Whole Foods Evacuation

Just as I was entering the Whole Foods store, I encountered a wave of people exiting all at once. A fire alarm had gone off. The customers were calmly leaving under the directions of the staff.

I figured that we would be waiting for a while, so I decided to see what I could observe.

The customers who decided to wait it out in the cold clustered under the entrance. The entrance has a large portico with heaters in the center of the ceiling. We gathered into this relatively warm spot.

I looked around to see what the staff was doing. A person, whom I guessed to be the manager, was at the doors, making sure that no-one entered. He was also making sure that the entrance would be available to the firemen upon their entry.

Another person was directing traffic away from pulling into the parking lot. Those who wanted to leave were not interfered with. However, new parking was prohibited. The person was very polite, but firm. No-one gave him any trouble.

A policeman and a fire crew arrived. The policeman parked to block entry into the lot. The firemen parked their rig on the street where it would be quickly available if necessary. In the meantime, their parking did not add to the congestion in the parking lot.

The manager guided the fire crew into the store. The policeman monitored the front entrance.

I did not notice many of the stockers and clerks in the crowd. I looked around, and heard a group shout over in one corner of the lot. That was where the crew were collected. I inferred that this was their safe spot for everyone to gather and be accounted.

When the fire crew and the manager appeared to give the all clear, there was a rush of the customers to get in. As I normally do, I held back to observe. The customers clotted the doorway to the store floor. I noticed that the staff used the store’s exit to slip back onto the floors and to their stations. It gave them a few seconds to be ready when the customers started requesting service.

From a process perspective, I was impressed. It is evident that there has been a lot of safety training and practice. Everyone knew their expected roles, and enacted them correctly. It explains to me how they get a lot of other things right. Good work!

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