Friday, the TU/e held a “clear and evacuate” drill. You can see the pictures below. We received a message a couple of weeks before about this drill and that they needed volunteers. Marcel was a willing victim to accompany me that day 😛
We started with an introductory talk in the Auditorium and were told that we were the group that would also be evacuated to the Nassau-Dietz Barracks in Budel. Apparently, other folks (who didn’t participate in the evening programme) were in four other buildings that were being evacuated at that very moment. We were told that the NO-PLAY command would be used during the exercise if anything serious was happening “for real” and were requested not to use this command unless we needed immediate help with real injuries etc.. It wasn’t until someone asked that we were told what the scenario of the day was: An explosion had taken place in the Southeast corner of the campus and that mustard gas may be present. We were asked to imagine our situation and ask any questions that we had.
From the Auditorium, our group was divided into four smaller groups and we would walk to the Sports’ Centre. We wanted to be in the third group, because this group would get an extra assignment. However, because my brother was delayed (and eventually decided not to participate) we were in the fourth group. We each received a card with a question on it and were requested to ask this question to personnel and write the received answer on the back. After switching cards, I had the card that said “I have a basketball game tonight in the Sport’s Centre. What will happen now? Are my opponents informed?” and Marcel had “Can I take pictures? May I tweet this?”. When we got outside, our little group was divided into three or four smaller groups so that some of us represented students, some (like Marcel and I) got a very very temporary (1 day) contract and were employees-for-a-day and.. well, I didn’t pay attention, there were two other groups. Maybe visitors or something? They told us that the fourth group would also get an additional exercise, like the third.
We walked to a different building where people could put their stuff in lockers if they wanted to. It wasn’t until a handful of people had already gone into the building that personnel looked at eachother and asked “How many people went in?”. Brilliant. Also, besides walking to the Sports’ Centre, we didn’t really do anything, no extra exercise or drill, so I suppose they totally forgot all about that as well.
When we arrived at the Sport’s Centre, we were greeted with the smell of French fries and snacks. Apparently, those who only came for the afternoon programme, received a ticket for a free snack after having registered at the Sports’ Centre and returning the evaluation form. We wouldn’t receive such a ticket, because we would also do the evening programme. On hindsight, I wonder if I could have taken an evaluation form, submitted it, walked out to get free French fries and then re-enter the Sports’ Centre to also participate in the evening programme? Should have tried that…
In the Sports’ Centre, it was mostly waiting. We entered and because the registration tables were positioned at an odd angle (backs turned to the wall of the door through which we entered) pretty quickly there was one line for seven tables, instead of seven lines for seven tables. There were a lot of reporters and there were too many parties involved: Fire department, Ministry of defense/army, TU/e security, TU/e wardens, police and several others. This meant that most personnel was looking around, walking back and forth a bit and striking up conversation with volunteers. Later, one of the TU/e wardens told us that it was unclear who he should answer to during such a situation, because his usual supervisors were overruled but it wasn’t entirely clear by whom. When we asked our questions, we received the out-of-character replies first and only after indicating that we wanted the “What if I asked you this in an emergency?”-answer we got a real answer. For example, I asked someone what would happen if my laptop got stolen from the building today. She said: “Didn’t you lock your room before the drill?”. And an aqcuaintaince I met with later told me he had asked a question about his lab and told a woman that all sorts of equipment was still switched on and was operating at high temperatures. The woman replied: “Are you serious? Then you should get to your lab quickly!”.
Someone from the army gave the best answer to the Twitter-question: “We can’t stop you, but in a serious situation I would tell you that it’s only allowed if you do it with the right purpose: To inform and reassure people.”
While we were standing in line, it became clear that some students from ROC were also there. Actually, a lot of the volunteers were from ROC. As it turns out, they have to do 40 hours per year of social activities (maatschappelijke activiteiten) and this one got them 15 hours. Of course, this also meant that they were only there because it was the easiest way to get those friggin hours and the motivation level was below zero. A girl behind us was whining that she wanted to go home and “Do I really have to fill out this evaluation form?” They were about to give up and go home, when a teacher told them they could go home and got the hours when they registered and supplied the form. Then suddenly, they were in a hurry to register and walked around the line to the front. This is where I decided I wasn’t putting up with that kind of crap and told them “First you’re whining that you want to go home and now that you find out you can go home after registering you jump the queue. I’m not having any of that, get back in line!”. That felt so good. Ofcourse, they disappeared, probably to get into a different line, but I didn’t care, at least they weren’t cutting in line in front of me anymore.
After that, we waited for a bit, drank some tea and then got on to a bus to the barracks. We were in a bus with what I assumed to be ROC students, but later I found out that the four at my left were TU/e students. Oops. Of course, some ROC kids were whining that they wanted French fries for dinner and one kid said that he would like to be in the army for one year but didn’t want to go to Afghanistan. Het later added that this would be good for his physique. In short, he only wanted the benefit of bulking up and being cool. Other then that the ride was rather uneventful. When we arrived in Budel, we passed a camp of tents and Mr. One-Year-No-Afghanistan whined that he didn’t want to sleep in a tent. Heheheh..
We entered the main hall and registered again. Apparently they were prepared for the worst, because our forms contained a “deceased” checkbox. This, and the information that the drill would officially end at 7AM the next morning had me worried, but nothing really happened that night except that people drank a lot and danced to horrible Dutch music 😛 We had dinner quite a bit later than announced: The original programme said that dinner would not be served after 7PM, but we didn’t arrive before half past seven. At first, it was announced that dinner would have to wait until 8:30, which turned the whole exercise into a real drill as far as we volunteers were concerned. No dinner means no more mister nice guy, we wanted dinner and were dead serious about it. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait that long after all and we had dinner pretty quickly after arriving.
As I said before, we had a party afterwards and at the same time in the dinner hall a movie was displayed. I opted for the party, but had to put in my earplugs pretty quickly because after an hour this Dutch guy started singing Rene Froger and other songs at 105 decibel (courtesy of an iPod app). Each person received 4 coupons for alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic drinks were free. This effort to keep the binge drinking to a minimum wasn’t very succesful since half the volunteers left halfway and donated their coupons to those staying behind.
The next morning was a painful one, since I had agreed with Marcel that we would meet at 6:15 and have breakfast at the regular hours instead of at 7:30 for the visitors, because usually breakfast at the barracks is between 6:30 and 8:00. However, we had received wrong information and the first breakfast wouldn’t be until 7:00 for the VIP’s. VIP’s? You mean those people who showed their face during dinner on Friday evening and then fled the scene in their company cars to go sleep at home? Yes those. They weren’t there for breakfast. So we sort of had the VIP breakfast, except that this wasn’t any different from the regular breakfast. After a while the rest of the volunteers woke up and we left to take a walk around the barracks. A little later someone on a bike asked us to return to the dining hall because the TU/e personnel had left without giving the army the headcount or names of the volunteers, so now they wanted to keep people close so that they were sure they had everyone. We, however, wanted to walk to a corner of the terrain where – on the map – all sorts of small squiggles were drawn which were not recognizable as buildings. He told us that that was where the tents were and that we should go back. We turned around and walked until he was gone and then quickly made a left turn and walked to the corner anyway 😛 As it turned out, this was an obstacle course, not the tents we saw before. We walked back, ran into the guy again who reprimanded us (well, not really) for disobeying him. We filled out some evaluation forms and took a bus back to the university, where someone from Cursor interviewed Marcel about the whole ordeal.
I went home and, although I had intended to do some useful work for a course, was so tired that I decided to go bug Sander with my cold feet and hands before falling asleep under the comfy blankets that he had so graciously kept warm for me all morning 😉