The 3 AM building alarm.  This is the Fire Service equivalent of an abdominal pain from a month ago.  Thing is, when it’s in a retirement home, all bets are off as to what might be going on.


Audible and visual warning devices triggered by an automatic alarm, water flow indicated.


When the bells strike at work, I always get out of bed and sit on the corner and wait for 2 distinct dispatcher comments:

1. “Unit dispatch…” Which means it’s a medical job and I should continue waking up, OR

2. “Units stand by for the box…” Which means we have a report of smoke or fire in a building.

But there is a glimmer of hope when the dispatcher calls out a building alarm box because our Truck Company also covers 2 other engine areas.  Sometimes they’re the only ones going out.  Sometimes.

Tonight it’s everyone and we’re quickly on scene to a very beautiful brick 4 story type 3 we drive by all the time wondering what’s inside.

Old people.

We’re met by a security guard who of course is more interested in our supervisor’s name than telling us the situation inside.  A representative from the water department wanders over from a giant hole in the ground surrounded by water department vehicles and informs us they just turned the main back on.

As the pressure slowly built against the sprinkler valve, it likely shuddered and set off the alarm.  We relax and go in to make sure and reset the alarm.

Like in a zombie movie, we enter to see various persons in pajamas and robes wandering the halls and standing on the stairs, all staring at us as we go by.  They say nothing, only watch and slowly begin to come closer the longer we stand at the alarm panel under the grand staircase.  At some time in the past 100 years, this was one hell of a mansion, but now is populated by scores of the aged.

Which is odd, since I’ve never been on a medical run here before.

As we reset the alarm, the occupants begin to slowly shuffle away in different directions, except for one.

He corners the other firefighter and asks her if she knew they had a new elevator installed recently.

“OK, wonderful, thanks.” She says, being as polite as you can at 3:15 AM.

“No, you need a key to use it if the alarm goes off,” he informs her.

“Yes, we have that key,” she says, trying to walk away.

“No, it’s a new kind of elevator, come, I’ll show you.” and he begins to lead her down a hallway.

As much as I wanted to follow and keep her company, she went along as one might go along to look at baby pictures of your third cousin while visiting long lost family.

She eventually emerged, unharmed and still in good spirits, to inform us that it was a standard elevator.  Go figure.  It wasn’t until later I learned that the inventor of the modern elevator, Elisha Otis, died long ago.  I was half hoping that was him, remarkably old and well preserved, in a home for the very old and the very rich.

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