Smoke Alarm Experience

May 1, 2017 bjhutchins No comments exist

This post is going to be significantly longer than my normal posts, but I encourage you to read it through.

A couple of weeks ago I had a humbling and enlightening experience. It was about 11:30 PM and I was catching up on some work, my family had gone to bed and I was in the home stretch when…BEEEP BEEEP BEEEP…something was wailing.

I walked out of my office and in to the foyer/entry area and looked upstairs to find the smoke alarm light flashing and about that time my Wife steps out of the bedroom; “What is that??”, then it registers in my head; “SMOKE ALARM!”

I bomb upstairs and hit the light and sure enough, “SMOKE UPSTAIRS!” My Wife comes up the stairs and goes for the kids while I mentally slip in to my turnouts and go in to firefighter mode looking for a source.

I head down the stairs following everyone outside, grab my phone, and hit 9-1-1 on my way through the garage as the kids, dog, and my swift Wife hop in the SUV for cover I hear; “911 what’s your emergency?”

“Hello?” “Hello?” … “uhghh…” I find that I can’t talk. Between the stress and going up and down the stairs a couple of times my heart is going about 300 beats per minute and my breathe is gone – my hand was on the panic button and I was just about to press it. Therein is my humbling experience.

I finally get the information out and clear the line, I got my composure a little, grabbed my flashlight and thermal imaging camera and headed back in; against the operators instructions of course. In my head…my house ain’t burning down.

In the interest of time and reader retention – everything turned out okay and I’ll save the exploratory details that overtook the next 20m or so of the night, maybe I’ll write an extended version some day. 🙂

Anyway the blower motor in the gas furnace had failed and the heat exchanger got a little hotter than it usually does and it burned off some grime and dust. That sent some smoke up the return air duct and the highest outlet was at the top of the stairs.

So to cut to the chase here are some things I learned and that I encourage you all to consider:

  • Macho man here…not when I thought my house was going to burn down. I’m pretty solid, a rock in some wild situations, but not this one. Those fired drills they recommend…I now recommend…we had a plan that we discussed and that we executed, but we did it on the edge of panic.
  • Smoke alarms and kids…HAHAHAHAHAH…our kids were sawing logs when we went through the doors, clueless that the hall alarm was going off, especially with their doors shut. Consider having a smoke alarm in every bedroom and maybe even the type that beacon a light.
  • Interconnected smoke alarms. I think it was in the early 90’s or late 80’s when they started installing these; one alarm goes off and they all go off. If it’d been a long day, maybe a party night or something like that and we were sleeping with our door shut…I don’t know that we’d heard a thing. Go interconnected, if your house isn’t wired for it they have wireless solutions.
  • Backup. This might sound a little crazy, but in my hustling and bustling I was trying to figure out; “What do I need to grab?” All of my recent life events, business files, photos, home videos, documents, everything critical to daily life, its on my computer…my huge computer super tower with four 28″ screens, speakers, printers, a soundboard…a…streaming out of the back and soon to be bouncing down the stairs as I haul the tower out to the car. I could confidently walk away knowing that I have offsite backups that run daily. I wouldn’t lose a thing. Set something up!
  • Along those same lines…if you have some really important heirlooms consider a fire safe or put them in a place easily accessible as you head for the door.

I’ll wrap it up at that. I do want to give a shout out to the W. Salem fire crew. We have a firehouse about a mile away that isn’t normally manned, but that night they happened to be there. We had red and blues in the driveway maybe 3, 4 minutes after I hung up with 9-1-1. I was amazed, I actually forgot my house was burning for just a second and said; “Holy #)%&! They’re here already!!?” Thanks guys!

…and thank you all for reading. I don’t know if I’ve got a share button here yet, but copy and past the URL or visit my Facebook page and hit the share button and select ALL…and don’t ignore my advice on this one.

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