I learned this about myself very early Sunday morning. It was 3:50 AM and I heard the blood curdling BEEP, BEEP, BEEP sound only a fire alarm that needs you to WAKE UP NOW would make. Lights were flashing on and off. The room was spinning. Of course I wondered if I was dreaming, and when I was sure I wasn’t, I was convinced the sprinklers would go off. They didn’t. I rolled over and swatted at Dave.
“Dave. Dave. I think it is a fire alarm. We should get up. Dave. Do you hear that?”
At that he popped out of bed. I staggered. Sure, I spent the previous evening crying my eyes out. And yes, I went to bed at 2:00 AM, which was less than two hours before the fire alarm screamed us awake, yet I imagine fires and hopefully their alarms do not wait until it is convenient.
The alarm was not stopping, and I remembered I needed to get the boys. I went to their room, woke them up, and then asked Dave,
“Do I have time to use the bathroom (true story)?”
Apparently while I was using the bathroom, trying to find my bra, a clean shirt, at least run the toothbrush over my teeth, and trying to pull my long pajama top over my head, Dave was trying to see if our building was on fire. It wasn’t — at least not the section we live in.
By now the boys and Dave stood watching while I tried to configure. I was consumed (distracted). I just knew I needed comfortable shoes, my cellphone and my purse. Now I know that as I am trying to snap my bra, not only am I going to take myself down, I will take my family down with me.
We did not smell smoke. I know the boys were asking me questions. I know my hair was disheveled and I was wearing my pajama bottoms, a clean shirt and a bra. We needed to leave like five minutes ago. We made sure we had our keys, we looked around, the alarm lights were still flashing on and off, and we left.
The boys asked one more time,
“Mom, are you sure you have your keys?”
As we stepped out our respective doors, I remember seeing my very tattooed neighbor and his cute little dog. I also noticed that his hair was perfectly combed. He pleasantly greeted us,
Dave tells me a different story. And as Dave makes a yanking-a-little-dog-on-a-leash motion he says,
“our neighbor was trying to pull his very small and very scared dog down the hallway.”
“Why didn’t he just pick the dog up and carry him?” I asked.
Dave laughed, “That is what I thought!”
We were now standing outside. We were not the first, or the last. We felt terrible for the woman in her nightgown using a walker. Then we waited.
I asked Dave a few times the following question:
“Dave, should I go back inside and get our laptops?”
He correctly and consistently replied,
As we waited I looked around. Kyle was posting a video to Instagram. Eli was checking the news. There were a lot of dogs, blankets, people lying on the sidewalk on their blankets, people leaving, people asking, people smoking, a dude with a big backpack, smartphones, and one fire truck. Eventually we asked the security guards if they knew anything,
“I walked the halls on every floor, and felt each door for heat, and didn’t see anything,” said the older of the two guards.
We made our way to the front of the building, took a picture of the fire truck, and then a lady was looking out her screened-in window from above. I looked up and said,
“You are smart. You stayed.”
She responded, “No, they told me I could come back.”
We made our way back into the building. The firemen were in the elevator and asked us to use the stairs. I heard them talking on their phones. It sounded like someone was having a heart attack or panic attack.
Back in our apartment now, Dave was asleep in nanoseconds. It took the boys and me much longer to fall asleep.
As we travel, of course we continue to live in temporary housing. Our current apartment is much like a hotel. It has security, underground parking, and elevators. Please let me tell you what I have learned. My guess is you already know these things, and they are good things to know whenever you are in an unfamiliar building, like an apartment block or hotel.
Regarding fires: when a fire alarm goes off, get your loved ones, and go! Look for the nearest and safest exits, and leave the building. Stay together. Once outside stand away from the building. If you lose your people, make sure you have a pre-planned meeting place. This is super important when you travel. Each time you check into a new place, decide where your meeting spot will be. Hey, even if there is not a fire, the meeting spot can help. Discuss your plan beforehand.
Do not ask your husband if you can go back into the building for your laptop.
On a serious note,
when I was a young girl, I badly burned my fingers while making doughnuts. In the chaos of making sure I was ok, we left the burner on. Consequently, the pan caught on fire. We did call the fire department, and were able to put the kitchen fire out. The damage was minimal. We were lucky.
Sadly, I have close friends who have not been as lucky. Because of a fire, they have lost their homes. Please learn from me. Even if it seems like a false alarm, do not risk it. Get your loved ones and go!
Here is what the internet tells you to do in case of a fire:
“DO treat every fire alarm as an emergency. If the alarm sounds, exit the building immediately. DO remain in your room if you are unable to exit the building safely because of smoke or fire. Keep the door closed and await assistance from the fire department.”
Tips and Escape Plan for Hotel Fires.
FIRE SAFETY TIPS:
If a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL for help.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
Test smoke alarms once a month, if they’re not working, change the batteries.
Talk with all household members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
PS. As I was finishing this post, someone from our building came to check the fire alarm and strobe light. Apparently people are disconnecting them because they do not like the noise. My advice: DO NOT DO THAT!