Fire Evacuation #3: As Told Through Twitter

This post is not about visas, immigration or Vancouver. Well, not specifically. It’s about an event that happened this week which was amusing for a number of reasons. Being the geek that I am, I tweeted throughout this event, though found that 140 character snippets were not enough to truly convey the hilariousness of the situation. So I thought I’d expand below.

Fire alarm at 3am. Well practiced, we’re the first out from the top floor. Staring expectantly at the fire station opposite.

Yes, the event which I am refering to was the fire alarm going off in our building at 3am. Before I continue, I’ll let you know now that it was a false alarm. We had a false alarm in this building last fall, and a not so false alarm in our previous building last August. That situation was nowhere near as amusing as this one, and ended up with our apartment being used as some sort of pressure valve for smoke removal. Three middle-of-the-night fire alarms in under a year have meant that we’re pretty well prepared when it comes to evacuating the building. After waking up the boyfriend (who hadn’t heard the alarm) I ran for my hoodie, Uggs, glasses, phone and bag, while he went straight for his Macbook Pro. The anxiety caused by watching him run off into the smoke during the real fire evacuation while not wearing my glasses has now trumped my need for a shiny grey Apple product, so my MacBook Air was left safely inside. Everyone else in the building was obviously not so practiced, and we were the first people out of the front door despite running down from the seventh (and top) floor. We stood and stared at the fire station which is opposite our building, waiting to hear the bell which would be followed by engines and sirens.

It took the fire truck 17 seconds to cross the road and come to a stop outside our doors. I took a video.

It turns out you don’t need to use sirens when you’re only driving 50 metres. We’d guessed by this point that it was a false alarm, so I couldn’t help but laugh (and take a video on my phone) when the fire truck made its way very slowly across the road. More men followed on foot, and arrived at about the same time.

In true rescuer fashion, @DeadlyMovies has gone scouting around the building for clues. Or smoke. Or something.

Never one to watch and wait, the boyfriend disappeared very quickly on a recon mission of the premises. He returned a few minutes later to give the official verdict: no visible smoke or fire. Last time he did this he returned with a fire extinguisher and was a little too close to the flames for my liking, so I was glad I’d remembered my glasses to keep a close eye on him. It was around this time that I realized I may have over prepared in my rush to exit the building. It was 20 degrees at 3am and the Uggs were making my feet sweat. Nice.

Just as the building manager finally appears, we’re given the all clear (false alarm) and we begin the 3.30am step class back up to floor 7.

Our building manager lives on the first (by which I mean ground) floor, so I was surprised that it took him over 5 minutes to poke his head out of the door and see what all the noise was about. His Hawaiian shorts made me laugh almost as much as him pretending to have some kind of control over the situation. He was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes when the fire department gave us the all clear to head back inside the building. Unfortunately nobody told the elevators which were still shut off, so we slowly trekked back up all seven flights. Actually, we were staring at the floor with such concentration that we ended up climbing all eight flights to the roof, and had to turn around go back down one level. D’oh.

Now we know the sirens from the fire trucks opposite are louder than our fire alarm. The Residents’ Council can expect my correspondence.

I’m very used to the sound of the sirens and they no longer wake me up, but if I am awake I’m always surprised at just how loud they are. We can even hear the bell in the station, and count down to the first sirens. Not so much the fire alarm inside our building, which failed to wake not only my boyfriend but possibly the majority of the building. And that’s with all internal doors and the window wide open. The Residents’ Committee meet every couple of months and slide the oh-so-formal minutes under our doors; maybe I’ll send them a little something for the correspondence section next time.

Also, I think the 50 out of 500+ residents who actually evacuated should be given a prize. Which we would have if it was real, I guess.

There is no way that 90% of the building did actually sleep through the alarm, but let’s say it’s possible that 30% did. That leaves 60% who heard the alarm and still failed to evacuate. Let’s say that one person set the fire alarm off on one particular floor, so chose not to evacuate. Even if this one person did tell some others on their floor, what happened to all the rest? There’s no way everyone knew for sure that it was a drill, which means that at least a third of the building specifically chose to stay in their apartments when there was even a small possibility of the building burning down. Idiots.

And with that, fire evacuation #3 in less than a year (Real 1 – 2 Fake) is over in a little under 10mins. Goodnight Vancouver.

And then it was over. Back to bed to dream of sirens, Uggs and Hawaiian shorts. I’m very glad that it was a fake evacuation instead of a real one, but am still bemused at how fire drills keep following us around the city. As frustrating as these middle of the night disturbances are becoming, it’s good to know that when faced with potential danger, my first thought will always be my battered old Uggs.


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About MarmitetoMaple

I'm originally from the UK and have been working and living the dream in Vancouver, BC, since January 2011. I am a firm believer in travel, good cheese, volunteering and community engagement.

2 responses to “Fire Evacuation #3: As Told Through Twitter”

  1. Nicola says :

    Hi Lizzie,
    i’m Nicola from Italy and i’m writing to you because i’m thinking of moving to V. I’m looking for someone who has moved there to talk about life there. I’ll be in V. from the 14th of August.Thank you in advance if you would like to answer me you can do it at

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