The fire alarm in our building was going off when I woke up this morning. It’s not hooked up to the local emergency services system; you would still have to actually call 911 to get a fire truck to show up and investigate and/or fight an actual fire. That turns out to be a good thing, because all four times it’s gone off since we’ve lived here, it’s been a false alarm. We didn’t understand how this informal system worked until a former neighbor showed us how to hit the reset button–after conducting a tour of the premises for any obvious signs of a blaze, of course.
On the one hand, you might say that it’s a bad idea to allow just anybody in the building to determine that there’s no cause for panic. On the other hand, maybe it makes sense to admit that we’re doing exactly what the “expert” might do when he arrives: looking for obvious signs of trouble, and canceling the alarm. And if there really were a serious problem, somebody with inside knowledge–say, a person who lived inside the condo that was actually on fire–would raise the alarm a second time. I wonder if the same “system” might work in a business context. If just anybody could shout down an initial panic over a project in trouble or a customer threatening to walk, would that be a good use of common sense, or do you really need expert feedback?