Unhappy with library's evacuation procedures

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 June, 2002, 12:00am

On the afternoon of June 20, while I was visiting Hong Kong Central Library in Causeway Bay, the fire alarm went off.

The lifts stopped and the electronic gates on each floor rolled down. Staff would not let us use the emergency exits. There was no public announcement explaining what was happening, but we were told by librarians and security guards that we should not leave the library until further notice.

With the electronic gates down, library visitors felt very uneasy. Some of us asked the librarians why we could not leave.

They explained that as they had experienced several false alarms recently, they would like to make sure if there was really a fire before starting to evacuate people.

Many of us did not feel this was an appropriate evacuation procedure. The librarians and the security guards spent at least 15 minutes trying to find out what was happening before they were able to confirm that it was a false alarm.

In a place where there is so much paper, surely if there had been a fire it would have spread rapidly and valuable time would have been wasted. I would not have been surprised if some library visitors had then panicked and rushed to the emergency exits.

I am impressed with the facilities provided by the Central Library.

It has a wide variety of books, first-rate multi-media facilities and offers a comfortable environment for the public.

However, its evacuation procedures in the event of fire should be reviewed and improved.