Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > the day the town stood still – another adventure on the facilities front line

the day the town stood still – another adventure on the facilities front line

Picture a typical English market town of around 70,000 people. Like many such places it developed around a crossing of main roads north/south and east/west. To one side of the town centre the two main employers had neighbouring offices and each had satellite sites around and about.

It is a hot August day and the FM team for one of these big sites are coping with the usual issues. In their corner of the ground floor sit the three ladies who comprise the site management, one of whom has the Duty Manager hi-vis tabard draped over the back of her chair. They have just been joined by the big boss who is up for the day to talk finance with the client senior team. Their conversation continues as the Duty Manager turns to answer the telephone, but tails off as the others pick up on what is being said on the phone. They wait as the call is concluded. “We have a suspicious package at the annex” she tells the others. The well oiled machine swings into action.

Crossing the road we find that someone who has been away from the office for several days has come back to find a pile of post and messages. As he has been wading through these a colleague has mentioned one from an “Irish guy” who had seemed very anxious to establish if this was the right address and this, plus a strange padded envelope in his mail, has aroused his suspicions. He has taken the package down and given it to the security guard before explaining his suspicions and the guard has placed in carefully on the ground outside the front door before raising the alarm.

We called the Police as we evacuated the site and tried to find somewhere for 100 or so people on a scorcher of a day. The police arrived and evacuated the neighbouring building of our hosts; now we had around 1100 people to worry about as the only place we could move them to safely was our main car park. Then Special Branch arrived and closed down the block and the roads around it, including the main east/west road through the town. In the distance we could hear more emergency vehicle sirens, but they didn’t seem to be making any progress.

Then one of our runners arrived with news that we had a fire at another of our offices nearby and could we provide assistance. A phone call to them revealed that the catering team, whilst making their own lunch after completing serving the tenants, had set fire to the kitchen. Quick reactions on their part had put the fire out as far as we could tell, but we could not take a chance without the Fire Service checking things out, and the sirens we could hear were the fire engines stuck in a gridlocked town.

Military experts turned up and dealt with the package which turned out to be harmless, but we were told that we were right to have acted as we did; there was enough wrong about it to have not taken a chance. The fire brigade found a long way round and were able to confirm that there was no further danger in the kitchen down the road and the town’s roads slowly unblocked themselves.

We dealt with a couple of people who fainted in the heat, and a few bad tempered individuals, but otherwise things went well for an afternoon of simultaneous emergencies.

One of those days on the FM front line when the planning, training and practice paid for itself.

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