Flirting with Disaster

Yesterday at my day job we had a long conference call with our “Business Continuity” team.  This is the group that handles emergencies that result in the loss of our ability to do our jobs; like if a tornado wipes us off the landscape, they decide how to make sure the customers’ phone calls get answered when we can’t find our headsets… or the roof.

The purpose of this conference call was a lengthy discussion of the steps we would take in a specific emergency scenario.  We do this every year just to make sure no one is going to do anything stupid in an actual emergency.  This year the scenario was that there is a small fire in the call center, and the sprinklers go off and we evacuate on a rainy day.  While everyone is shuffling back in, we get a call from a disgruntled ex-employee who says that “The worst is yet to come” and a box marked “anthrax” is found in the lobby.

There were a lot of interesting ideas floating around, some of which would have doomed the community to catastrophic anthrax contagion.  For instance, one group said that they would want to allow people back into the building “in a controlled manner” to get their keys and their personal belongings.  Really?  If my keys and my purse were in a building that was potentially contaminated with anthrax, I would call a locksmith and go buy a new handbag.  Apparently, this other group was convinced that it would be an undue hardship on employees to be locked out of their homes.  First, almost everyone has someone in their life who also has a key to their home: a spouse, a landlord, a friend who feeds your cat when you’re on vacation.  But, if you’re an anxiety-ridden spinster who hates everyone and lives alone, you’re still probably not without resources.  Think about it: If you had to break into your own home, you would know how to do it, wouldn’t you?  Everyone knows which windows in their home don’t lock properly, or which door has a loose bolt, or (as a last resort) which window would be the easiest to replace after you throw a brick through it.

Some groups were concerned about the fact that it was raining.  If given a choice between dying of smoke inhalation and ruining your hair-do, which one would you choose?

One of the questions that came up is whether or not the management team would be tasked with questioning current and former employees about the suspect.  Seriously?  Don’t you think the FBI would handle that?  I know that everyone who has watched a few episodes of “Law & Order” or “CSI” thinks they know how to work a crime scene and conduct an interrogation.  But when it comes to determining the credibility of an anthrax threat, I’d rather leave that to the experts.

Another part of the scenario that I found funny was this:  One of the questions posed to us was what we would do about the computers that had gotten soaked by the sprinklers.  If there’s a box marked “anthrax” in the lobby, I would have bigger concerns than whether or not the sprinklers have damaged the computer equipment.  If I’m jonesing to Google how to prevent contagion during a bio-terror attack, I’ll do it from my phone.  Or, better yet, I’ll ask the folks from the FBI, local law enforcement, or the CDC who would probably be on site within a few minutes.

Next year, we could at least make the scenarios creative and fun.  For instance, what if we addressed a twelve-foot long praying mantis opening a fire door and eating people?  Or if we’d received an anonymous call that one person would die every hour unless we all called American Idol and voted for the caller’s favorite contestant?  Or what if it was Valentine’s Day and the flowers that were delivered were spraying mind-controlling spores on people (like on original “Star Trek” in the episode “This Side of Paradise”)?  Maybe Leonard Nimoy could visit us as a guest Safety Marshal.

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