I enter the Egas Moniz Building and stand by the security room, watching what will happen in a few minutes.
We are starting January and nothing better than raising people’s awareness that, although at midnight of 31 December to 1 January only good wishes are given, bad news does not happen just with other people. The invitation to attend all procedures comes from Dina Rodrigues, the coordinator of the Technical Office – Built Area and Sustainability and sub-delegate of the Egas Moniz Building, who believes that there is a vast communication work that needs to be done with the academic community.
Soon, we will experience a fire drill, suitably agreed between teams, whose functions are exercised if there is a general alarm.
Hélder Francisco is in charge of the security team, and Inácia Pereira accompanies him. Each signal will lead to a reaction. The security room serves as a checkpoint where all steps are coordinated and previously agreed procedures are carried out.
People continue to enter and leave the building. In the background, there are several students with their books open. A small group passes by, and, seeing the movement, it realizes that there will be some drill and asks if the test in the auditorium will take place after all. What would all these people do if suddenly there was a big fire? Would they know how to react? Would there be coordination among people who have had first aid training? What does one do when the general alarm sounds? All these questions are intended to be answered in the face of a drill that is carefully evaluated by INERCO (a company that trains and monitors the entire drill) and a group of observers.
I sit down with security guard Inácia and we talk while there is no reason to react. An alarm sounds. Nothing happens in the next few seconds. Security guard Hélder reacts to the emergency sound and at the same time the phone that is only activated in an internal emergency rings. The 112 of the Faculty has its own number; for those on the premises, it is 49112, and for those who call from the outside or do not have the extension nearby it is 21 798 51 12. A fire broke out in one of the areas of the Faculty, the IFA (Institute for Advanced Training).
The security team splits up. One of them remains in the control room and immediately calls the security chief officer, Nuno Santos, Professor at the Faculty and one of the main researchers at the iMM - João Lobo Antunes (Institute of Molecular Medicine). Are you sure about this information? No one answers that number. A second contact is attempted, in these procedures there is always a succession line of people, one of them will pick up the call.
It is the responsibility of the security chief officer, with the support of the security officer, in this case Professor Ana Sebastião, to make the decision to let the general alarm sound, after validating that it was a danger situation, remaining in the security room as the guiding element of all teams. Each area of the building has Evacuation, Intervention and First Aid teams, each with a specific function and each one is assigned a specific responsibility. The Evacuation team takes on the responsibility of sending people outside and ensuring that the areas are empty; the Intervention team will act on the event, using the procedure appropriate to each case (in this case using a fire extinguisher); and the First Aid team is prepared to provide first aid to potential victims.
But it is a drill and not all alarms work effectively. However, people had been informed that it would take place. Slowly or faster, they leave the building, exchanging greetings and wishing people a happy new year. As it is, for many it is their first meeting in January.
Someone comes to the security room’s window, “I have come to deliver a package”, to be told that “our system is completely down, no equipment is working”. Security guard Inácia tells the delivery person to be patient, explaining that no more people or packages are allowed in as the system is down and that he will need to wait a few more minutes, “this is a sign that the security system is working”, she explains to me.
The groups leave through different doors depending on where they are and everyone knows that they are going to the nearest meeting point, which is always on the street, in a place considered to be at a safe distance from the building. Those responsible for the groups are exchanging views on what they would do in a real situation, “who would call the students who are sitting at tables at the back of the room? Who is with them?”. After the initial non-response, someone says that he has the final role of "sweeping the entire space" to see if there are people left inside.
The building is empty, silent, as if its own soul has come out. Inside, the last views about the drill are written down. They can be improved and for this reason they will be repeated a few days later, this time in the Central Building together with the CHLN-HSM. This is its real role, testing more than once a procedure which, even if it is not real and with prior notice. After all, it is out of the general rehearsal that the perfect improvisation is born.
The drill is over and the groups come back following the permission of the security chief officer. Few people had refused to leave, they knew it was a drill. But what if one day it is not, will the procedure be as quiet as those who have rehearsed repeatedly?
This year will be demanding with regard to safety measures and the Technical Office team will continue to play its role. And each one has his own, on this side it has the responsibility to warn, in case of emergency, the team that has been rehearsing so that nothing fails.
Do you still remember the telephone numbers?
In case of emergency call:
49112 or 21 798 51 12