The 4AM Fire Drill…

Condos | August 6, 2008

You know that feeling you get when you just know you’re about to rant?

I had that feeling last night……..this morning at about 4AM when the fire alarm went off in my building.

Just when you think that you live “alone,” you realize you actually live with two-hundred brothers & sisters and a couple of parental figures…


You know that saying, “Do as I say, not as I do?”  Well I think that might apply here…

When I first moved into my new condo, I couldn’t help but notice that the smoke alarm (not fire alarm) in my unit went off any time I used my oven.

It was a minor annoyance at first, but it soon became unbearable.  One day, I decided to take the battery out of the smoke alarm but I got distracted and left the device hanging by a wire before I made any changes.  I then left, and went about my day.

I came home that night and was rather upset about the one-run loss my kids had suffered at baseball, and perhaps I was also irked by the fact that my assistant coaches didn’t show up.  I put down my baseball bats and began to make my dinner.  About ten minutes later, as I stood in my kitchen and taped the new grip on my bat, the smoke alarm went off.

I was holding baseball bat.

The smoke alarm was hanging from the ceiling like a pinata.

I think this situation needs no explanation…

I’m not the most sensible person in the world, and as I detailed above, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  I’ll check my cynicism at the door, and I won’t rhetorically ask, “When was the last condominium in downtown Toronto to go up in flames?”

But the fire alarm is a different story altogether.

I can’t stand the false-alarms in my building.

They seem to happen with increasing frequency, and I would estimate I’ve been present for at least a dozen in the past year.  This seems like a lot more than normal, doesn’t it?

But it’s the process involved that really bothers me.

Take last night, for example.  It’s 4:45AM, and the fire alarm goes off.  I know right then and there that it will be a full hour without sleep.

First, the fire alarm goes off.  I have a speaker in my bedroom, and in my hallway.  I get up and go to the hall to press the button reading “Press here to silence alarm,” and I’m left with only the sound of the many speakers in the condominium corridor.  I return back to my bed, and put a thick feather pillow over my head.

Second, the fire alarm goes off in my bedroom and hallway again.  You see, after five minutes of the alarm being “silenced,” it resets, and continues to ring in your unit.  So for those of you that thought the thick feather pillow would drown out the noise from the hallway, you were only right for the first five minutes…

Third, the sound of the fire engines can be heard in the distance.  At this point I begin laughing because I think that not only are the residents of King’s Court awake, but so too now are the residents of all the surrounding buildings that are in between the fire station and my building.

But my favorite part—and I say “favorite” because I’m being cynical, is when the concierge comes on the loudspeaker:

“ATTENTION….ATTENTION….we….are…..experiencing a fire alarm.”

No Sh!t?????

We are?  Seriously?  This is a fire alarm?

Wow!  Up until now, I just assumed that the lady in Unit #2912 ran out of peanut-butter…

I’m not one to point out the obvious, and therefore I don’t understand why they have to get on the loudspeaker, which is in my bedroom, and tell us what we already know: this is a fire alarm.

To make matters worse, as soon as he gets off the speaker, the fire alarm resets and begins to go off again!

Now here is my problem: isn’t it a bit invasive to install a one-way communication device in everybody’s bedrooms?

When I first moved into my condo, I had no idea this thing was even here.  Imagine my surprise when I awoke one night to the sound of a man’s voice coming from the back of my bedroom.  I absolutely freaked out  I actually thought, in my half-awake daze, that somebody was in my room.  I jumped up out of bed and started challenging anybody who might be lurking about but clenching my fists and dancing around like I was back in the dojo at age 18-years-old.

But nobody was there.

Instead, I realized that there were two speakers in my condo whereby the concierge could yell at 100-decibels at any time and invade the privacy I thought I had earned when I first purchased my condo.

So let’s go back to last night where there had been 30 minutes of alarm ringing and the concierge telling us that we were experiencing a fire alarm.

You see, the concierge cannot turn the alarm off.  It must be done by the fire chief, and thus we must wait for them.

So long at last, after 45 minutes the alarm is turned off and we get this:

“ATTENTION….ATTENTION….this is Bob Hayes, I’m the fire cheif and regional fire manager at the local firehouse #412….”

Um, Bob, I’m trying to sleep.  Is it really necessary to inform us all of your title and position?  Seriously, I don’t care.  I could hear, “ATTENTION….this is Duffy McGee, I’m the homeless beggar you see outside Starbucks” and I still wouldn’t care.  Just turn the damn alarm off and let me sleep!”

So Bob Hayes goes on like the US Airways pilot who tells you at what height you are currently flying, “Grrrr…..ughh….apparently the alarm was set off in stairwell #7 on the 14th floor, but we’ve conducted a thorough inspection of the premises and determined that it was a false alarm.  There is no immediate danger, I repeat, there is no immediate danger.”


Was that really necessary?

It’s 5:30AM, I’m trying to sleep after a long weekend and the night before the first day back at work, and the fire chief is basically having a one-way conversation with the 300+ residents of the building about his credentials and where the alarm was set off.

I just don’t see the point to all this.

Can’t there be a simpler way?

First, I wonder why my building seems to have more fire alarms per month than most of my friends’ buildings have per year.

But that aside, I think it’s incredibly invasive to have a loudspeaker in my bedroom that permits people to yell at me.

I know that the nervous-Nancy’s out there would answer, “These security measures are in place for a reason!  What are we supposed to do when there is a fire?”  How about this: when the alarm goes off, and we know it’s false: do nothing!  When the building is a raging inferno, come on the loudspeaker, and announce: “ATTENTION….ATTENTION….the building is a raging inferno….”

Every time I hear the concierge’s voice in my bedroom, I feel violated.  I feel like I don’t really own any privacy, and that we are really just a collection of people living under one roof.  I feel like I’m back in Grade Four and the principal comes on the intercom and says, “Mrs. Masotti….is David Fleming there?  Can you please send him down to the office?”

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing I can do about this.

Nope, there isn’t a single thing I can do…..

…..except buy a pair of wire clippers, perhaps…

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  1. Krupo

    at 11:25 pm

    New feature to add to MLS: frequency of false fire alarms.

    A low frequency could even be turned into a selling feature… 😉

  2. Duncan Scott

    at 2:59 pm

    OMG… laughing too hard… I’ve been experiencing this for two years… for the first year the security guards at night didn’t speak english very well, so you had no idea what they were saying as they were yelling at you from above.

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