Silence is golden. So is fire.

An automatic alarm call is not unlike getting the elderly disoriented call on the EMS side.  There’s a lot of investigating involved and most times it’s something simple.

But as we all know, other times, it’s not.

THE EMERGENCY

An automatic alarm is ringing at an apartment building.

THE ACTION

Alarm bells in my agency are handled by a minimum of one engine, one truck and a Battalion Chief.  This allows us to do a pretty darn good investigation and get started working if the alarm turns out to be the real deal.

As we pull up we notice no one outside and no alarm ringing.  Odd.

Inside to the alarm panel and it has been silenced, but is still telling us trouble on the third floor.

As we begin to climb the stairs to the third floor a man emerges from the ground floor unit waving his arms and pushing us out of the building.  Well, he’s trying to anyway.

“I was painting and set it off, no fire here! No fire here!”

As we get up to the third floor there is not only a smell of burnt food, but the faint ringing of a smoke detector.

“Control, balance this alarm to a full box” we hear over the air from the truck crew on the roof.

“We’ve got heavy smoke now from a skylight, third floor bravo side.”

Entry is made into the unit and we find a woman standing in her living room, the only room in the house not banked with smoke.  The open window is allowing horizontal ventilation for the pot of oil in her kitchen that is now extending into her cabinets.

It’s a quick and easy job removing the pot of oil and knocking down the fire with the pump can and we let the companies coming in behind us search for extension.

The woman is surprised it took us so long to get there, telling us the fire had been burning for over 10 minutes and the alarm bells only rang for a few moments, then were silenced.  She thought that meant we had arrived.  She was unharmed and we decided not to tell her about the man downstairs who silenced the alarm.

The Chief downstairs was taking care of that for us.

 

So many times we arrive to alarms silenced by occupants who don’t like the noise or inconvenience of the alarm going off.  Tough.  When it rings, get out and wait for us to investigate.  When it’s safe we’ll let you back in.

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3 thoughts on “Silence is golden. So is fire.”

  1. So what legal risk did the ground floor tenant incur by silencing the alarm?
    Had the fire gotten a better hold and there been damage outside of the original apartment or God forbid injuries or deaths would he have any liability?

  2. Which is why I ALWAYS proceed to the address and performed an inspection of the building, even if they (or the alarm company) called to cancel before the fire department arrived. 

    Besides providing a cause-and-effect lesson, caught two room-and-content residential fires and a half-dozen incipient fires.  Oh, and a greater alarm commerical fire. 

    As a younger fire officer who knew “everything,” I almost facilitated a civilian death by not inspecting the commercial property. Alarm stopped because the detector shorted out, the smoky fire continued to build.

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