Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Earthquake tremor experience

For context,
CNN: Deadly quake off Sumatra
BBC: Quake off Indonesia

This was just a collateral tremor we felt in Singapore.

It was around 11:50 AM. I had just finished a morning meeting and sat down to checking the 60 emails I got overnight when the swaying started. First I thought it was just my chair rocking. But strange, as my chair should not rock this long, especially as I was sitting still, trying to sense what is happening. Then saw people looking around perplexed. And then the swaying started again. This time it was scary. You could feel the whole building swaying. This was not a minor sway. This was major fear-inducing sway. And it went on and on for more than 10 secs...

It is a really weird feeling in your head when you stand up in the middle of a quake. Your head feels unbalanced. A colleague immediately said its a quake because he had been in one earlier and got the same feeling in his head.

Many things flashed in my head -
-- If I take the elevator down, and the shaft buckles, I am fucked. No one will come to rescue as they will all be busy running out
-- I wonder what it feels to have a ton of concrete crashing on me
-- If the building crashes, will it go down or spill sideways? Which way will I tumble?
-- Should I lock my desktop before running?

Still hesitated a bit. The swaying was still continuing, but nobody wanted to make the first move out. A colleague said lets go, and like cowards both of us went first to the fire exit. Apparently we were the first ones in the whole building to rush down. Everybody else was too busy trying to look calm and nice. Fuck that. I want to live!!

Then the rush started to get down 8 levels. I slowed down a bit. If the building comes down now, I am gone anyway. People overtook. When I reached the ground floor, found that people were trying to kick open the street exit door. It wouldn't budge. Everybody then rushed up 3 levels to go into the lift lobby to take the elevators down. No elevator came for 2 mins.

Somebody was calling building management on the mobile asking why the street exit door wouldn't open. I asked people around why the door hadn't opened. Somebody told me it was locked and there was no key. Fuck Fuck Fuck... Nobody had realised there is an emergency button you have to press to open this. Also, how the hell did somebody ever have building management in their mobile phone address book!!

So off I run down with a small pack behind me, and break the glass to the door emergency button. The alarm shrieks, the door opens and we are out!! Free!! But still skyscrapers all around. And in the whole CBD area, there are no open spaces. Fucked again!!! Anyway nowhere to escape. Might as well stay where we were.

I called my team to make sure they had all got out.

Then it was lunch time already. And there didn't seem to be any more swaying. Time for some nutrition and beverages... Cant go to any indoor food place in case some aftershock happens again. So 3 of us started the long walk to the only single-story food place within some distance. Once there, found a table near the exit and sat down with some food and an exit plan.

Lessons learned
-- If you think there is a quake, and you get a weird feeling in your head, go. Just go.
-- I know how to break the emergency button glass now. Actually these are plastic, not glass.
-- No point locking your PC before running.
-- Fire drills and earthquake drills have to be different. People react differently in these 2 situations. People will be saner in a fire than if they think the building is swaying
-- Sometimes, all these Biz Continuity Plans (BCP) that we have in DB Singapore make sense

In the morning, around 10 AM, my boss had called me on my mobile as part of a BCP scenario rehearsal.


Nishith said...

The weird feeling in the head was indeed a unique experience. Continued to have that buzzing shaking feeling for almost a minute. Is that buzzing experience related to EarTones?

Arun said...

In the news yesterday, a lot of people referred to being giddy. So its a common feeling during earthquakes.

I think it is because your sense of balance is determined due to fluids within the ear. So when you start shaking without warning, the brain gets confused and you feel giddy