Police, fire or ambulance?

A Big Decision 

What a decision I had to make – police, fire or ambulance? The triple O operator couldn’t advise me, she said I had to decide which was more appropriate.

I chose police.

How ironic… I work in a correctional facility and today I was the one locked in, luckily for just a short time and not in a gaol – but in a stairwell!

It all started very early this morning, like 3am, when I got up to start the trek from Canberra to Sydney for a meeting. I had chosen to catch a bus rather than drive in peak hour city traffic. The problem was that the bus left very early and I needed to leave my car somewhere safe for the day.

I decided to park in a big shopping centre that had 24 hour parking – at least I got that part right. My problems started when I tried to find my way to the ground level, as I wasn’t sure if the lifts would work or not. I did try them but then changed my mind and decided to take the stairs. Anyone watching the cctv will see me prevaricating between the lifts and stairs and looking around outside for a suitable exit. Remember this is at 4.15am!! Nothing is very clear at that time of the morning.

Being a bit of a fitness fanatic, I always choose the stairs when I can and didn’t think too much about it until I was in the stairwell and tried to open one of the doors – it wouldn’t open!  I went down and tried another door and another but nothing, it was all locked up tight. I wasn’t panicking too much at this stage but when I went back up to the top floor expecting the door where I went in to open and it didn’t – well then I started worrying big time!

I remember telling myself to breathe and calm down. I looked down over the stairwell and this is what I saw. The stairwell going down and me locked in.

The stairwell - not the most attractive place to be stranded!
The stairwell – not the most attractive place to be stranded!

Who do you ring?

I couldn’t ring my husband (he was 300kms away and fast asleep in bed), I couldn’t ring my daughter where I had stayed the night as it was way too early, and I had a bus to catch, so I rang 000 (triple zero emergency number).

I have only ever called this number once before in my life and felt a bit foolish doing so now, but couldn’t think of any other options. The operator was very patient with me and asked the question police, ambulance or fire….I couldn’t decide for a moment but I decided to start with police.  After checking my location city, state and my phone number she connected me to the Australian Federal Police.

The officer was very helpful and calming, asking me if my phone had reception and how much battery did I have (I started worrying that I’d be in there for ages).  She asked for my location within the shopping centre and said they’d get someone from centre management onto it.  I received a call a short while later asking for my location and within another 10 minutes I was rescued by a security guard, much to my relief.  I nearly ran out of the stairwell and he very kindly took me down in the lift and pointed me in the direction of the bus station.

I was very disoriented, which my husband says has nothing to do with my little adventure!  It really was quite a harrowing experience and one I don’t recommend to anyone who doesn’t like enclosed spaces.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love shopping and being locked in a shopping centre should have been much more fun than that, even if the shops were all shut.

The good news is that I made my bus, I survived my ordeal with a good story to tell of my eventful start to the day but I won’t be too quick to take the stairs in the future!

Deb 🙂


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