Monday, July 4, 2011

Fire on the Fourth

Let's take a moment to review our multiple brushes with fire.

Last July we discovered a serious electrical problem that could've burned the whole house down. Instead the breaker tripped repeatedly, protecting us, but also ruining a fridge full of food. It took us a month of frustration before we figured out where the exposed wire was.

This Spring, I managed to set a hand towel on fire and saw, first hand, the gaps in how smoke detectors work vs. how smoke really travels. Even with smoke detectors it would be really easy to die in a fire. In fact, smoke detectors only cut the death rate in half. You still have a 50/50 shot of dying in a fire. Did you know that?

In June, this year, my husband entered the Darwin Awards competition by placing Tupperware in the oven and not telling me. I pre-heated it to 400F, completely unaware of the hazard until I went to put the chicken in the oven. Thankfully, I was right there and ready to use the oven, not off doing something, i.e. dawdling not really worrying about when I was going to use the oven (which would have resulted in melted, smoking plastic).

Then our basement started to smell like something was on fire. We never found a source, but the smell was strong enough I was touching the walls looking for hot spots. We unplugged some lamps and electronics and I go down and sniff on a regular schedule, still trying to uncover the source of the problem.

Last night, a smoke detector went off. We thought the beep-beep was a weather advisory, but nothing ever came on screen. The beeping intensified and we realized it wasn't from the television. So we turned everything off and listened. A full 10 minutes after the beeping started, we finally clued into the fact it was a smoke detector going off. Except we couldn't tell which one was beeping.

Hubby went to check the basement, while I stood, poised at the foot of the stairs, ready to dash up and grab the toddler. Even then, I couldn't immediately tell it was the smoke detector upstairs that was going off.

Once I realized it was, 'heart in my throat' does not even begin to describe the terror I felt as I ran to her room. All that time wasted as we remained clueless and then the inability to tell which alarm was going off, both factors meant certain disaster in a fire.

Thankfully, there was no fire. Just another valuable lesson in fire safety.

Please check your smoke detectors. Be sure you can hear them if they go off-- especially in the summer when everyone has fans and a/c generating lots of background noise.

The belief that we can slap a few of those suckers up on a wall and we're protected is false. The truth is, if there were a fire in our basement, by the time smoke reached upper story detectors, the odds would not be good for us, even if we use a fire ladder to climb out* . This is the reality of fire safety as it is practiced by the general public.

And you better believe I am about to get all kinds of anal about it at our house. Too many close calls.

*First we'd have to wake up the toddler, which is nigh impossible, the alarm last night didn't even come close to waking her. Then we'd have to get her down a ladder, which, with her motor issues, not a recipe for success.

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