Monday, June 07, 2010

A Fright in the Night

We had a really frightening night last night.  At about 12:30am, all the house was slumbering deeply.  We typically go to bed by 10pm, so we were deep asleep by midnight.

Suddenly, the smoke alarms in the house began to blare.  The alarms are all connected, so if one goes off, they all go off.  It could have been any room in the house that triggered the alarm.

Becky and I immediately bolted out of bed, and my instincts sent me running down to the basement.  It was purely instinct, I assure you, because I was still groggy with sleep and only realized that they were fire alarms when I reached the bottom of the stairs.  As I reached the basement, my heart was pounding.  I met Becky on the stairs and told her, "Check the attic!"  She ran up to do that.

This was really frightening for us.  Only a few years ago, we had a house in our neighborhood burn to the ground.  What had happened was that a siding nail had pushed through an electrical cord inside the wall.  The problem had lain dormant for a couple of years after the house was built.  Until one night, it decided to spark, and the fire grew inside the wall, between the outer and inner pieces of wall-board.  The fire grew and grew until it reached the open attic space, where it became huge.  By the time the fire burst through the fire-resistant wallboard, and it was only THEN that their smoke detectors were alerted, the family had only 120 seconds to get out of their home.  The fire was so big by then, so ravenous, that they lost their dog and one of the cars in the garage.  They simply had no time to react.

This has always been my biggest fear--a house fire.  And here we were with a fire alarm blaring in the wee hours.  As I met Becky back on the stairs, the fire alarms became silent.  Nothing wrong in the basement, no fire in the kitchen, nothing on the bedroom level, and no fire in the attic.  I walked the flights of stairs, and couldn't even pick up a trace of smoke or any burnt smell. 

Clearly, there was no fire.  However, with my heart still racing, I could not be sure.  I checked each room two and three more times.

Finally, I settled back into bed, but I was unable to sleep.  What if the alarm went off again?  I was convinced that it was moments away from doing so.  Restless, and still keyed-up from the event, I headed to the attic to check about 'false alarms' on the Internet.

Apparently, the newer photoelectric sensors can be somewhat susceptible to dust, spiders and insects.  I checked each alarm again, but could see no sign of any of those.  However, if a small moth or stink bug flew into the panel and out again, I would see nothing.  Our sensors are less than a year old--I had just replaced them throughout the house--so I was fairly certain that they weren't faulty.

And so it goes:  no real idea of what happened, but the scare of our life.  I think I finally settled back to sleep about two am, but not to return to that blessed deep slumber for the rest of the night.

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