How should I deal with a co-worker who won't evacuate when a fire alarm sounds? I am particularly concerned because his mobility is limited. Added complication: he is my boss.
I work in a large organisation, but in a small section where quite often the only staff present are my boss and myself. My boss has a serious mobility impairment - he walks, extremely slowly, with the aid of two forearm crutches. I gather that walking is very effortful and quite uncomfortable (painful?) for him.
Recently, the fire alarm sounded. As in most organisations, when the alarm sounds, it is usually a false alarm, and so we get a false alarm maybe a couple of times a year, but when the alarm started on this occasion we had no way of knowing whether there was actually a fire or not. I popped my head in to my boss' office and he told me he thought it was probably a false alarm, and I should evacuate but he would stay there. He cracked a joke that if the building burnt down and we found some bones they would be his. I didn't know what to say to this so I left and went to the muster point.
I can totally understand why he might feel that evacuation would not be worth the discomfort when it would probably be a false alarm. I have a suspicion that he feels self-conscious when walking, and he probably doesn't want to draw attention to the extent of his lack of mobility. But as I milled around with my other colleagues at the muster point, and as the fire alarm continued for several more minutes, I started to feel distinctly uneasy. What if there really was a fire? I would feel absolutely dreadful that he had stayed behind and I hadn't said anything. And while it's never a good idea to wait until there are flames or smoke before evacuating, for my boss who could not run or even walk at a normal pace to save his life, this would be catastrophic. It also occurred to me that if there was a fire, quite likely firefighters would have to risk their lives to go into the building and bring him out.
Of course, in this instance it was a false alarm, so I headed back to the office. When I got there my boss was in his chair at his desk, but he told me that he had decided to evacuate and headed out some time after me. But he was ensconced back at his desk by the time I got back, so I suspect he was barely out of the office by the time he turned back, and I presume he turned back when the alarm stopped sounding rather than waiting for an all-clear. On previous occasions he has grumbled a lot but he did evacuate.
So my questions are: Should I say something to my boss about his decision not to evacuate when there was a fire alarm? Is there anything I can do or say that might reduce the barriers to him evacuating next time?
Things I have considered:
- Mentioning it to him next time I see him vs. waiting until next fire alarm and cajoling him into evacuating. (I'm not sure about this - bringing it up would be awkward but probably more likely to succeed than trying to convince him in the moment.)
- Offering to bring along an office chair so that he will have something to sit on at the muster point and doesn't have to stand for a long period. (He is a pretty proud guy and he might not go for this, but I could offer.)
- Offering to walk with him. (Not sure if this would seem patronising.)
- Informing his manager. (No doubt this would be effective but if I'm going to do this it would basically have to be the day I resign. My boss doesn't have a good relationship with his manager and would never forgive me for doing this.)
- Mind my own business and not question his decision to stay in a (possibly) burning building. (Have I completely lost perspective on this?)
I would be grateful especially for perspectives from mefites with limited mobility on how (and whether) they would like to be approached in such a situation - and also from other mefites who might have dealt with similar issues.
Throwaway email: firstname.lastname@example.org