a 1pm conference call scheduled. I decided to hole up at Johnny’s Pizza for a couple hours, because they have wifi and it’s usually quiet. I could catch up on the world, get lunch, then do some writing-related things until it was time for the conference call. But at 12:30, one of my co-workers called and said we were locked out for the afternoon. Adapting was simple: I’d simply drive home and mostly listen on the conference call on the way. But my counterparts in Beaverton figured it was best to just reschedule, so I had a quiet drive with no distractions.

I came home, got on the VPN, and pulled up mail. “The substance was determined harmless,” said the email, “come on back in.” Fat chance. I took care of things at home.

At least I don’t have to worry about my work computers being contaminated. Beyond the one that’s already contaminated with the Microsoft operating system thing.


  1. I'm glad that is was nothing dangerous, Larry. We've had threats against the county building from which our offices recently moved. All false alarms, so to speak, but it was a little scary.

  2. I'm glad the alarm was just a precautionary measure. I'm no biohazard expert, but the out-then-in-then-out again pattern doesn't sound promising as far as containing exposure, not to mention the still-on ventilation.

    Forthwith I am referring to the XP machine I use for work as a Dozebox. Excellent coinage. Until now I've written Windoze, but there's nothing "win" about it unless having to reboot to clear a frozen app at least once a day is "winning".

  3. Hi all!

    Boran, yeah, the uncertainty is the worst part. I was wondering whether I should even go home, for fear of exposing Mason. Mom used to work for a federal judge, and they'd get the occasional bomb threat too.

    Katherine, I'm guessing that most mid-sized companies have protocols for random shooters and maybe bomb threats, but haven't given much thought to bioattacks. Pulling the fire alarm to get everyone outside was a good idea, but after that they weren't sure what to do—but if there's a next time, I'll carry all my stuff out so I won't be tempted to go back in.

    Use "dozebox" with my blessings. I just don't like using the syllable "win" in conjunction with Microsoft products. In the 3.1 days, I renamed WIN.EXE to LOSE.EXE and all was truthful. ;-)

  4. Wow! That's quite a day you had. And I don't blame you one bit for not returning to work after it. If I'd gone home, I definitely wouldn't go back.


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