Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fire alarms: Among the worst UIs in history

So a fire alarm just went off in my office building. Here's what you hear:

"*beep* Your attention please. There has been a report of an emergency in this building. If your floor evacuation tone sounds after this message, please leave the building. *beep* Your Attention please. ..."

OK, am I the only person who sees the problem with that announcement? Is the second *beep* just a repeat of the message or am I supposed to read that as "my floor's evacuation tone?" What does my floor's signal tone sound like? Is it different from other floors? Does our floor's signal tone rule relative to the suckage of other floors' signal tones?

So here's an idea: Instead of a useless recorded message, have the damned thing announce the floor that the problem exists on (or floors). I'd really love to hear, "Floors 8 through 10 should consider jumping out the windows because a fire is quickly sucking the oxygen out of the stair wells!" Now that would be a warning I could do something with.