Satoshi Nakayama, an oil company executive from Japan, was deep in talks with Abu Dhabi colleagues in a conference room at Le Royal Meridien hotel yesterday when he heard the alarm. Staff clad in yellow blazers carrying walkie talkies burst in, explaining fire had broken out in the kitchen and ordering the group to leave the hotel.
Firemen from Civil Defence moved straight through to the kitchen. In all 500 guests and staff in the building were evacuated during what turned out to be an elaborate mock situation only a few were aware of. The oilmen, apparently unfazed by what they thought to be a real fire, continued their discussion outside. "It is better if they told us before about the drill, because our meeting was interrupted," said Mr Nakayama.
"We continued talking while we waited outside for around 15 minutes." The "emergency" was actually part of an arrangement between Civil Defence and the hotel to train its 420 employees how to react in the event of a real fire. "We are keen on enhancing the qualifications of our security officers, on how to act in case of an accident until Civil Defence arrive," said Imad Diab, the hotel's general manager.
It is important to expose hotel staff to mock fire situations, as they must act quickly in the minutes until firemen arrive, said First Lt Abdullah al Tamimi, the Civil Defence head of public relations and moral guidance. Civil Defence does such drills with several of the capital's other large hotels. The exercises also provide training for firemen. Guests, who were not informed of the exercise, were escorted out past various scenarios: two security officers treating someone said to be suffering from smoke inhalation, and firefighters rushing two kitchen staff, apparently injured, to hospital. firstname.lastname@example.org