For my sins, I live in sheltered accommodation, and as part of our security package, each flat (or apartment for my transatlantic readers), has a smoke detector. This is placed well away from the kitchen, in the hallway, so burning the toast shouldn’t set it off. In fact, I once had a frying-pan fire that generated loads of dense, black smoke, so the level is set pretty high in my detector at least – I see no reason the rest shouldn’t be the same. Even so, there are several false alarms every year.
This Christmas, though, they’ve set a record for putting other people’s lives at risk through false alarms – causing three since Christmas Day – because when the fire crews are buggering about here, they’re not available for genuine calls.
The latest false alarm was caused by a person getting aerosol spray in their smoke detector, Just how, in the name of all that’s idiotic, did that happen? What sort of numpty do you have to be to spray near, or into, a smoke detector anyway?
We’ve had three false alarms in the past week, which indicates that a number of my fellow residents might be getting sloppy or, in the above case, dumb (and we had one spell, some years ago, where there was at least one a week for several months). One woman put the teapot on the stove to warm it up – and left the tea-cosy on it. Which caught fire. No risk to anyone, but it set off the alarm. Another left a jacket potato in the microwave for so long it was reduced to a blob of carbon – and set off the alarm. You could call these accidents; then again, maybe it’s just stupidity (I once put a small pork pie in for 10 minutes, instead of 10 seconds – that, I freely admit, was stupid – but it didn’t trigger the fire alarm).
Personally, I’d like to see anyone who sets off a three-pump alarm which, given that most people here are disabled or infirm in some way, is the standard response, without a bloody good reason, fined. That’s what happens with malicious false alarms – why should stupidity be any different? As I’ve already mentioned, when the fire crews are here, they’re not available for genuine calls. Has anyone died, or been injured, because of this? I don’t know, but if it hasn’t happened yet, odds are it will at some point, and a spate of false alarms like the one we’ve just had – and it may not be over yet – New Year’s Eve, and it’s almost compulsory inebriation, will soon be upon us…
There’s also another problem that affects every single person in the building – the communal hot-water system, gas-fired, is automatically turned off when the fire-alarm’s triggered, and very often it can be 24 hours or more before it’s turned back on again (this really has got to change). In the meantime, old and doddery people are carrying pans and kettles of boiling water to the bathroom; I’m surprised nobody has ever been badly scalded – pure luck, I suspect, and only a matter of time before it runs out.