HIGH POINT, NC -- A false alarm at a Triad restaurant set off an alarm with a 2 Wants To Know viewer, who wants to know how restaurants should handle fire alarms.
"We started moving from our seats, and no one was moving," said Juanita Broadnax when explaining her experience at the Palladium Olive Garden on April 30.
Broadnax said the fire alarm had been going off for several minutes, and customers and servers appeared bewildered.
"I said to the girl (server) well does nobody know how to turn that thing off? She said well it's not an emergency. I said well if it were an emergency, what would you do?"
2 Wants To Know looked at the High Point Fire Department's report and learned firefighters responded to the restaurant three minutes after getting the call.
Fire Marshal Chris Weir said, "The staff was aware of what happened, there was nobody in danger, and I think that’s why they probably didn’t seem as urgent to respond to the alarm going off. They could have potentially done a little better knowing people in the restaurant know what was happening, but there was no danger."
And, the restaurant's general manager, Ron Smith, told 2 Wants To Know the managerial staff did go table-to-table explaining to customers what happened.
All restaurants fall under the NC Fire Code, determined and amended by the Department of Insurance. Some restaurants have pull stations and-or sprinklers and other shave smoke alarms, depending on the code in place when the building was built.
And, the Fire Marshal's Office in the restaurant's city inspects the restaurant every one to three years (yearly for restaurants with a capacity of 100+ and three years for a capacity below 100).
All restaurant employees must also practice a quarterly drill. The fire marshal's office recommends, but doesn't require, that at least one of those drills involves setting off the fire alarm.
"During that, they should talk about what procedures to follow, how to evacuate the building, how to notify the fire department," Weir said.
But the biggest fire safety measure isn't in the code.
"People need to take a little bit of ownership for their own personal safety," Weir emphasized.
1. Take a good look.
"If we're going to a reputable place, it should look like it's in good repair," he said.
2. Establish an outside meeting place, like your car, in case you get separated.
3. Once inside, look for clear pathways and multiple exits. Your brain might tell you to get out of the way when you came in, even if you pass another door on the way.
4. If you don't feel safe -- leave.
"If you walk into a place and you have to walk shoulder-to-shoulder or you can't get down the aisle to the exit, it's time to talk to a manager. If they don't address those concerns, it's time to leave -- take your business somewhere else."
He added, "If you're in a restaurant and you see smoke or an alarm's going off, don't wait for someone to tell you what to do. It's time to evacuate. Get to an exit, and get out."
And if you have fire safety concerns about a public venue? Report them to management and then call your local fire marshal's office immediately.