“Service Before Self… CH’s Firemen Answered My Call”
I have smoke detectors strategically dispersed around my home. My home is small they’re not far apart. I change my batteries when I hear the tiny beep that signals me to do so and yet, if my home caught on fire, I would probably sleep through it. How do I know this? I have evidence.
A year ago when I was working at a retreat center, the heat set off the fire alarms and the building was evacuated, twice in one week. All my bunk mates, except me, left the building. TWO TIMES I slept through them, I didn’t hear a thing. (My alarm wakes me up… Hmm?)
Last week in the middle of the night an alarm went off while I was sleeping. In some dream state I ignored it for a long time until my dog, Henri, started panting and shaking over my slumbering face. Henri doesn’t like the high pitch sound, only he can hear it. Myself and my boys slept right through it. Finally I woke to realize it was the smoke detector. Groggily I got out of bed, went downstairs to the kitchen, grabbed the broom handle, knocked the alarm off the wall and sleepwalked back to my bed. Not once did I think my house was on fire. I didn’t even check. Having survived many false alarms my attitude is blasé.
In the wee hours of the morning, Tuesday August 27 around 4:30 a.m. I called upon Chestnut Hill’s very own Engine 37 Fire Department to come to my aid in what was an “almost crisis”. Similarly to having your cat up in a tree in need of a ladder crisis.
It started around 3 a.m. I started to stir in my sleep. A shrilling sound was vibrating in the air. I must have been in stage four of my R.E.M sleep pattern which is the deepest of the five cycles. Although I heard the sound somewhere in dreamland, I wouldn’t wake up. Finally I came too at 3:30 and heard the deafening sound of the smoke alarm downstairs. My first response, I was pissed. Come on, really? Why are they tormenting me at night?
Angrily and undressed I went downstairs ready to swing a bat when I eerily notice, this is not a familiar sound. This is louder and more annoying than the others. In a daze I look around and start stepping from room to room trying to detect where the sound was coming from. I was baffled! It was teasing and taunting me. Playing a sick game of hot or cold. Your getting hot, hotter, now your getting cold and on the torment went. I woke my 14 year old son to ask him to help me. He begrudgingly came downstairs, looked around and said miserably, “I don’t know” and went back to bed! I was so angry I yelled up the steps that if it was a real fire I would let him XXXX. Like I said, I was enraged by the sequence of events!
I went into the dining room and saw a smoke detector that doesn’t look like the others. When I bought the house a security system was in place. I assumed that was part of it. I dragged a chair over, climbed up, and started covering it with a shirt to hear if it would muffle the sound. Finally I decided, this has to be it. I busted off the cover and wham, there’s a bunch of colored wires screwed into various connectors, no battery, frigging great. I jumped down, grabbed a screwdriver, climbed back up and got to work, remembering exactly which color wire was connected to what so when I would have to rewire, I would know what I was doing. All wires were disconnected and the siren continued shrilling into the night.
Now I’m over an hour into this project and the last thing I want to do is call 911 because I can’t get a fire detector to stop blaring. Living a block from the fire station and knowing the men sleep there, I looked up the direct number and called. It rang and rang, no one picked up. I thought of running down the street and banging on the door but didn’t. I had to humble myself and call 911.
“Hello 911” the operator says. I say “My name is —- and I live at —– . I don’t have a fire but” The operator cuts in, “I have to transfer you to the Fire Department”. PAUSE, oh crap, this sucks. “Fire Department what is your emergency?” Again… name, address and I DON’T HAVE A FIRE BUT. “Ma’am, we have to dispatch a unit once 911 is called” and he hangs up on me. THE ONLY THING I’M PRAYING FOR IS PLEASE DON’T HAVE THE SIRENS ON, THE NEIGHBORS. I was so stressed about the neighbors!
I stepped outside, looked up the street and here it came, the big red hunkering fire truck, lights flashing coming to the rescue. My prayer was answered, they weren’t using the horns. I walked in the street, flagged them over, confirmed I was the house and went back inside while they backed the truck up. AT THAT EXACT MOMENT THE HIGH, SHARP, EAR-SPLITTING SHRILL OF THE ALAM STOPPED!! I couldn’t believe it, it stopped before one fire fighter’s boot hit my porch. Can you feel my embarrassment, frustration and overall stupefied emotions?
In they march, three brave civil servants dressed from hats to boots (one ax carrying) men into a quiet, peaceful home. The lengths I went to explain what happened I’m sure could have been construed as a mad woman’s ramblings. Luckily my dining room was scattered with my wreckage of hardware, chairs and the disconnected fire alarms sitting on my table from the previous incident. I asked “What happened, how could this happen?” I pointed to the “thing” and asked “is that a fire detector?” The answer, “It looks to be a “hard wired alarm… you need an electrician”. I couldn’t believe it, what set it off? No answer.
I was mortified. Chestnut Hill’s Fire Department, which is ONE block away from my home came out with a crew of men and a truck at 4:30 a.m. To a dud call. As I stood in my doorway with Henri (whose tail was tucked between his legs) waving and smiling goodbye I felt… grateful.
Most people have heard the postman’s oath “Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night… etc. etc. you’ll get your mail. I wondered what a Fire Fighters oath is so I looked it up.
I __________________ do solemnly swear to do my duty as a Firefighter for the City of _______ to the best of my ability; to serve my commanding officers with respect and dignity; to serve the citizens of the City of ________ with compassion, courage and integrity; and to uphold the laws and constitutions of the United States of America, the State of ________, and the City of _______; so help me God.
Compassion, courage and integrity is exactly how these men treated me, even though I was a false alarm.