This is only a test


As I walked towards the park the other day, I ran into an obstacle that made me change my route. In particular, there were a half-dozen fire trucks and ambulances lined up next to a building, and the personnel had roped off the entire sidewalk on that side of the street.

Based on their body language and the general lack of hysteria, I figured this was either a false alarm, or a scheduled test run. But short of walking up and asking someone, there would have been no way to tell for sure.

In a big city, it’s always a little disconcerting to see a full-scale emergency response team surrounding a 50 or 75 or 100 floor building. With this in mind, the standard protocol for roping off or barricading an area should also include some signage indicating when the situation is a test run or other simulation. Sure, that type of disclosure won’t always be practical or desirable. But when this simple type of messaging can prevent needless worry among the public, it’s a worthwhile step to take.