Is there something more ironic than ALL of the smoke alarms in your house suddenly going off at once while you’re on the phone with your insurance company?
Tonight, as the Guv talked over our auto insurance policy with our home insurer, all hell broke loose. The dryer was running, I was cooking… but there was no smoke, no fire: just every last alarm in the house squawking, loudly, out of nowhere.
To the Guv, that didn’t matter; the alarms sounded a call to action. He threw the phone at me, said, “Talk to this guy. Put him on hold…” (I know: WTF?) as he ran around the house like a chicken with its head cut off, opening cabinets for God knows what reason.
“M’am?” the agent asked.
“Yes?” I replied.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes, all is well,” I replied.
“Is that a smoke detector?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered, “Actually, it’s all of them. They’re all going off. But no worries – nothing’s on fire.”
“Don’t you think that you should leave the house until you’re, umm, sure?” he pressed.
“Thanks for your concern. Seriously, nothing’s on fire. Our alarms are just short-circuiting or something,” I calmly replied. “I think my husband will be back on the phone with you in just a second. He just has to find the switch to flip, or whatever it is, to shut the thing off.” (A couple of minutes pass.)
“M’am, I think you should exit the premises,” he suggested. I could hear him sweating on the phone. “Just to be safe.”
I paused. I didn’t want to get into a fight with our home insurance agent over the safety of our home. But there was really no reason to leave, save the deafening beeping all over the house.
“M’am, are you there?” he pressed. “M’am, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.”
“Alright, alright,” I acquiesced. “Is there a number where we can call you back?” I think I heard a thud as his head hit the desk. Clearly, he thought he had a total idiot on the phone.
“M’am, just call the same number. I’ll save the file. Now go,” he whispered.
“You have a good night,” I spoke into dead air.
No sooner had I disconnected than the Guv ran up to me, hands and arms waving in the air. “Get the kids out of the house!” he cried. “And where are the fire extinguishers? I think I smell smoke!”
Ahh, that’s what he’d been looking for: fire extinguishers. Then it hit me: WHY THE HELL IS HE LOOKING FOR FIRE EXTINGUISHERS???
He read my mind. “CALL 911!” And then he started running all over the house again, sweating, to the attic, to the crawl space, to the garage. I stopped him long enough to ask him if he thought something’s on fire. “I don’t know!” was his response. So, I dialed.
“What is the address of the emergency?” the dispatcher asked. I responded with the address. “What’s the emergency?” she asked.
“The fire alarms are going off,” I told her. “All of them.”
“Is there a fire?” she asked. “Smoke?”
“Not that we can tell,” I answered, suppressing the urge to add “but my husband’s freaking out.” Instead, I offered, “We just moved into the house a couple of months ago, so we’re not sure how the fire alarms work. There’s no central system, but they all must be connected, but we can’t figure out how to shut them off.”
“Okay, I can send some guys out,” she offered. And I braced myself for the sirens and the lights. I rang the neighbor’s doorbell to warn them. They didn’t answer, and they were very clearly home. (Note to those elderly neighbors: You’re old, and YOU may need ME some time. So ANSWER YOUR FREAKIN’ DOOR when I knock on it. Especially when you hear an alarm going off. I’ll be following up with them tomorrow with that explicit suggestion.) Since my neighbors didn’t give a crap, I sat in the car with the kids to wait. Fortunately, the truck pulled up with no lights, no sirens. Three guys ambled out. They read the situation right away.
“Is there a central panel for the alarm?” the guy asked.
“No,” we replied.
“No panel? Nothing with buttons, an off switch?”
“Seriously, dude, we don’t know how to shut this thing off,” I offered. “That’s why we called you. Actually, that’s part of the reason. I’m also freaked out a little because our dryer vents to the attic, and the vent fan’s been getting louder and louder, and I just want to make sure that there is no real fire,” I added. “So, you know, we want the alarm off, but we also want to make sure that there’s no reason it’s going off.” I felt like I should follow that up with, “Duh.”
They were very, very nice, these firemen. They didn’t laugh at us at all. They took our situation seriously, and they checked out the whole place – attic, crawlspace, furnace closet… And they showed us that if we disable three linked smoke detectors, the alarm stops. We need to replace all of the batteries in all of them every six months to make sure that a “weak link” doesn’t cause this chain reaction again – because that’s all that it was, a chain reaction from one dead battery. Thank God.
The kids took it all in stride, except for one minor freak-out from Petunia about the guinea pigs being left inside to burn despite my constant reassurances that there was no fire… But that was quickly forgotten when she realized that she has quite a story to tell her class tomorrow.
Me, I have bigger problems.
The Guv has disappeared. I’m fairly sure that he’s at Home Depot buying fire extinguishers.
And after my long hunt for Dash’s Bob the Builder costume, after he wouldn’t change his mind for over a month and refused to be anything else, after finally caving in and buying Bob on-line for nearly fifty bucks, guess what he wants to be for Halloween?
A firefighter. Now, how can I say “no” to that?