We were discussing the best way to deal with the large dog recovering in critical care, he was to big to fit comfortably in the kennel and should we put him on the mattress when he had a reputation for a bit of a bad temper when the fire alarm went off.
I mumbled “Who is making toast can’t they do it without burning it”
An auxiliary said nervously it isn’t Wednesday test day what’s happening. True to form we all ignored it. The phone went, for a change someone was free enough to answer it instead of all of us swearing at it. They put the phone down and said "It isn’t a drill we have a fire in reception we have to evacuate…and leave the animals bags and everything".
This was what everyone who works with animals dreads. In human hospitals they evacuate patients in animal ones they leave them. Small surgeries maybe they could grab the patients as they often only have a couple but we have to many. If we started to collect them we would get side tracked and it could end up a disaster. I grabbed my bag which was on the side. A vet ran into dog kennels and brought out her dog and we all walked out. Praying like hell that it wouldn’t spread, the fire doors would hold long enough if it did and that the fire brigade would get the hell there FAST. The building is huge and with luck it would be confined to the reception.
I was one of the last out and as l came out some one said “oh you will know”
I looked up. “huh?”
The question was continued “Who was on duty are we all out?”
“How the hell should l know we are mid change over some have gone all l know is we have no new ones in as we are heading to evening shift”
I looked at the door worrying and made a decision. Walking over to the head vet l said.
“The oxygen is turned on if it spreads and hits those pipes it will feed it l am going back in to turn the oxygen off at the taps is that ok”
“Yes ok” Had l been told no l would have hesitated but l was given a green light.
So l broke every rule in the book and hoped that l would not risk some fireman’s life if it went sour but l was worried about those oxygen lines.
I went back in the lights were out and the oxygen room was black a pitch. I turned all 4 cylinders off and then got the hell out of there. Smoke was filling the space and my heart rate went up by about 300 however l just walked calmly out and back to the car park.
Once out there l stood with the others a couple of minutes then realised we still had the cars parked in the way. Mine was by the building, l got mine calling to folks to get them shifted as they would need the space for the tenders. A couple couldn’t be moved as keys were still inside the building.
Some people were turning up for appointments but were stopped. A couple of owners had turned up and were understandably upset about the animals being left in, it was not what we wanted either.
What we really needed was the fire brigade. I know time stretches but they were taking a hell of a long time. Pops and bangs and flashes were coming out of reception and fuse boxes and smoke was snaking up through the roof. Occasional sirens could be heard but none that sounded like they were getting closer and heading to help us they just faded away.
Finally the long awaited sound reached us and grew steadily. Number 1 engine arrived followed closely by number 2. Anyone who says the police take a long time has not waited outside a burning vet’s with animals inside waiting for the fire brigade it is not just a long time it is eons.
The guys headed into the building and as they seemed to be relaxed about everything l decided that things were under control and l wanted some photos. I moved closer to them snapping.
The rabble (workmates) were worried and yelling at me about what was l doing and to get back. As usual l ignored them and just moved closer. If l was a problem l had no doubt the men in helmets would let me know. The rabble behind could chorus all they wanted. Knowing me of old the shouts died down to mutterings. I ended up leaning against the entrance railing it was obvious it was safe there.
The fire alarm was still screaming away and l ended up having to nip across the car park at a helmeted men’s request to get the bosses to find someone who knew the code. Bloody thing was giving everyone a head ache.
As it all seemed to be under control after about 15 minutes l asked if l could get back in to check animals. This was granted; at this point the vet with the recovering big dog came over and asked if he could go back in as well. We borrowed a flashlight from the helmeted men and went into the building while they continued checking all over the 2 floors for anything that had spread. I assume as we were allowed back in though they were not too concerned. I think everyone else was held back though.
The electric was out and emergency generator had not cut in so it was pitch black as there are no windows. We went to critical care ward the recovering dog was lying by the door and like an elephant to shift, he just couldn’t see any reason to shift just cause we wanted him to but eventually got the message. I shone the torch round and we did a check on the patients then l left the vet in critical ward in the dark and did a round of all other patients, most were having a sleep and no animals were stressed by the smell of smoke.
After about 10minutes the emergency lights came on and the rest of the staff filtered in. Kennels with cats and some critical animals were pushed out of the building. Other cats were placed in cat carriers. Larger dogs were walked out by firemen who were briefed on how to walk a dog while holding a drip bag.
I wish l had got the picture of the day. A big fireman carrying a small bulldog puppy out like a baby looking down and cooing to him, the bulldog looking up at him wondering who the heck had the cheek to wake him up even if it was for a nice cuddle. He had been fast asleep when l checked him oblivious of the drama going on around him.
Once all the animals were out we started to collect all we would need to decamp for an unknown time to a branch surgery. A couple of owners collected their pets that were discharged in the car park. The collection van ferried those inpatients that were to stay in to the branch. It also ran equipment, drugs, drips, kits, bedding, animal food and anything else we could think of.
By 19:00 we were settling into a cramped space in the new building and the patients who were staying in were settled into new kennels. Several new emergencies arrived they needed minor ops and these were done asap and collected the same night to keep kennels and rooms free for major emergencies as we were so limited. 2 Consult rooms had to be pressed into use as walk in kennels for big dogs.
One charity client who was rang to collect their dog said “We’ll do it tomorrow we are holding a party” and turned their phone off. This left us fuming as the op had been done with agreement they would come as soon as called, that was the only unpleasant marring though.
We spent 2 nights at the branch. On the Friday l went over to the main surgery as we were sick of sending requests and getting a bit of what we wanted. I rolled in to a picnic taking place. ¾ of the staff were there tiding the building up and taking advantage to give it all a deep clean. My mission went on hold while l ate 2 HUGE pieces of pizza and felt ill l never learn eyes and stomach!!
The electricians managed to get us a big generator and patched through so we could move “home”. The main incoming cable needs replacing and the fuse board has been rebuilt. So for the foreseeable future it is generator goodness knows when UU will get their act in gear to get the main incoming supply sorted but l understand it is a fairly major job.
Work got us a choice of a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates as a thank you. It may not seem like a lot but it was great that we had been remembered, the old boss (now retired) would not have done anything as a thank you.