Thursday, January 13, 2011

False Alarm

Yesterday, at work, the fire alarm bells rang for 2 hours.  Argh.

As the official fire warden, I am responsible for every detail of fire safety within our unit, however I do not have the ability to turn the bells off.  Needless to say, all and sundry made their way to my office to complain about the noise.  What I wanted to say (or yell, since no one could hear each other at a normal speaking volume):




What I did say was that I had no control over the bells and I wasn't enjoying them any more than anyone else.

A brief lesson on sprinkler systems:

The sprinklers are capped with wax.  If a fire melts the wax and releases a flow of water, the water pressure in the system drops.  The fire alarm is wired into the sprinkler system such that any drop in water pressure triggers the fire alarm.  Therefore, if there are renovations in your building, and the sprinkler guy has to drain a section of the sprinkler system, the bells will automatically start ringing.  If the building management has elected to schedule this work in the middle of the day without warning anyone, you will assume that there could be a fire and everyone in your workplace will start flipping out.  And even once you determine that it's a false alarm, if no one on the premises can figure out how to turn the alarm off, it will continue to ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, and ring...

I was told by building management that a technician from the alarm company was on his way to turn the alarm off.  Where was he coming from?  They dunno.  When would he arrive?  *shrug*  Keeping in mind that a giant snowstorm had just passed over the city, bringing traffic to a standstill to the point where some of our employees spent 2 hours getting 1/5 of the way to work, and then gave up, turned around, and went back home, it seemed likely that the alarm guy wouldn't show up for hours.


God help us.

When I looked up an hour later to see an unfamiliar man standing in my office doorway, I was hopeful.  When he asked me "WHERE'S YOUR ALARM PANEL?" I almost threw my arms around him.

If the circumstances had been better suited to conversation, I might have mentioned how surprised I was that he got there so quickly, and asked about where he had been when the call came in, or about how traffic was doing.  Instead all I said was "YOU'RE MY NEW BEST FRIEND!" and took him back to our electrical room.

After looking around in the panels with a flashlight and a ladder, he said he couldn't find anything, so I brought him around to the building's main electrical room.  We had to go for a 5-minute walk around the outside of the building in the freezing cold to get there.  He had no coat, boots, hat or gloves, but I figured that was his bad.  It's his job to do this stuff, so he'd have to suck it up.

In the main electrical room, we found the alarm console, but he wasn't familiar with the model.  He called his colleague to get instructions.  In the end I was the one who spotted the Reset button, tucked under swing-away panel.  He pressed it and then we called back to my office to confirm that the bells were off.  They were.  Hallelujah!

At that point he turned to me and said "Isn't it a good thing that I just happened to be dropping by to give [so-and-so] his Christmas gift?"

Who in the what now?

A brief exchange ensued, in which I learned that he was not The Official Alarm Guy I was expecting.  That guy was probably still stuck in dead-stop traffic on the 407.  This guy was a client.  A client who just happened to know a thing or two about alarm systems and had volunteered to be of help if he could.  His friend wasn't at "head office", but was just a friend who also worked in the industry.

A client, whom I had invited into our staff only areas (confidentiality issues OMG!).  Whom I had invited to climb up a ladder (what if he had fallen OMG!).  Whom I had casually lead out into the snow and freezing wind despite his lack of proper winter clothing (what if he catches a cold OMGWTFBBQ!).

Well, too late now!  And: the bells were off!  Nothing beats that.

The client seemed unworried by the whole operation.  He had willingly volunteered after all.  And now, even though it's probably technically illegal or at least highly inadvisable for me to fiddle with that panel myself, I KNOW HOW TO TURN THE BELLS OFF!

All was well.  As an epilogue, we had to listen to the bells ring for another 40 minutes at the end of the day while the sprinkler system re-filled.  When they stopped, we all cheered.


Jameil said...

LOLOL! Well sir, I'm sorry but thank you anyway?

Juniper said...

Well really, you didn't wait around to check his official ID? tsk tsk!

Glad it worked out ok ;-) I'd have thought the official fire officer (you) should know how to switch the bells off anyway.


LL Cool Joe said...

Ha ha that's a classic! The poor sod was doing you a favour and you treated like him like that!

Still the bells have stopped! All is well!

DarcsFalcon said...

HAHAHAHA!! Very soothing ... I hadn't noticed ... Spark, you're killing me here! LOLOL

This was so freaking funny! :D Glad everything worked out okay in the end, and that no one seems to be suffering a hearing loss!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I stopped reading after you took your new best friend to the electrical panel room. Yeah, I know what that means.
C'mon. You're a married woman. What about your vows?

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: My volunteer helper was very cheerful, and seemed not at all perturbed by the whole adventure. Fortunately! I apologized sincerely.

Juniper: Technically someone with more authority than me is in charge of the alarm. The reason: if there were a real fire and it were overlooked and the bells were turned off, the whole building could burn down and people could die because they wouldn't know they should get out.

LL Cool Joe: Fortunately my default behaviour is polite and grateful, even towards people who are "just doing their jobs", so aside from not thinking twice about taking him for a stroll outside, I didn't treat him too awfully. On the other hand, if I'd yelled at him for taking so long to get there, I would have found out a lot sooner that he wasn't from the alarm company!


wigsf3: If I were going to take anyone to the electrical room in that sense, it would be the electrician, ironically. He's my favourite of all the service guys. However, he has a wife and a young child, and I have very high standards of fidelity, so I admire from afar.

DarcKnyt said...

Wow, that's ... horrible, and yet hysterical. I mean, HY-FRICKIN'-STERICAL.

Great job, and hey, now you know. ;)

Hevenly said...

Argh. Bells are my pet peeve about multi-storey buildings. Really glad you were able to survive it all ! And now you know where the reset switch is.