Photo courtesy Kristyn Burtt, another fabulous product specialist. Don't bother asking her who I am; she doesn't know. We're Twitter friends.
I know you guys think we're hot, but this is ridiculous.
A big ol' electrical fire in the Audi display shut down the Detroit Auto Show for several hours today. During our breaks we like to have sex, smoke cigarettes and blow lines in the back seats of expensive cars, and today it just got a little out of hand.
Just kidding! The truth is much less scintillating. Audi imports their lighting from Germany, so they of course need electrical adapters. One of those adapters had an issue and caused the fire. Negligence or just a fluke worn out adapter is not something I am qualified to comment on.
As usual when something of this happens, the entire thing was a huge clusterfcuk and I learned more, faster from Twitter than anywhere else. In fact, I was giving my supervisor official Twitter updates from NAIASDetroit because no one from the show office was passing the info along in person.
I did some sniffing around and from everything I'm hearing and personally experienced, the way this situation was handled was appalling. Despite the fact that there were visible flames in the ceiling above Audi and thick black smoke throughout the hall, not a single fire alarm went off, nor were any emergency lights activated.
What's the opposite of urgent? Lackadaisical? Because that's the kind of announcement that was made to evacuate the hall, and it was not backed up by anyone from their crack security team ushering people out. In fact, people were still milling around inside the hall poking around in vehicles a good half hour after the initial announcement. Instead of being led to nearest exits, people were told to go back to the lobby, which meant everyone marched straight towards the fire and smoke.
And get this: even after the announcement was made to evacuate they kept selling tickets! One man bought his ticket and walked over to the entrance less than 20 feet away, where he was told he could not enter because of the fire. The ticket office refused to refund his money, despite the fact that they knew no one would be allowed in and they didn't tell anyone purchasing. This man took it upon himself to go down the line and tell people themselves.
When we product specialists came back to the hall, some of us were allowed inside and some of us weren't - again, no rhyme or reason to that. Upon entering the hall it was obvious that this show should have closed for the night. The stench of acrid smoke permeated the building, despite the fact that they had all the doors along the back of the building wide open (on a freezing day).
I overheard several police officers saying they couldn't believed the show reopened. Displays close to Audi were covered in ash. The detailers did their best, but some places just couldn't be reached. The vehicles at Audi seemed to be fine, but the set had absolutely no lighting and it looked pretty dangerous over there. They let people in anyway. They could have at least turned the headlights on!
A source told me that while the show office claims the fire marshall measured the air quality, this did not actually happen. I believe him. My nose and eyes are stinging, my hair and clothes reek, and people I spoke with who work nearby the Audi display complained of respiratory discomfort.
It seems pretty obvious to me even from the ticket office incident alone that NAIAS officials decided they couldn't afford to close for the day, and that took precedence over public health. Their plan backfired. Although it was pretty busy for an hour or so after reopening because of the people who waited around from earlier, the place cleared out by 7:30. Probably because no one wanted to get black lung disease.