Yes, I have an opinion on fire alarms.
When I was a relatively new employee in my current position, we had a fire drill. No big deal, I grew up going to public schools, so I’ve seen a hundred or so of these in my lifetime. This time was a little different because I was in the bathroom. So, I walked out of the bathroom and the pulsating screeching noise of the fire alarm was kind of making me confused. It was just an overwhelmingly loud noise and it destroyed my ability to think clearly.
I was just getting accustomed to the building layout and I have a naturally bad sense of direction, and that’s why this next part really screwed with my mind: the doors that are normally open were all shut automatically as part of the emergency state that the building goes into. So I expected to see a hallway and it was not there! I saw doors. As I struggled with my horrible sense of direction trying to think if I was really going the right way or not, the screech of the fire alarm kept screwing me up.
What if this was a real fire? I can easily see how people can panic just from the noise alone. Moreover, communicating with people during a fire drill is next to impossible because you cannot hear anything except the screech of the alarms.
So let’s say that someone with my sense of direction has a phobia of small spaces, or fire, or just plain doesn’t handle stress very well, or has epilepsy (remember the flashing strobe light on the fire alarm?) … how can this person navigate their way out of an unfamiliar building? They cannot talk because of the deafening alarm noise, they cannot think straight because of that same noise, they cannot find where to go because every door is shut, and they are going into a seizure because of the strobe lights.
I actually think that fire alarms, the way they are now, are very detrimental to one’s ability to escape a building. Furthermore, why are the exit signs up high where the smoke would be? Shouldn’t they be built into the walls at a low level? Maybe just a small arrow would suffice.
These are just my thoughts on fire safety. Most people, I have found, take it for granted and don’t think about it. Personally, I see room for improvement that could save a life or two, or more.