Ed Pfeifer: No excuse for not having working smoke detectors
Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | 12:01 AM
As I was preparing for this month’s column, I was treated to a flashback. Crystal-clear images of the night my childhood home caught fire rushed through my head and triggered a nauseous feeling in my gut. Suddenly, the research I was doing on smoke detectors and batteries seemed less impactful than the reality of that night.
Because fire safety is such a critical topic, I thought I would share the following with you as a way to break away from the normal reminders about smoke detectors.
I was just a little guy when that fire happened, 7 years old I think, but some parts of the experience are still incredibly vivid after all these years. I remember racing outside; I remember the firemen and the hoses, the sirens and flashing lights.
Most of all, I remember being sick with worry over the mere possibility of profound loss. I remember standing in the cold, smelling the acrid smoke and thinking that everything I knew — my bed, my clothes, even my prized football — would be consumed by fire. I recall being stunned by the emotional flood of relief I felt when I was sure that I, my parents and sister were safe.
As it turned out, the fire was controlled quickly and the damage was minimal. So how did we get out in time unharmed? How did our house not burn to the ground? The answer is simple — my dad smelled smoke.
Think about that for a moment. A human being smelled smoke, acted fast and thwarted disaster. It makes for a great story but, seriously, what are the odds? Well, those odds are frightening. In fact, the risk of dying in a home structure fire doubles in homes without properly functioning smoke alarms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad my dad has a good sniffer and all, but I think I would have preferred to have some really nice, modern smoke alarms in our house. The problem then was that we didn’t have the great information and superior products we have now.
October is fire safety month and, for homeowners, the choices surrounding that topic could not be more brilliantly contrasted. We can, in the terrifying event of a house fire, choose to rely on our questionable senses to save our skin. That method doubles our chances of dying. On the other hand, we can properly install a full complement of quality smoke alarms and dramatically increase our chances of living. It is really that simple.
We were lucky my dad’s nose worked well enough on that cold night back in the 1970s. If not for that, there is a very good chance that there would be no “Hardware Guy” column, my wife would have married the wrong man and my parents and sister would be distant memories to those who were blessed to have made their acquaintance.
I take fire safety seriously, and I implore you to do the same. In this day and age, there is really no acceptable alternative.