This is getting ridiculous

Incident #1

Two weeks ago.

10:00. 20 minutes before I needed to leave for a meeting with a headhunter.

Beepbeepbeepbeep. Really fast. A noisy breath on the intercom, a nervous concierge. It goes dead. Beepbeepbeepbeep. Again. Her voice, broadcast to every suite, every hall, every stairwell. There is an alarm situation in the building. Please standby for further instruction.

What do I do? I have a dog, brand new, a cat. No idea what’s going on. Do I leave? Do I stay so my animals survive?

15 minutes pass. The alarm never comes on. The voice never returns. All is normal in the building as I descend 30 floors and walk out past the concierge.

Incident #2.

Saturday night.


Blaring. M and I wake up at the same moment. Struggled out of bed, out of sleep. Throw on clothes. Let the pooch out of her crate. Step into the hall. An Indian girl stands infront of the elevators looking confused. “What’s wrong with the lifts?” she asks. I don’t know, but can’t imagine why she would want to take an elevator down when one of the floors is potentially ablazing.

5 minutes pass. M gathers the dog. I pull out Pekoe’s carrier, ready to force him in. Beepbeepbeepbeep. The quick staccato of the PA system. There is an alarm condition in the building. The fire department has been notified. Please stand by for further instruction. M walks Mocha down 30 flights of stairs. She has to pee anyway. I sit, somewhat terrified, somewhat nervous, waiting, in the apartment, unwilling to leave Pekoe, unwilling to force him into his carrier until absolutely necessary. I keep thinking about my position, trapped up high, so high I couldn’t even climb down a ladder if the absolute worst happened.

2:15. Beepbeepbeepbeep. The fire department has arrived. Please standby for further instructions.

I lean over the balcony railing, see the fire trucks in the reflection of the opposite building. There’s a small gathering of people in front of the building. I’m comforted that it’s not 700 people strong, that most are still tucked away in their apartments.

2:20. Deafening silence. My heart still pounding uncomfortably. Beepbeepbeepbeep. The fire department has declared the emergency over.

Incident #3.

10:30. I’m writing thank you cards. Watching Star Trek. Keeping an eye on a dog that hasn’t learned to tell us when she has to go peepee.

The whole thing again. The long beeps wake up the pets. The staccato sound of the PA system. The fire truck wail coming up the street towards us. Are they getting bored of us yet? I’m getting bored of them, of this, emergencies that aren’t. I grew up in a place where fire trucks meant catastrophe. Will fire alarm after fire alarm make me immune to its affects?



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2 responses to “This is getting ridiculous

  1. I find there is often a series of building alarms together, then there is a large gap between them. Really annoying though.

    As for the questions in regards to staying or going. I was told while in Toronto that with apartment buildings you’re supposed to stay in your unit. If you smell smoke, put wet towels at the base of the door to cover the gap, and get out onto your balcony and await rescue. My building announcement here says to evacuate though…

    Building alarms seem to often be due to somebody burning food then opening the front door to air it out (heard this from fire-fighters who’ve responded to alarms at my apartment in Toronto and from Dons in residence at UW).

    • Thanks for the info! I have no idea how I would get rescued from my balcony though. I’m kind of high up. Helicopters, perhaps? Or maybe window washing ropes?

      M assurance me that these buildings are built in such a way that fire does not spread quickly from unit to unit, let alone from floor to floor. And the fire department does a pretty good job of getting here pretty quickly!

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