First responder: Fire alarm, iffy emergency exit doors

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s gone I’m putting the details on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can read the details.

November 6: P2000 warning

Within Netherlands any ambulance/fire department call is sent via the P2000 system. There’s various sites and apps which make that information easily available. I have one of these apps on my phone.

I noticed a Ambulance P2000 message for our postal code. The postal code could either be our building, or the one under construction next door. Until a few years ago P2000 would give the exact address, but due to privacy reasons nowadays it’s only the postal code. I ask security if there’s something. They’re not aware but they’ll monitor more closely (possibly ask around, e.g. reception might be aware).

A bit later security sees an ambulance arriving for the building under construction. The ambulance has difficulty getting to the right location due, for a while security was still under the impression it might be for our building. The building next door had various vans and construction stuff incorrectly being placed on the road. Things they should not have there, though they could’ve and should’ve cleared this while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

November 11: Fire alarm

In the morning security had a talk with the construction crews next door about all the vans and so on blocking the road. Reoccurring problem mere days after their ambulance incident. This time they blocked way more of the road. Even the place near the goods elevator was blocked (registered fire department arrival location, plus where we direct all ambulances towards).

At 13:23 an automatic fire alarm for our building. Various people respond via walkie talkie. The location normally would require walking (running) up 7 floors; unfortunately this time I was on 6th floor. Arriving on the floor various indicator lights are indeed on, plus I meet various other first responders, plus security (who happened to be near the affected floor). We’re 4 in total.

The fire detector is located in a shaft. Opening this up requires special keys. Interestingly enough 3 out of the 4 responders are the ones who carry such keys. We open the shaft after doing a door check. The detector is one which detects smoke (security advised this); so it’s not the usual temperature sensitive one. The shaft itself is very warm, but there’s also some heating equipment in there. The heat combined with a detector which only responds to smoke gives us a suspicion that the heat is not indicative of anything. Despite that, there’s no indication of a reason for the detector to go off.

Two (me + another) are sent to investigate lower floors. We check one floor lower. Again we follow door procedure, accidentally open the wrong shaft, then the right one, nothing aside from heat. We try again another floor down, shaft is way cooler but nothing can be found. After communicating the latest finding we’re asked to regroup. After regrouping we decide to investigate the floor above.

On the floor above we notice some renovation going on (security is aware). But also an opened elevator shaft and some running equipment near that shaft. Opened shafts are very dangerous, it would allow any fire to easily spread within the building. This happened to a building 300m from our location.

As first responders this is the end of it. It was a fun exercise. Security however is not amused (understatement). Due to various rules no evacuation sound went off. Due to the fire detector being in a shaft any additional detector would’ve resulted in the automatic and legally unstoppable evacuation of the entire building.

As common in pretty much any bigger building, the fire detectors are linked to the fire department. After the detector went off the fire department call centre allowed us to investigate. There was some communication mishap in that call centre. While we were investigating the fire department crew showed up, lights and everything. This was quite visible for the next doors construction crew.. the ones who keep blocking the road. This was entirely unexpected, so it took a bit of time to talk to the fire department crew. The crew was however more than happy to wait for our investigation to be finished.

Iffy emergency exit doors

In case of a fire people are supposed to use the emergency stair cases. If you open any of such doors anywhere in the building security is immediately notified. This is for safety reasons; maybe something is wrong, there’s a real evacuation going on and it’s not something caught by the fire detectors or a call to security.

These emergency doors can also automatically unlock. Due to age, all over the building these doors are now automatically unlocking often. Leading to all kinds of false positives for security. A bit like a testcase failing because the hardware running the testcase is faulty.

I get asked a few times to manually close a few doors. A few times I notice. Many other times I do not notice the walkie talkie communication, nor my office phone or mobile being called. Oops.

I’m wondering if I can make calls from numbers to always be noisy. I often use vibrate/silent mode instead of e.g. do not disturb.

Eventually the problem is mostly fixed. It required the right company coming down various times.

First responder: chest pain, evacuation, medical emergency, strange smell, person stuck in elevator, stuck elevator

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s gone I’m putting the details on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can read the details.

Beginning of July: chest pain

On a Monday in July I retrieve my pager from security office. After chatting for a bit one mentions something about parking level 1. I head to my desk. Not 5 minutes later I hear via walkie talkie two security people discussing the need for assistance to bring “the bag” to parking level 1. This likely refers to the first aid backpack; it’s filled mostly with all kinds stuff that’s never used though it also contains an AED. The evasive way of asking for the bag probably means that they’re with the person and they’re trying to avoid any additional stress to the person. Conclusion is that the person is conscious and the security person fears an heart attack. I could either a) take an AED from my office floor and directly go to parking level 1, or b) first go to security office, pick up the bag, then walk to parking level 1. Option b is slower but is safer (though maybe I assumed too much), plus the backpack hides the AED. I confirm I’ll respond, then take a few moments to decide what to bring (phone, screwdriver, bright vest, jacket).

Arriving to parking level 1 the person is very hesitant to get any additional help. Security (first aid trained) is with the person and trying to keep him calm. Person looks off, though difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. Status is chest pain, known heart troubles. We take a moment to convince the person that help is needed (to avoid stress). Finally we’ve convinced the person that help is definitely needed.

Calling 112 was interesting and lasted 4 min 33 secs (!). I mention being at address Hertekade 35. 112 responds that they’re aware of the person in the water at Prins Hendrikkade. Wtf! I mention it’s incorrect, followed by sharing the streetname a few times more. However, the person in the water results in loads of first responders heading towards that location and right past our building. It’s pretty difficult to communicate. Eventually they ask me for the postal code. I know the one for Boompjes (3011 XB), not for Hertekade (3011 XV). Hopefully they’re the same. Turns out it’s not. Eventually the street name is known by 112. Followed by loads of questions. Eventually they mention they’re sending an ambulance. I share this via walkie talkie (“ambulance coming to Hertekade”). This as at Hertekade we can easily get the stretcher into the building, at Boompjes there’s not even a place to stand still. I overheard communication of people being directed towards Boompjes.

A few of the regulars are off on vacation. Others seem to not really respond, which is a bit off as I’m pretty sure they listen to the walkie talkie. We could send a pager, but then we’d have loads of people. Only a few are needed. I think we need to discuss that any person should always just “show up” in case they hear something no matter if they’re specifically requested or not.

Ambulance shows up and the stretcher is guided to parking level 1. The ambulance people start making jokes even before they arrive to the person; I gather they picked up me being annoyed/stressed with the whole 112 call. Oops. I try to calm down. Further, might be a good idea for the ambulance crew to play poker with regular people. ūüėČ

Ambulance crew investigates the person and decide to take the person with them. It always mixed feelings when this happens; not nice that the person is not well, but it does make me feel good about our policy of calling 112 even when it might be a minor thing. This time they took a person, so it’s ok if another time they come for something trivial… though seems it’s usually other people calling for non-ambulance related things.

As a consequence of this incident security checked the walkie talkie relay. The communication was a bit difficult despite trying a few walkie talkies. Secondly, we need to show the postal code in all the places we have the address for 112.

What happened after

Normally I do not hear (nor ask for) anything which happens after an incident. This because of privacy; if they maybe ever tell me, ok. I won’t ask though as maybe they’d feel forced.
Various months after above incident I heard that the person went home and was still at home. Needing to convince someone that it’s ok to call 112 results while actually it was a really serious impact to their life.

Security mentioned they heard another person also who went to 112 in another country, also chest pain. That was around the same time as the incident I responded to. The other person (in the other country) was so serious they didn’t allow him to move out of that country (too big of a risk). As a result, the person was also out for months.

Yearly evacuation

End of September the yearly evacuation drill was held. I was on vacation during that time. Another very experienced first responder was also not in the office. The evacuation seemed to go pretty much ok. Apparently it took one group a while to figure out how to use the walkie talkie. I’m pretty happy with this; I tried before to do a bit less during a drill so others could learn.. but not acting is quite difficult.

The drill included two “fake” people who pretended to have a medical emergency. One pretended to have trouble walking, the other was shaking on the ground (seizure). These were handled well. We have quite a few first aid trained people who usually (and unfortunately) do not participate in the evacuation drill. Hopefully they’ll participate in future.

Medical emergency

On the day of this incident I was chatting with security. They mentioned that the goods elevator was out of order. Normally that would be a very critical to the building as the goods elevator is also the elevator used by the fire department. No working elevator apparently means the building cannot be used. Since a few years, the building setup another elevator to be usable by the fire department (emergency power and some other stuff). That other elevator is much more of a hassle due to the way less convenient location and lack of accessibility from the road. The goods elevator is perfect for either fire department and especially great for ambulances.

The medical emergency happened during lunch. I had my pager with me but not my walkie talkie. My pager didn’t go off so I missed the entire thing. The reception within the building is poor, so there’s 11 signal boosters within the building to ensure a good reception. As a result the pager range outside of the building is pretty impressive. It’s the first time I managed to not receive a page, despite having the pager on me. The range is easily 1 or 2km.

A person in the building forgot to take some pills. As a result the situation deteriorated so much that a) taking the pills wouldn’t be enough b) they could only be helped by 112. The person informed the first responders within the company. They gathered, called 112, then security as well. Security asked for assistance via walkie talkie. After not getting a quick response they sent a pager. Another really active first responder works for the same company as the person needing 112. That first responder ran from their lunch back to the building when he was the pager going off. Meanwhile, the other first responders were pretty much ready.

Once the ambulance arrived they were taken to the relevant floor using the goods elevator. The elevator mechanic worked all morning to fix it; he fixed it and less than 10 minutes later security got the medical emergency call.

Security apparently had nothing to do and sent a picture of goods elevator camera to me as well as a first responder colleague (same one who missed the evacuation drill). I guess this was mainly to make fun of us missing an incident, we’re both are quick to respond to any incident.

Strange smell

Via the walkie talkie I heard security talking about a strange smell. I heard one of the security guys going up to investigate. As I was not busy with work, plus it’s been a while since I had to respond to an incident I mentioned I was joining (why ask if you can tell).

We checked the area itself, various ventilation shafts, different floors, etc. There’s some renovation going on but security already checked those and the work was already stopped an hour before. We checked those floors again but couldn’t find anything. I tried a few tricks to

What might’ve happened is that the smell took quite a while to reach the other floor. Within a big building the air doesn’t really go from one floor to another. It might first go to air filtration system, then eventually to another floor. Those floors might not be close to each other. To properly investigate you need knowledge on which floors are on the same air filtration system.

Security specifically mentioned multiple times to multiple people that they’re really happy to investigate and despite not finding anything to please keep calling no matter if they’re not sure. This is similar to us always calling 112 even if we’re in doubt.

Person stuck in elevator

On October 31 (“Halloween”) first responders had their yearly refresher training. This time I arranged space (2 combined meeting rooms) for this. The first responders are from various companies. By hosting the training at my company I get the benefit of additional first responders who have knowledge of our office layout. This as the layout can differ hugely per floor and/or company. I warned the trainer and most of the first responders that we would have a party starting 16.00 and that it might get a bit loud.

The party was for Halloween (not common to do in my country). Late in the afternoon the first responders somehow got notified that someone was stuck in an elevator. Interestingly, one of the first things they did is try and contact me. I forgot my walkie talkie and didn’t notice. They also tried my phone, but with lots of loud talking, didn’t notice. So a few went out of the meeting room and responded. Thereby passing me.

The person was stuck on a level without any outside doors (this building has an “interesting” design). The person was also very stressed, they called various times within 5 minutes. Normally we’d stand outside and calm them down. In this case you couldn’t really reach. In the past building security would override the elevator and move it manually (similar to an elevator mechanic). They’ve been trained on how to do so by elevator mechanics. But due to an incident security stopped doing this. Mostly because they want to know who is responsible in case they make a mistake. The lack of any answer results in security limiting themselves to some basics.

Security raised an priority incident with building management, which included details about the stressed person inside. Building management immediately raised an incident to yet another company. Eventually that other company raised it with the elevator mechanics company. The elevator mechanics were quite unhappy with the amount of delay. For one it’s wasted time, secondly they were initially quite close by.

Stuck elevator

The day when I went home I noticed security at the elevators. Apparently an elevator was stuck. I joined security to respond. No notification was performed on either the pager or via walkie talkie. As I was leaving the office I also didn’t have any walkie talkie with me.

I joined security to the elevator maintenance room. Apparently there’s even an indicator light nowadays to determine if the elevator is exactly at a floor level. If the elevator is not exactly at a floor level there’s a chance that the person would try to get out and fall down the elevator shaft. Security already checked the elevator and saw that nobody was inside (that or unconscious).

Security first turned on the elevator shaft lights, then turned off the power. After that we went down to where the elevator was. The elevator doors were still close together (maybe 1 cm apart). Normally if there was a person inside they’d immediately respond to the doors “unlocking” by pushing the doors open. Strangely the inside lights were off. Turning off the power usually still keeps the lights inside the elevator on.

This was the day after a person was stuck in an elevator. Apparently the day before first this elevator got stuck, then later in the day the other elevator got stuck with the person inside. The security person who had the evening shift (and not a regular) was a bit nervous as a result and went over the procedure with the other (regular) security person.

Domotica because mosquitoes


To combat mosquitoes I once had a mosquito net. Those nets are usually awful; they hang from one point in the middle and then extend over your bed. Meaning that your bed turns into a cramped igloo tent. One exceptional hot week in The Netherlands resulted in some mosquitoes bites. The refreshed mosquito annoyance resulted in the discovery of rectangular mosquito nets, see e.g. this example product (I bought a different one btw). It basically adds straight walls and a ceiling around your bed. The net can be removed pretty easily once summer is over. It’s a pretty cool solution with two drawbacks: a) difficult to combine with a ceiling fan b) difficult to combine with a hanging lamp.

A fun solution to the lamp problem is to replace the light with remote controllable LED panel, mostly because why not. And so the lamp was replaced with an Ikea LED panel after which the rectangular  mosquito net was installed. The LED light is remote controllable. You get a pretty cool remote control with it, one you can install against a wall but is magnetic so you can still take the remote control with you. The Ikea LED light uses a communication protocol called Zigbee. This protocol is one of the various home automation protocols out there. The decision for buying the Ikea LED panel was mostly made because of interest into Zigbee.

Communication methods/protocols

For personal use the most common home automation methods/protocols seem to be:

  • Zigbee
    As mentioned. It works around 2.4Ghz (has multiple channels). Battery efficient. Mesh network. It should support a huge amount of devices, though range is less than Z-Wave Plus. Range could also be restricted due to interference with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi .
  • Z-Wave Plus
    Similar to Zigbee. It works around 900MHz, exact frequency differs per region. Battery efficient. Also uses a mesh network. There’s a huge amount of devices using Z-Wave Plus, though they tend to be more expensive than any other method. Due to using 900MHz it goes through walls easier than e.g. Zigbee or Wi-Fi.
  • Wi-Fi devices
    They mostly use 2.4GHz and support slow Wi-Fi b/g/n. Most of these devices use a chip called ESP8266. These devices are often not as power efficient as Zigbee/Z-Wave Plus so seems this is not a good choice for anything battery operated.
  • 433MHz
    Various devices work on the frequency 433MHz. They’re usually battery efficient, though (it seems?) there’s no real standardized protocol so aside from the frequency it depends on the service. A lot of the cheap ‘turn all these lights on/off’ use this frequency.
  • MQTT
    This is purely a protocol like e.g. HTTP or SSH. Its origin is from 1999. It doesn’t define how the data is transported (e.g. wired or wireless xx G/MHz), purely focusses on the protocol.


Although a few methods use encryption it doesn’t mean that they’re secure. E.g. Zigbee apparently is NOT secure against replay attacks, though the newer Zigbee v3 should be. The Wi-Fi devices by default are often “cloud connected”. The 433Mhz devices lack any encryption and it’s quite easy to influence things. MQTT has authentication and it could use encryption but appears it’s often not available on devices. Without encryption probably anyone on the same network can just use a network sniffer to capture the MQTT login details. The list of security issues is pretty extensive. It’s best to always assume someone could takeover anything connected to any Domotica which has wireless functionality. Same for a wire but at least it requires slightly more effort.

Free software

There’s various free software available for Domotica. A list of a few nice ones:

  • Home Assistant
    Tries to ensure it’s NOT “cloud connected”. You need a Raspberry Pi or some 24/7 on machine to run this on. This software supports loads of devices, including loads of Zigbee hubs, MQTT, Z-Wave Plus controllers, etc. There’s for easy installation on a Raspberry Pi.
    Aside from Home Assistant there are loads of alternative free software options.
  • Tasmota firmware
    Alternative firmware for ESP8266 devices. It seems pretty much all Wi-Fi b/g/n-only devices have an ESP8266 chip in them. The Tasmota firmware is NOT “cloud connected”, though it does rely somewhat on the internet, e.g. NTP for time synchronization. It adds support for MQTT, KNX, rules, timers, etc. The rules and timers would allow you to have the ESP8266 device itself know when to do something instead of having Home Assistant telling the device to do something.
    The big drawback is that it’s not easy to flash this firmware on most of the ESP8266 devices. It usually means taking something apart, soldering, etc. Fortunately the firmware is able to auto update itself making it a one-off hassle.
    Aside from Tasmote I noticed a few other similar ESP8266 firmware options, each with their benefits and drawbacks. Tasmota seems the most used/popular.
  • Zigbee2mqtt
    This software consists of two parts: One part is the real Zigbee2mqtt software, the other part  is firmware.
    The combination of both bits allow you to directly control Zigbee devices instead of needing to rely on the various Zigbee hubs. Often a Zigbee hub can only control a limited amount of devices, usually only within the same brand. Zigbee2mqtt supports way more devices than most of the Zigbee hubs. It then transforms this into MQTT.
    The drawback is that you need various components plus some tinkering, though the website explains what to do quite well. The site suggests to use a CC2531 chip, though I prefer the CC2530 chip. This as the CC2530 allows you to use an antenna. The CC2531 is easier to use and has an integrated antenna (worse range, 30m line of sight). I highly prefer a better range (60m for CC2530). Hopefully within 6 months better chip solution will become available.
    Another drawback is the limited amount of devices directly supported by the CC2530 or CC2531 chips. After 20-25 directly connected devices you might run into issues. To use more devices you’ll to have some Zigbee routers. It’s best to plan this ahead and plan for some non-battery operated Zigbee devices (Zigbee routers).
    For using Zigbee2mqtt, one possibility would be to have a chip with Zigbee2mqtt connected to a Raspberry Pi (or any other device with Home Assistant), another option is to combine it with a Wi-Fi chip and operate it independently.
    Aside from translating Zigbee to MQTT the firmware also allows you to create a Zigbee router. This to extend the range of your Zigbee network. The cost of such a router is only a few EUR at most. Easier solutions are either any Zigbee device connected to electricity (most are then a router), or a signal enhancer from Ikea for 9.99 EUR,.


I noticed a few nice devices. There might be many more nice ones out there. One way of figuring out which options are out there is to browse the supported devices list by zigbee2mqtt.

  • Zigbee Ikea TR√ÖDFRI
    I like their remote, their LED panel and their LED lamps. They also have various sensors, but they seem quite big compared to other solutions.
  • Zigbee Xiaomi/Aqara sensors
    They used to be dirt cheap until AliExpress raised all of the prices. The ones I like are their window/door sensors, shock sensors, motion sensor plus their magic cube.
  • Wi-Fi BlitzWolf BW-SHP6
    I like their plugs because they’re low cost, small footprint plus they still have a button on it making it easy to keep a physical way to turn the device on. The BW-SHP6 is a small EU plug which doesn’t take up too much space and allows up to 2300 Watt. There’s also the BW-SHP2 but I’d use the Osram smart+ plug over the BW-SHP2. You’re able to flash the Tasmota firmware on both the BW-SHP2 as the BW-SHP6, though it’s quite difficult for the BW-SHP6.
  • Osram smart+ plug
    This is a Zigbee plug with a button (Ikea one lacks a button).
    Drawbacks: bigger than the BW-SHP6
    Benefits: it speaks Zigbee, it’s a Zigbee router (extends your Zigbee range), it supports 16 Ampere/3600 Watt, I hope/guess the standby usage is lower
    You can buy it pretty cheaply on, use to check if you have a good price. New it’s often 15 EUR. Osram also sells used ones on Amazon; it seems they’re basically new but without a box. The price for those are around 11.50 EUR.
  • Sonoff (Wi-Fi)
    Loads and loads of different low cost options.¬† They’re supported by the Tasmota firmware. Their Wi-Fi switches are about 5.50 EUR if you buy 3; a possible use case¬† is to make these part of an extension cord.
  • Shelly (Wi-Fi)
    These devices are small enough to hide them within your wall outlet. They’re supported by the Tasmota firmware. Do look at the Tasmota Wiki as the Shelly hardware has some issues. For wall sockets I’d prefer an obvious device over something hidden within the outlet.
  • QuinLED (Wi-Fi)
    These aren’t devices, more like complete design for a device. The website extensively explains not only the device designs but also tools and equipment, LED strip advices, recommendations, guideline on what tools and equipment to buy to create these devices, etc.
  • Z-Wave Plus devices
    They’re so many nice devices which do not seem to have a Wi-Fi or Zigbee equivalent. E.g. 300Watt dimmers (Zigbee seems limited to 30Watt). The devices are way more expensive though; easily pay 70+ EUR per device/sensor.


Price wise, it might be good to buy a device (“hub”) with support for all the Zigbee devices, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, 433MHz, etc. This as building everything yourself might not even be cheaper if you’re only building it once. This as you might need to buy loads of things: soldering equipment, wire stripper, up to possibly a 3D printer. That would be less fun though!

That said, it’s a bit unfortunate that to really integrate everything together requires too much knowledge. I’d like a more out-of-the box type of solution. Something I’d be comfortable with giving to family that’s easy to use, works well and is still free software.

Fanless NUC

My newly built fanless was nice, but I could still hear my NUC if listened closely. During my investigations I noticed the fanless cases from Akasa, including replacement cases for various NUC motherboards/kits. After wondering¬† if I maybe shouldn’t replace my NUC I eventually decided to just buy a new fanless case for my existing NUC. The reasoning was quite simple, the Akasa case was 51.96 EUR including shipping. Any other solution would probably be much more expensive.

I didn’t monitor the temperature change too closely. It seems the fanless case keeps my CPU at least 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the Intel case. As the Akasa case is entirely metal it’ll ruin the WiFi/Bluetooth reception. The case does have the option to install an external WiFi antenna, but it doesn’t include the proper wire to do that. I’ve bought that from AliExpress for 5.72 EUR.

The next thing I want to replace is my current mouse. The mouse wheel has been giving issues since forever and the mouse gives off a light. I tried investigating the best possible replacement but there’s too many options. Plus it’s difficult to easily filter out the irrelevant options. Eventually I noticed a fairly cheap somewhat silent Logitech mouse. A quieter mouse fits with my fanless cases so I bought that. The website said it does next-day arrival.. it didn’t arrive the next day.

New computer

Shortly after I assembled my current/old pc the older pc died. I intended to have two and ended up with only one; my NUC. With memory prices slowly dropping to more affordable levels I decided to assemble a new pc.¬† I tried to go for components with a good price/performance. I don’t want to spend 50% more for maybe 10% more performance. Next to price/performance I opted for an AMD CPU because Intel has so many more security issues. I went with a 1TB SSD (SATA because of price/performance), 65W TDP AMD Ryzen with integrated GPU, a mini-ITX size motherboard with good 5.1+ sound, plus a fanless case. PSU wise I found a laptop-like PSU/charger which needed a DC-DC converter. The result is an utterly quiet pc. I did a stress test and checked the temperatures. Everything seems ok, though wonder how things will be during summer. I quite like the lack of any noise.
My existing older pc is a NUC with a slowly spinning fan. I noticed a company making fanless cases for pretty much all NUC models. I’m wondering whether to make my existing NUC fanless, or maybe do something else.

32GB of memory, 1TB SSD, AMD Ryzen

Installing Mageia was annoying. Latest stable didn’t work, latest beta same. Eventually ended up installing it via internet (net install).

Before buying all the components I wasn’t aware something like fanless existed for such a CPU. It’s nice to do the research and make a pc which mostly follows the¬† tips¬† I found, my preferences and the trade-offs I had to make. Price wise I spent about 800 EUR on the various components (I didn’t list all of them). In case people want to know the exact components I’ll put it into the comments (update: had to put it under the “more” link). I’m trying to avoid making this appear as an advertisement.

Continue reading “New computer”

First responder: suspicious package

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s going away I’m putting the details on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can read the details.

While chatting to security a maintenance guy arrives and mentions a suspicious package he noticed. Package is described as a huge suitcase left underneath a staircase. Location wise it does not make any sense to place a suitcase there. My suggestion to security is to evacuate the entire building. Security deems otherwise and wants to have a look first. My interest immediately fades and I prefer going for lunch. Security asks me to join the investigation, which I do.

Package itself is hidden underneath the staircase. Going against pretty much any suspicious package procedure security moves the suitcase closer. We notice a checked in luggage tag on it. Security opens the suitcase (despite any suspicious package procedure will tell you not to move or touch it!), contents reveals yet another suitcase as well as an iPad. Name on the tag is a super generic name. Using a walkie talkie security communicates internally for the name on the tag. Again, you’re not allowed to use communication devices in case of a suspicious package. Security relays back that they’ve found a likely match. Package is deemed harmless.

We then move the package to a special blast resistant area within the building. The building was built around 1980 and during that the company in charge was highly profitable and did business in pretty interesting countries. As result of both, that company requested to building to be as safe as possible. Building safety requirements have been become much more strict since 1980. The building has fulfilled these stricter requirements since the opening.

Security does their security thing: Ensure that they’ll “have a chat” with the person involved. I go for lunch. Once back I overhear a pretty anxious person explaining how he messed up. I relay that information back to security for their amusement.

First responder: people stuck in an elevator

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s going away I’m putting the details on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can read the details.

Around one week ago I was early in the office. I noticed a security person and someone from the facility company taking an elevator. Unusual, but it might be something they do every day in the morning. Ignored it and swapped my sweaty clothes (cycling).

When I finally arrived near my desk I heard sounds coming from my walkie talkie. Once closer, I overheard communication regarding people stuck in an elevator. Head of security mentions he’s about to turn off the power to the elevator (this normally opens the doors). Turning off the power is what’s done after various other checks. As I do not want to miss any incident I asked for the floor number; it’s one floor down. I expect to arrive after everything is over.

I arrived near the elevator and the people weren’t rescued. This as the doors refused to open. An elevator has various safety systems; basically in case it’s exactly on a floor turning off the power results in opened doors. This method we’ve used various times to rescue people. Another option is to override (part of) the safety system by use of an elevator key (these keys can differ per elevator). Using the key is a bit tricky; you need to use the right amount of force else it doesn’t work. As the doors do not open we try a few things: Turn power back on and the left doors opens maybe 5cm (when pressing doors open button), right door doesn’t move. Turn power back off and then use the elevator key results in a gap of less than 1cm.

There are two people within the elevator whom we keep giving updates. We ask how they’re doing and the response indicates they’re not worried at all. In case they’re anxious we’d call the fire brigade (closest one is a 6 minute non-priority drive away). As the people are relaxed we opt for the elevator maintenance company. They estimate it’ll take around 20-30 minutes for them to arrive. We get some guidance via phone; basically everything we tried already plus one thing we do not want to do. Meanwhile someone from an auto repair shop also arrives. Apparently he needs to get the car keys from someone in the elevator. I give the car mechanic some coffee and tell him to make himself comfortable. He’s quite enjoying himself and mentions that the office is way nicer than anything he’s been to before!

Eventually the elevator mechanic arrives. He mentions he’ll go up and sort it out. I thought he meant up to the maintenance room but he really meant to physically go on top of the elevator. My first thought that this is really unsafe, followed by “he’s an elevator mechanic and knows what he’s doing”. He moves the elevator to another floor and the doors open. After that he figures out the problem; one of the outside doors is stuck in a rail. He fixes this and then double checks what the elevator reported as reason for going into failsafe mode.

The causes matches with what we observed. The elevator key is on the outside door on the right. The only door which opened was on the left. There’s all kinds of interactions between the outside and the inside doors (due to safety). Only on that floor one of the outside doors had an issue. The inside doors (which move with the elevator) didn’t have any issue. Explaining this it’s quite easy. However, we were quite stumped. We used to actually do more to get a person out. E.g. manually move the elevator. We stopped doing this because despite knowing exactly what to do (elevator company gave thorough explanation) as there’s no guarantee that we won’t be held responsible in case something bad happens. Unless there’s a safety reason we will not do more than power / elevator key methods.

Back at my desk I mentioned that we got two people out of an stuck elevator. My colleague turned white and took the stairs for the rest of the day.

First responder: CPR alert at work

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s going away I’ll put it on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can read the details.

While in a meeting I get a notification from my P2000 monitoring app (screenshot below), then a notification from the Dutch CPR app that there’s a need to perform CPR at work. The CPR app gives the exact address. I realize that I forgot my walkie talkie, plus my pager didn’t go off. I run out, I hear my colleagues explaining to others why I suddenly run out.

I’m wondering if to call security or to get my walkie talkie. I decide on the latter, security is usually busy enough during incidents. I make a mistake going to my floor, then to the correct one. I get my walkie talkie and ask for instructions. Incident is on 3rd, but I need to go to reception. I fetch an AED. A fellow colleague and first responder notices that and joins me. We go to reception (ground floor) but that was a miscommunication; we needed to go to reception 3rd floor. I’m not entirely happy with my mistakes.

While going back to 3rd floor we get an update, person is conscious. We arrive to 3rd floor and are directed towards the person. There’s loads of people around, actually too many. I stay at a distance, my colleague gets closer. A more experienced first responder is closer and asks my colleague to stand a bit away. I’m very happy that despite the mistakes everything is under control.

Me and my colleague decide to assist with waiting for an ambulance. This despite not having a bright jacket, nor my jacket (it’s cold outside). I might at least get a bright jacket from security, having this on is pretty critical. At the same time we overhear that the ambulance arrived. Using what security taught me in a previous incident we reserve an elevator to make it respond only to the buttons on the inside, not to anything else.

We further overhear that the ambulance arrived to the wrong part of the building, this means that we will have difficulty getting the stretcher up to the incident. We guide the ambulance personnel inside the building without the stretcher. While passing the reception I notice ground floor reception is talking to someone who is a relative/loved one/etc. We ask all of them to follow us inside the reserved elevator. The ambulance personnel is relaxed (as always!), they casually ask us to bring us the stretcher after. We were already planning to do this.

Together with my colleague we go down to ground floor to fetch the stretcher from floor -1 somehow. The stretcher needs go up one floor. At this point I’m not entirely sure how to do that, we need more people actually. We discussed this various times but the idea was to have 5 people, not 2. While walking to the stretcher we see 3 people actually carrying the stretcher up a staircase (from -1 to ground level).

The goods elevator meanwhile is reserved but standing at -1. I ask it to be redirected to ground level. No response. We arrive with the stretcher to goods elevator, it’s still at -1. We ask again, seems the new goods elevator system is annoying to use. Goods elevator arrives, there’s some people inside which we get rid of. Later I hear that those people were a bit overwhelmed. Using the goods elevator we take the stretcher to 3rd floor near the incident and then wait at 3rd floor reception. Reception has a few people, at least one person was shaking a bit due to emotions, we try and calm the person down. After that my colleague goes back to work.

Eventually I guide the ambulance personnel without a patient back out of the building . Fortunately no CPR and I’m quite happy they didn’t need to take anyone with them. While closing the doors of the good elevator a big wooden pallet almost falls upon me. Entirely dangerous! I later notice that this took the walkie talkie off my belt… so for a while I’m searching for my walkie talkie. After this I go to my colleague to talk everything over for a bit, followed by discussions with others as well. Various good things and also various improvement points.

First responder: broken ankle

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s going away I’ll put it on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can see the details.

While standing a bit away from my desk it seems security (via the walkie talkie) asks for either me or Tim. I didn’t hear my name properly, but I’m pretty sure I heard them call out for Tim. After asking to repeat I get sent to 10th floor and informed that another person is also underway. There’s an ambulance underway and that’s basically all the information available.

I take a bright jacket, AED and run to 10th floor. I arrive at the same time as another first responder. Strangely nobody seems stressed. No group of people anywhere, etc. Though the floors are huge it usually only takes seconds to figure out the location of an incident. We ask around and nobody seems to be aware of any incident. We advice security and get sent to investigate on 9th floor. Apparently the floor number was unknown and this company is located on two floors with the majority on 10th floor. On 9th floor we notice the issue quickly and advise security. Just after we overhear (walkie talkie) the arrival of a rapid responder. The incident is quite easy, the person is lying on the floor with a coolpack, conscious, did not lose consciousness and just tripped because of a slippery floor.

Such an incident could be more serious, it’s quite possible that some kind of problem in their brain caused them to lose consciousness and that resulted in a broken ankle. During the last first aid refresher course they taught us to be aware that the real cause might be a bit different.

As the rapid responder is already within the building I decide not to treat the ankle. The ankle was already being cooled and it seems better to leave it to the professionals. Someone asks for a update to relay to the rapid responder, I respond and keep it brief.

Meanwhile more first responders arrive as well as interested colleagues. As per a tip from another first responder I give all kinds of tasks to the newly arrived first responders. One I ask (tell) to get all other colleagues away. Another is sent to get the persons jacket. Yet another is sent to the elevators to guide the rapid responder towards the incident.

Once the professional arrive we stand at a distance. We discussed if we should ask the rapid responder if he requested an ambulance but it was decided to better not to ask questions unless you really need to. This especially as the rapid respond is on his own. We prepare for a possible ambulance to arrive. This as a rapid responder (either motorcycle or a smaller car) cannot move people. It’s a bit overkill to use an ambulance for a broken ankle, but oh well. I volunteer to wait for the ambulance in the cold. Apparently there’s a reserved elevator which I can use (one which only responds to buttons within the elevator). Outside I see that the rapid responder parked in an interesting location and it might make things difficult. I check for any ambulance calls on my app, plus change the app to show me non-priority calls as well. If an ambulance comes I’ll need to ask for a lot of assistance. We had enough which responded.

After standing outside for a while I hear that the plan changed. The reserved elevator needs to go back to 9th and they’ll use a chair to move the person. On 9th floor I had to wait a while so to kill the time I ask how to reserve an elevator. I only know how to takeover the emergency elevator. Taking over a random one? I thought only security could do this. Tim explains it to me after which a bunch of people arrive, including someone in a chair. We guide the person downstairs. Person is then brought to the hospital by a colleague. We aren’t sure why the rapid responder didn’t bring the person. After the incident security ensures I can also reserve elevators.

During the whole incident we only used walkie talkies. Another way is pagers, worn by more people than the usual first responders. The pagers have as drawback that you might get an overkill of first responders. We recently changed procedures to optimize this a bit. It’s still nice to see how many responded just based upon walkie talkie usage.

First responder: fire alarm

Within Netherlands each company is by law required to have first responders. These handle various situations until the professionals arrive. It’s usually one of (possible) fire, medical or an evacuation. Normally I’d post this at Google+ but as that’s going away I’ll put it on this blog. I prefer writing it down so later on I still can see the details.

While having lunch I noticed a notification about the fire department going to my (huge) office building. As this was during lunch time and there might be way less first responders available I headed back. The message says “Handmelder” which is Dutch for those manually operated red boxes. As these are manual the fire department assumes someone verified that there’s a fire.

Screenshot of an P2000 app

According to Google Maps the fire department is a 7 minute drive away, so a maximum of 5 minutes for them. I saw them using a road which was partly closed for construction. A bit strange as they’ve been informed & there are signs. Anyway, I went inside. At this point I don’t know much. You hear people asking what is going on. I can guess but better not to assume too much. I do see that one of the fire doors closed itself. I notice the lack of an evacuation alarm though the pager indicated it’s either cellar, parking level or ground floor.

To help out I need a bright vest and a walkie talkie. The bright vest is very important a) for fire department to recognize whom to approach b) force people to listen to me. A walkie talkie I have at my desk, that’s useless as the elevators won’t work, I have no idea what is going on and it’ll take forever using the stairs. To start I take a bright jacket as well as ask and get for a spare walkie talkie from security. It takes a bit until I notice the walkie talkie battery is dead. I want to find another but there’s 2 unneeded people in the security room standing in the way so quickest is to ask again. Normally security is a hell during these things so I really don’t want to distract security. Fortunately there’s another working walkie talkie.

I announce myself and ask for instructions. I get told to check parking level 4 east side. Normally I easily know east vs west but at the moment not so much, I’m more thinking on how to approach safely but quickly. Last week security mentioned that the new fire detection cables have east and west mixed up. It seems easier and safer to check the entire parking level.

On parking level 4 I initially see nothing strange plus I’m the only one. This is strange as I was late to arrive to the incident. I missed all of the previous conversations. It’s a waste of time to ask about this so I skip it. I don’t see any fire at all, though there is a hell of a noise. I first check if it’s one of the cars (super easy). Nothing. There’s also various doors for building related things. Normally I’d have keys for that but alas, not now. I relay that first impression is no fire. I get told to check everything as per request fire department. I don’t get why they don’t come up but pointless to wonder. It takes me a few minutes to check the various doors. I check for fire indicator lights (fire behind a door) as well as a door check (heat, smoke). Nothing to be seen. Meanwhile a car enters the parking level. That should not be possible and usually cannot be done (parking gates close). Something to tell security. I communicate that nothing found except a really loud running airco.

As of a month ago the building has a fire detection cable on all parking levels. It is very sensitive to temperature changes. It’s also installed above the parking places close to two airco outlets. They thought ahead of the potential problem and they said they addressed it (made it less sensitive). My guess is that it’s still too sensitive.

One incident leads too loads of questions. Some answered during the incident, some just after, some take a while. There’s been enough learnings in this one.