Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pull It & Blue Sparks Will Shoot Out At Ya

We recently had a state-of-the-art alarm and fire suppression system installed in the rare book and manuscript library where I toil. It is complex enough that the company that made the system and folks who installed it did an hour-long PowerPoint presentation and walk through to explain what all the bells and whistles (well, actually strobe alarms) are about.

The guy from the company noted that the system is, in one respect, only as effective as the people using it are sentient, and emphasized that when in doubt, we should not hesitate to go to one of the manual pull stations and activate the damned alarms.

This, he noted with a droll sincerity, has been found to be a problem with people who went to parochial schools. A show of hands revealed that three staffers had done time in parochial schools, and he made them come up to the front of the room and pull on the lever on a display manual pull station. Hard.


He explained that a study of why some people will leave a burning building without pulling the level in a fire-alarm box revealed that they often were parochial school students where nuns had drilled into them, on threat of being rapped on the knuckles with an ever present ruler, that they were never to pull fire-alarm box levers.

To which one of my three colleagues added:

"Oh yeah, they told us that if we pulled them blue sparks would shoot out at us."

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