ymtk-140x200It figures.  Finally a day away and the job finds you.  Well, at least everyone evacuated, that’s a plus, but when no notification appears to have been made to the Fire Department, soemthing should be done…but what and by whom?

First, let’s walk this back a few Departments and talk to the young kid who was an Explorer scout in a sub-urban system:

  • I can’t do anything because 1) I have no gear with me and 2) all the payphones are inside, so I can’t call it in.  Maybe someone here has a car phone they can use.  Keep everyone outside until help arrives.

Thanks kid, and this is likely the most common response aside from pulling out the cell phone and calling 911 these days which, to my surprise no one was doing this particular day.  One bicyclist stops to fix a flat and 5 people report him unconscious but 1000 people listening to a fire alarm do nothing.

Now skip to the rural volunteer firefighter of old and let’s see what he does:

  • My pager is on my belt, but my radio and gear is always in the truck.  I’m on the radio calling in the whole South region of the County and getting bunkered up and to the head of the museum to investigate the panel, then radio ahead my findings.  Since there is only a paid driver on the engines around here I’ll be able to get an airpack no problem.

Again, a go getter that guy, recently dropped out of college to get more “street time.”  We’ll see how that goes for him.  But a fair response in a volunteer district.  No point running back to the car, driving to the firehouse, then returning.

And now to the paid guy in the public safety system, let’s see how he handles it.

  • I don’t carry my radio or gear off duty, but we’re a small community, so I’m getting my badge out and asking what is going on.  Judging by the delay in response the cross staffed engine is likely out of service transporting someone into town in their ambulance.  It happens.  If I can I’ll find out what is going on.

Not a bad solution, at least for peace of mind, see if they’ll tell you what’s happening.

So, you ask, what did Happy do?

  • The first 15 minutes were annoying to say the least.  Even the 3rd due on a 3rd alarm would have made it by then and the alarm was still ringing which meant only one thing: They couldn’t reset it alone.  I grabbed my handy iphone and called the non emergency dispatch number and asked if they had received an alarm bell at the museum.  He checked the board and found no incident and asked if I wanted it rung out.
  • Just as he asked the strobes stopped and the bells went silent.  I told him to hold off, I’ll find out what’s going on.
  • ID came out of the wallet and with phone to ear I identified myself and asked if they had an emergency.
  • “No, it was a smoke detector in the kitchen, just a false alarm.”

What do we say here at the Happy Medic when we get answers like that?


Radio, in my other ear, was asking me to confirm what he heard, that a fire alarm was activated by a smoke detector that was triggered by smoke and the location asked the alarm company to cancel the fire department.

The woman who called herself the manager indeed confirmed that information and I simply advised dispatch.  It was just then there was a tug at my pant leg and the 4 year old needed the restroom and folks were already being let back in.

Radio advised me they would have a supervisor come by and speak to the staff about when to and not to cancel a fire alarm activation.

Reasons to cancel it: “I saw that guy pull the alarm by mistake thinking it was the elevator button.”

There are no other reasons.

If you said find out what is going on and relay when necessary, you made the right call.

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