Recently I ran down forty four flights of stairs for what I thought was a very good reason.

It wasn’t because the lift wasn’t working. It wasn’t to help me prepare for the Great North Run later this year. It wasn’t even for a charity, for a bet or some random act of insanity either.

I ran down forty four flights of stairs to save my life.

The thing is I needn’t have bothered. The fire alarm I’d heard on the 22nd floor of the hotel in Qatar I was staying in turned out to be nothing but a false alarm.

When I assembled myself at the assembly point outside the hotel I soon began to realise I was very much alone. No one else had escaped! Could it be that I was the sole survivor? Eventually, after quite a bit of time, I began to accept that maybe there hadn’t actually been a fire. People were coming and going as normal, so I tentatively re-entered the building and headed for reception.

The receptionist told me they’d been “having a few problems” with the fire alarm. When I explained what had happened and that I’d actually descended all twenty two floors on foot, with legs like jelly, they apologised. However, when I then asked why I had been the only person to evacuate, all I got was a few blank looks. No one it seemed could explain this.

The box of chocolates I then received from the hotel made me feel quite a bit better. But to be honest, I remain confused.

I’ve often wondered what kind of person on being instructed to leave a smoke-filled aircraft would go back for their personal belongings. I’ve wondered what kind of person would carry on working despite news of a bomb threat in their building. What kind of person would refuse to wear a seat-belt, a hard-hat on a construction site or a pair of ear-defenders in a noisy environment.

Well if recent experience is anything to go by it would seem that’s most people. Thank heavens for health and safety then!

About Teresa Budworth





Teresa Budworth, Chief Executive of the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

During a 30 year career in health and safety, she has specialised in safety consultancy; working with a number of Boards of Directors on implementing safety governance within large and diverse organisations. Her work on competence, education and training culminated in her appointment as Chief Executive of NEBOSH; the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, in 2006.

Prior to joining NEBOSH, Teresa combined management of Norwich Union Risk Service’s (now Aviva) Consultancy operation with her post as a non-executive Director and Trustee of NEBOSH and was Senior Examiner for Diploma Part One from its inception in 1997. She is a Visiting Senior Teaching Fellow and member of the Examination Board for post graduate courses in Occupational Health at the University of Warwick’s Medical School. She is a member of RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee and also serves on the judging panel for RoSPA’s annual occupational safety and health awards. She is a member of IOSH Council.