Fire drill in Dubai

Early-morning wake-up lets Hfu Reisenhofer meet the neighbours

Last word, The Knowledge

Three months into my Dubai adventure and I’ve already called three different places home. The first was in JLT, the second in TECOM and now I’ve finally settled in The Greens. And after just ten days, I’ve already had my first fire drill. Safety, it seems, is high on the agenda.

Somehow, though, despite notices posted in various places around the community, I still managed to forget the alarms were due to go off – and, as a result, found myself having to evacuate the building in my pyjamas. Unlike the conventional wailing sirens I remember from school, these gave off an electronic, almost futuristic piercing sound, and would have better welcomed an attack by flying saucers. Still, the shrieks didn’t appear to unnerve the fire warden waiting at the end of the corridor, who somewhat inexplicably waved me in the opposite direction, insisting I use the fire escape furthest from my apartment.

Outside in the morning sunshine, you’d never have thought we were in the middle of a life-or-death emergency. Residents lounged under parasols, kids splashed in the pool, all seemingly oblivious to the commotion. It was then that I realised why the warden had prevented me from using the closest stairwell; doing so would have left me stranded on the other side of a padlocked gate. In a real fire, I’d have risked being burned to a crisp, but how thoughtful that he’d spared me the indignity of clambering over a fence.

Picking a shady spot, I joined another gentleman and together we waited for the arrival of everyone else. A minute passed and still it was just the two of us. Then a couple arrived and hesitantly took their places, before a mother appeared pushing her child in a stroller, but they were merely on their way to the pool. After a few more minutes the sirens went dead. The four of us stood blinking in the sunlight, noticing that fire wardens outnumbered residents by at least three to one.

Finally the head warden stepped forward and brought a megaphone to his lips. ‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,’ boomed his voice. ‘Thank you for taking part in today’s fire drill…’ As he diligently talked us through his speech, my eyes began to wander – until they settled on a third-floor balcony on the far side of the pool, where a man in boxers and a white vest was meticulously hanging up his laundry. Evidently he had more important things to do on a sunny Saturday morning.

‘One last thing,’ said the warden. ‘Please pass this important information to your neighbours and fellow residents.’ Well, if I’ve nothing better to do, I suppose I might.

Hfu is our guides and supplements editor. We’re considering making him one of the office fire marshals.

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