In today’s world of increasing violence in places we once thought were safe, advisories regarding noting the closest exit have become commonplace. For example, movie theaters routinely show public service announcements prior to the film that contain a message about the location of all exits. I have always been on the alert for exits, regardless of where I am. I usually have an escape route planned and I am often the first person to leave a situation that seems, to me, to be “not quite right.” One of the first things I do upon entering a hotel room is to look at the map posted on the door that depicts fire exits. Having been in a hotel fire, I know from experience that it pays to locate the fire exits, even though, chances are, one will never need them. My personality is such that I am quick to “cut and run” when I am at a party that takes an unexpectedly weird turn; there have been many occasions when I left just in time (in circumstances not suitable to mention in this post!). When I am walking down a street or a sidewalk, I look around, in all directions, to ensure I can leave if someone begins to follow me or approaches me in a threatening manner. When driving my car, I have been in several situations that required me to leave quickly; I always look for a way out to avoid being blocked in by anyone. At home, David and I have a plan for where to go if our home were invaded by criminals. Far from being paranoid, having an escape route is a safe way to enhance one’s chances of survival regardless of the source of a threat.
It is difficult to expand on what Melissa has written in this blog because, to me, the concept is common sense. But, it probably isn’t in the world we inhabit today. Further, the distractions we face in crowds, or even alone with our phones or other electronic devices, limit the ability for some people to know what is going on around them, much less how to escape. We wrote about an incident in an airport and during that incident one passenger, who had on ear buds, said “What, what, what happened?” when he realized a potentially dangerous incident had occurred. I am sure he had no idea of an escape route. Some escape plans are more well considered than others, such as having a safe room at home. But, most plans are made in the moment. When you enter a room, a concert or sports venue, a parking garage, restaurant, or anywhere, knowing where the exits are as important as when you are on an airplane, only no one runs you through the drill, pointing with 2 fingers. It is every individual’s responsibility to “scope out” the place to know your options, and, depending on what they are, deciding whether even to stay in the location. And, it is important to consider the impediments to escape as well. Recently I was visiting someone at a hospital (which I’m sure would prefer to remain nameless considering what I observed). When it came time to leave, a little after visiting hours, I found that the main entrance/exit was locked; furthermore, between the exit doors (which were locked) was an easel and sign occupying most of the space. I could see no way to exit the building; there was no directional information sign to be found. A fire marshal would have a field day writing citations for that one. It is so easy to think, “what if” and realize in a fire, or some emergency, people could not easily find the exit and if they did, it was locked, and blocked. A true recipe for disaster. So, knowing the location of 1 exit may be inadequate, finding others, or ensuring that exits can actually be utilized is important as well. Keep your eyes open and be aware to stay safe.