Wake Up Call

When you live in an apartment as long as I have, you learn to get used to a lot of annoying things – barking dogs, loud kids, couples fighting, couples having sex, residents who don’t know how to drive plowing into your parked car (yes that happened three months before I got my CR-V)…you name it, I’ve dealt with it. The one thing I’ll never get used to, no matter how long I live here, is the fire alarm going off at all hours of the day and night like it did this morning at 5 a.m. There are a few decent reasons to be up that early – nursing an infant or going on vacation for example – but having to dash from my bed in fear of my life isn’t one of them. Ok I’m exaggerating a little but I was still in that nebulous area between sleep and wakefulness because I had to use the bathroom and jumped up so fast I made myself dizzy. I was sleeping in board shorts and a tank top so at least I didn’t have to throw on clothes, but after a bathroom stop I grabbed my shoes and phone and away I went. The weather was decent and I called 911 and waited with my husband for the fire department to arrive. In Sunderland, we have a force of 21 volunteer firefighters and EMS techs, so it takes a while for someone to arrive, even though we are less than half a mile from the fire station. As the son of a firefighter, Bill cringes every time he seems them show up in their full turn out gear with air tanks because that’s overkill until you know exactly what you’re facing. Since the dispatcher asked “do you see fire or smoke” and I said no to both, you’d think they wouldn’t go quite so balls out unless and until they had to, but hey. It’s Sunderland. Not a lot goes on here that would elicit a big emergency response, so I guess I can’t blame them for getting a bit excited. What bothers me most is the complete and utter nonchalance the residents treat the alarms with; if I remember anything from fire safety week in elementary school (other than fire is scary shit) it’s that you always take a fire alarm seriously.  The problem with our apartment is that the alarms are so sensitive it doesn’t take much to set them off – since last August we’ve had about six false alarms due to people being unable to cook. One person fell asleep at 3 a.m. with something on the stove, and another time someone forgot that olive oil has a low smoking point and that you don’t fry with it. Whatever the cause, it has created a sense of complacency among my neighbors that drives me nuts. My concern is that sometime we’re going to have a legit fire that will end in disaster because people will ignore the warnings to evacuate. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

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