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In The Event Of A Fire, Learn a Startup Lesson

It’s Friday, 11.30pm. We’re on the way into our office to collect some boxes to bring home. As we walk in the fire alarm goes off, and in typical Irish fashion (“Ah sure, it’ll be grand”) we continue upstairs anyway. We make our way up to the 3rd floor when we notice lots of smoke in the fire well. Strange. After a quick look around, we can’t see any flames, but turn right around to exit the building, hitting the nearest fire alarm (it seemed to be a totally logically thing to do anyway, compliance and all that.)

Outside we get to the car park barrier with the call button to the security office…

Me: Eh, there’s a fire over at the rear of the Digital Exchange Building.

Security Guy: A fire? SHIT! (hangs up)

Chris: Eh lads, what’s the number for 999?

He didn’t really say that, I hoped he did though. But I’m pretty sure the start of the call went something like…

Chris: Hi, hi! Fire, fire. In our offices…where we work. Come quick. At the big Guinness place, where we work. There’s smoke and fire and stuff. The address is…

Startup Lesson #1: If you are ever caught on the spot with a big decision to make on what to do next, don’t be afraid to just make a decision and get on with it. You can assess later, and change tact if necessary. Too many times I have seen startups not being able to make a decision on what to do next, even after lots of time to think about things.

As we wait to think about the next logical step to take, the security guard comes running up and we guide him to where the incident is happening.

Me: We work here, so we’re not trying to rob the place or anything. [Time for a quick laugh?]

Security Guy: [No laugher] Where’s the fire?…

Startup Lesson #2 – When it’s business time, focus on the task at hand – don’t get distracted.

After noticing more thick smoke in the stair well, we spent less than 2 minutes trying to find the fire, but could spot any flames.

At this stage Chris is outside, and in his own words “dazzled by all the emergency lights” but remaining focused, guides the first fire truck towards the rear of the building…

Firefighter #1: Can you show us where the fire is…

Security Guy: Sure I’ll bring you…

Me: Do you want me to come?

Security Guard: No no, it’s grand.

By now there were 4 fire trucks queued up, and these machines are feckin’ HUGE, and then along comes the fire truck with the 30m hydraulic aerial ladder on the back of it. As we directed another group of firefighters from the second fire truck to the rear exit:

Me: Do you want me to show you where they went?

Firefighter #1: No sir, it’s not safe. I’ll find them.

Me: Ah no, sure it’s grand, it’s only a bit of smoke. There’s no fire.

Firefighter #1: Sir, there’s smoke! There has to be a fire.

Me: Ah yes! Right you are…

DUH! you might say, but I was too busy picturing myself fighting the blazing fire with the boys, bare knuckle fire fighting!

Startup Lesson #3: Each member of your startup team has a specific skill that they are good at. Just get out of the way let them at it. Play to your strengths!

Me: Lads, who made the call again?

Shane: Chris did, off my phone.

Chris: Oh lousy, they’re definitely going to take the call out fee off your phone credit. €750 bucks!

Shane: Seriously? Crap!

All: Laughter!

Then we thought to ourselves, imagine all the fire fighters were about to sit down together for there nightly feed, a well cooked meal with spuds, lashings of butter, bacon, and a bitta steamed cabbage when all of a sudden they got this emergency call. I’d be seriously annoyed anyway. Sorry about that lads!

We gathered our thoughts, thinking we should really get out of the way and let the professionals at it. Then, we notice one firefighter making a move at the side of the building. He pulls out a hose from the side of the truck, walks about 4 paces, and extinguishing a small black sack full of paper and cans that was smouldering at the door of the emergency exit…

Firefighter #2: You gotta think outside the box fellas. We got the sucker!

Me: Are you serious, was that all it was? Sorry about all this…

Firefighter #1: We missed it at first and drove right past it.

Firefighter #2: At least we know now. We all walked right past it and never even noticed it!

Turns out the smoke from the smoldering sack was entering the stair well via the exit door. No flames to brag about at all.

Startup Lesson #4: This may have been a small, teeny tiny fire, but look at the impact it had: fire alarm going off in the whole 4 story building, 5 massive fire trucks, about 20 firefighters in all. When we think of our startups as small, teeny tiny teams, but often forget the impact we can have, and that same impact would have been felt in any country in the world. As a startup, always remember you can make a big impact on the global stage! 

Consoling ourselves for the mishap we’d just created, we knew that we had made the right call, and if there really was a fire we could have been heroes! Unfortunately, between the three of us, we didn’t have enough battery on our phones to take some pictures of the scenes unfolding. Some technology heads we are huh?! Ah sure look, a story to tell the kids some day.

All jokes aside, it was impressive to see such swift action by the Dublin City Fire Brigade following the emergency call. Within 3 minutes, the first fire truck was on the scene, within 4 minutes there were 3 more and a team in a large van, and within 4.5 minutes there was the fire truck with the 30m hydraulic aerial ladder. To give some context, that’s 57% faster than the average response time of fire incidents in England during 2011.

You guys are a credit to the community, keep up the great work!