Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IWSG: Blowing Smoke


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J.  Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                           Blowing Smoke

It was 12;30 a.m. Monday morning, and I just finished my nighttime ritual of brushing, flossing, and looking for unsightly facial hairs, before slipping under the covers when a loud piercing sound emanated through the apartment.

No, it wasn't my husband's snoring. It was the fire alarm. I immediately sprang into action, put on my shoes, grabbed my cell phone, keys, a jacket and my husband and proceeded out of our fifth floor apartment.

My husband thought this would be a good time to start tying his gym shoes when he had perfectly fine topsiders to slip into, but I remained calm. After all, I was house manager of my sorority in 1981, so I could handle anything.

Our front door does not lock automatically, so I asked him to lock the door, in case this was some kind of distraction tactic for burglars to lure us out of our apartments.

En route to the stairwell, we noticed that many of the neighbors were huddled across the hallway. We headed down the nearest stairwell, but only a handful of neighbors had the same idea. It was raining, so one of the neighbors held the door open and we waited for the fire department to arrive.

We were waiting and waiting and wondering why it was taking the fire department so long to get there when they were only two blocks away.

A few minutes later, my husband and I cut through the garage to  see if the fire department had arrived. While we waiting to hear their report, we saw neighbors stepping off of the elevators. I wanted to make citizen arrests for not following fire safety rules, especially to one of the young tenants who had to take the elevator down from the second floor.

Afterward, the fire department said it was a false alarm and we returned to our apartments.

The next day, my husband learned that the alarm had not gone directly to the fire department, and they only responded because they received 911 calls from the tenants in the building. This was surprising, as it's a brand new building that was completed this year.

My husband notified the building manager and also alerted the leasing agent. The agent suggested sending an email explaining all of the events including that many of the neighbors didn't know how to safely respond in the event of an actual fire. She added that my husband was articulate and since I'm a writer that we should have no trouble crafting a letter.

This happened over a week ago, and there still hasn't been a response from our building. Even a note pasted in the elevator or the entryway addressing safety rules would be helpful.

Often times my husband will proofread my stories before I send them off to the editor, and in this case, he took the lead, and I proofread his letter. He did a fine job conveying the importance of safety for the tenants and how the building has to do their part to make sure the alarm company sends a signal to the fire department.

Sadly, the management company is still blowing smoke.


  1. It;s very frighteneing when the fire alarm goes off especially at that time of night. Pleased you are safe and sound.
    Have a great Novemeber.


  2. That's too bad that the management didn't respond to your husband's email, especially since it dealt with such a safety hazard. It doesn't say anything about the company as a landlord. Glad it was not a real fire.

  3. How about a letter to the editor of the newspaper instead? A little media attention might prompt them to do something.

  4. As David Cassidy sang in an episode of 'The Partridge Family':


    But then I'm known to be an extremist. (I get results though!)

    ~ D-FensDogG
    Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

  5. Hi Julie - how extraordinary and how difficult ... but am so glad it wasn't a proper fire - but knowing what's what should be an essential ... hope it gets sorted soon and you can catch up on your sleep - cheers Hilary

  6. The good thing is that you were perfectly groomed and had no facial hair when you had to pass people in the hall and go outside into the cold night.

    If you have not gotten an answer yet from building management., I would call the Department of Inspections or the Fire Department. A high rise building definitely should have have safety regulations in place. My gosh, children have regular fire drills in schools and so should apartments.

  7. Scary, and most scary that the building management isn't responding quickly. I'm with Alex--a letter to the newspaper might be productive.

    My IWSG Post

  8. Not good management at all. They're putting their tenants' lives in jeopardy. Go get 'em.

  9. They need to get on to that right away, can't mess about with safety. Look at the tower block disaster we had in the UK.

  10. Yvonne - Thankfully I was wide awake at the time. I felt bad for many of the others who were sound asleep when the alarm sounded. Thanks Yvonne!

    Natalie - A new manager took over, so I'm sure he has his hands full, but that's really no excuse. I completely agree with you. Thanks Natalie!

    Alex - I thought about doing that, but I'd have to sign my name which might not be the best thing, since we just moved in a few months ago. We'll keep trying. Thanks for hosting another great IWSG, Alex!


  11. Hi Stephen! Sorry I missed that episode. I was a Bobby Sherman girl! Thanks Stephen!

    Hi Hilary, I'm a night owl, so that's not the part that worries me. The fact that they're ignoring the whole incident is concerning. Thanks Hilary!

    Arleen - Hahaha! Thanks for making my day! I didn't say that I had no facial hair, I just tried to tweeze some of the longest strands! So true about fire drills and I like your suggestion.

    Rebecca - Yes, something will have to be done. Thanks Rebecca!

    Lee - That's the spirit! I might have to put my mom on the case! Thanks Lee!

    Nick - We definitely don't want a tower block disaster. Fortunately, there are only six floors. But it's such an easy problem to solve and they're just sweeping it under the rug. Thanks Nick!


  12. Arrghh! I hate stuff like that. Happy for you that it was a false alarm, however. Twice we've had the fire alarm go off in hotels. One was a false alarm. One was a burnt pizza in the microwave in the staff break room that caused lots of smoke and ended the life of the microwave. In that one, some people were just leaving their rooms when we came back up. I was happy it wasn't a real fire or they may not have survived. Husband is the same with his shoes. I wanted to get behind and push him out :)

    1. Hi Carol - It might have been even worse in the hotel, because you were probably on a higher floor. Sorry the microwave didn't make it! Funny about our hubbys and their shoes!


  13. Oh my! That is upsetting that the alarm doesn't go to the fire department and that people there don't know to not use the elevator. I hope you can get the building manager to make things right and educate the residents.

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  15. I'm glad it was just a false alarm. It does show though that it's worth calling the emergency services and not assuming this will have happened automatically, or that someone else will have been bound to have done it already.

  16. Connie - Yes, it is upsetting. Someone reminded me that fire instructions are posted on the inside of all hotel room doors, and our building would only have to post instructions in the elevators, by the stairwells and in the lobby. Thanks Connie!

    Piseth San - I really appreciate your kind words. Thank you!

    Patsy - I agree this proves that you can't take anything for granted, even though we're in such close proximity to the fire department. Thanks Patsy!


  17. That's one of the things that always annoyed me about living at an apartment - nothing ever got done, and if you had questions, you very rarely got answers. I just hope nothing's truly wrong.

    As for me, now I'm in charge of my own smoke alarm, and the only time it goes off is when I'm cooking.

    Next time, might I suggest investing in a toy police badge? It might make a citizen's arrest easier to carry out. People are visual creatures, I find. It helps them really picture their own arrest.

  18. That false alarm should prove to be a good thing. Progress may not be happening as quickly as you'd like, but now that y'all are aware of the problems, they can be addressed. I have faith that you (and probably your hubby, too) will make darned sure they're addressed.

    This reminds me a little of when I was in college back in the dark ages. The fire alarms went off in the middle of the night in our dorm because of a small fire in the lobby. The alarm didn't go off of our hall, so all of the gals on our hall slept right through all of the excitement. The alarm on our hall WAS fixed after that.

  19. A Beer For The Shower - I think a toy police badge sounds like a wonderful investment! Thanks for the great advice, and please stay safe in the kitchen! That reminds me of many years ago when the smoke alarm went off while my brother was cooking in my mom's kitchen. He told the firemen that everything was okay and convinced them to leave, so their fire boots wouldn't mess up my mom's floor. Thanks Bryan!

    Hi Susan! Thank goodness the fire didn't spread. That must have been pretty frightening after you found out. Although the parents probably didn't make that big of deal out of it back then, My mom received a call in the middle of the night before my college graduation from one of our blackballed sorority sisters. She threatened to kill me if I didn't drop the charges against her, and my mom hung up the phone and slept like a baby. Yes, things were different then. Thanks Susan!


  20. Yeah, until FORCED to do something, I think most people are like that. How many people in private rentals have to badger their landlords for ages until something gets fixed? That's the way it works, eh? Still, with a large building, there NEEDS to be accountability.

  21. Crystal - Actually the maintenance man has been good about repairs. The other day we noticed a sign near the elevator saying not to use the elevator in the event of a fire. It's a standard sign, but I hadn't noticed it before. Hopefully, others have noticed it too. Thanks Crystal!


  22. Goodness what a drama! Best to go belt and braces when it comes to calling the emergency services.