There are many fire safety rules. All of which it is wise to follow:
- Keep a fire extinguisher in both your kitchen and garage. - Oily rags should not be kept in piles.
- Do not hold your hand in a candle flame to prove your manliness.
- Fireplace and furnace should be periodically maintained.
- All matches and flammable items should be stored out of the reach of children as should dynamite and liquid-oxygen rocket fuel.
- Install and periodically maintain a smoke alarm.
This last rule is important because, though a smoke alarm does not prevent a fire, its ear-piercing screeches can save lives.
Every year, detection devices become more sophisticated. The industry has developed detectors set off by carbon monoxide and other hazardous fumes. I have heard of a useful device that detects the presence of methane in the bathroom. It will shoot a stream of air freshener, while simultaneously kicking on the vent fan. A red light flashes over the door, warning anyone having to use the bathroom that he should find another place to relieve his burdened bladder.
Smoke detectors can be interconnected so that when one alarm sounds, they all will sound. This is another one of those unanticipated requirements imposed upon me by the B-B PUD, found as a discrepancy by the framing inspector, and that I should have seen coming since the plans examiner had been good enough to draw a circle on my floor plans with the notation, "F.A." When I reviewed the plans, I had assumed this to be the inspector's initials or perhaps, "Forwarded, Approved." As it turned out, I needed two Fire Alarms, one upstairs in the addition and one downstairs. These detectors were required to be interconnected.
Interconnection can lead to embarrassing circumstances. Imagine that your wife's old college girl friends have flown in to visit from out of state. Due to jet lag and staying up half the night giggling and comparing husbands, they are all still asleep. You have arisen early.
You're a nice guy; you decide that you are going to cook breakfast for the whole passel of them. But what do you know how to cook? Eggs, and pancakes.
You produce a big black frying pan and mix the batter in a clear glass bowl. "Clink, Clink," goes the spoon against the side of the dish.
You turn the burner on medium-high. You spread cooking oil in the pan. When a little spit in the pan makes a sizzle, you know you are ready to pour the batter. That first cake fries up perfectly. The smell reminds you of summer mornings out on the farm. So you pour more batter.
You have never been able to make pancakes without a thin stream of smoke continuously rising from the pan, slowly accumulating on the ceiling. It is inoffensive, but it is there.
Soon that stream of smoke gathers around your smoke alarm. When the inevitable happens, it is too late to do anything to remedy the situation. The smoke alarm screams out in that high-pitched beep that sounds like an air raid drill or a symphony by Edgard Varese. You rush to the alarm to jerk the battery.
However, this is not enough. The alarm is hardwired into the electrical system. Worse, it is interconnected with every other alarm in the house.
You had intended on the pleasant sound of clanking silverware to wake your guests. Unfortunately, you have subjected them to a rude awakening. They patter downstairs with haggard faces and bloodshot eyes. Still, you cannot turn off the alarm, and the entire house full of people is forced outside as if the smoke detector had sensed a real fire.
You end up serving cold pancakes and coffee at the picnic table to a crabby bunch of your wife's cronies, all the while cursing under your breath at the wonders of modern technology.