A group from one of the local community colleges was scheduled to do a science demonstration involving chemicals and dry ice in the museum. A science experiment that resulted in a lot of green smoke. During MY State Fair shift on Saturday.
The lead lady from the college had apparently done the experiment in the building every year with no problem. I tried to explain my concerns involving our brand new (and highly sensitive) fire alarm (compliments of the recent renovations), but to no avail. The experiment was already underway. Tragically, I had no authority to trump this decision, and my boss wasn’t answering his cell phone.
Museum security recommended that I contact the Fire Marshall. Unfortunately, no one in the Fire Marshall’s office answers their phone on the weekend over at the City of Dallas. So, I called 3-1-1 instead, and explained the situation to the operator:
Me: “Hi, yes. My name is [Deals] and I work at the [blah, blah, blah museum]. An experiment that will result in a lot of green smoke is currently underway in the museum’s lecture hall, and I am concerned that it will trigger the fire alarm. I do not have the password to put our building on “test” with our alarm monitoring company, and was wondering if there was any way I could preemptively alert the Fire Department to the situation so they don’t respond to a false alarm? I already tried to call the Fire Marshall’s office, but no one is in the office today.”
Operator: “How about calling 9-1-1?”
Me: “Well, since it is not an actual emergency, I do not want to disturb them. Plus, they don’t have the time to filter calls that may or may not be an actual emergency.”
Operator: “Hmmmmm. Interesting problem. Let me see if I can find someone to better assist you. Hold please.”
After approximately 5 minutes on hold: “9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
Me: “Whaaaaat? Oh, no! 3-1-1 just transferred me to you! I don’t have an actual emergency. I’m just trying to get advice on a potential fire alarm!”
The 9-1-1 operator was very patient and did his best to help me – all the while he was taking ACTUAL emergency phone calls (I actually heard him give advice to the son of a woman with chest pains. CHEST PAINS!). I finally made him get off the phone with me, because I felt so guilty I was taking up his time. Plus, I had no real emergency. Just the potential for a fire alarm in a crowded public facility mere hours before the Grambling/Prairie View game.
About this time, one of my coworkers stopped by briefly to finish up some paperwork for an upcoming fundraiser. As luck would have it, the facilities manager had given her the password for the alarm monitoring service the day before, and she happily handed it over to me. As a result, I was able to call and put the system on “test” for half an hour around 2:15.
Good thing, too, because the fire alarm was triggered at 2:42 – mere minutes before our “test” half hour was up. I called back and extended our “test period” before running upstairs to see about silencing the alarm.
The smoke was SO thick, though, that the museum’s newly installed sprinkler system kept trying to activate. Lucky me got to stand in the security closet and push the “reset” button every 15 seconds in an attempt to keep the sprinklers from going off and flooding the lecture hall. And – just so you know – it took almost an hour for the smoke to clear out enough to quiet the system. That is a lot of button pushing. I felt like I was on the TV show LOST.
Additionally, I had not one but TWO toilets in the building start violently flushing without stopping. Since the museum’s plumbing system is ancient, there is always a threat of flooding when this happens. The public, however, doesn’t take too kindly to OUT OF ORDER signs. I actually got yelled at about it on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to say, “Yes. I closed this stall on purpose because I am a cruel and evil person. Now, deal with it and get back in line!”
And, thanks to the chemical smoke, everyone who worked in the building got a pounding headache, which, of course, made me and everyone else a picnic and to work with. It is amazing I made it through the day with killing somebody. Because I was on the verge several times.