Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Of fire alarms and Google

From here on the husband will be referred to as TH to save me some typing since he is making more than a cameo appearance in this one.

We were in deep slumber when a series of shrill beeps woke us up. We sat up in bed, looked at the clock -3am (That’s when your body needs the most rest or so I have read somewhere – yes, I that was the first thought I had on seeing the clock).
We decided to investigate, that is me sitting in the bed, sleepy eyed, mumbling this and that and poor TH walking around the apartment. The first suspect was my laptop which had been giving strange error messages of late. Maybe it decided to give in finally, we thought – but no, the beeps (increasing in frequency and shrillness by the second) were not from there. TH said it could be the fire alarm and I was too sleepy to put my brain to any exercise and come up with any alternative theories. Though I remember saying something about voltage surges causing it , I am supposed to be an electrical engineer after all.

Once outside the bedroom, TH found the source of the beeps to be a small plastic box mounted above the bathroom door in the hallway .We had seen this box every day for the last 6 months but never gave a second thought to it. To our defence, smoke detectors and alarms are not common objects inside a house in India. The only fire alarms I am familiar with are the ones on office (heard during the routine tests) and they didn’t beep. But we checked all the appliances just to be sure and sniffed around for smoke. And then we started hearing similar beeps from other units around us and we were convinced there was fire in the building but nobody was running out. Poor brain, this level of confusion at 3 am:-D My brain had started functioning by then and I realized that if it indeed was a fire alarm, the fire brigade should have been outside the building by then – we live a few hundred meters from the fire station after all.

Anyway TH pressed some button on the box and the beeping stopped. That is when we decided to call for help aka Google (Dear Google – what would I do without you). I typed in “beeps from fire alarm” and came across a number of discussions on the same. Normally the beeps occur when the battery is weak and needs to be replaced. I even found the operation manual of our alarm online to confirm. But what I found interesting was that more than one person had reported the beeps starting around 3am – a conspiracy or what to catch us off guard when our body is at its weak!!
So TH removed the battery. The chance of a real fire happening when our alarm was down and out against the very depressing thought of losing more sleep in case it started to beep again – we took the risk and went to sleep again.

But we were too excited to sleep. So we ended up talking very serious stuff – for example, how we need to have an emergency response kit with us to take in the event of us running out of the apartment in case of an emergency. If there really was a fire at that moment, TH said he would take the passports and a laptop and his wallet. I said I would take the tablet (to play angry birds which can distract me enough to avoid any panic attacks in emergency situations) and my jewellery (I can sell it in case we run out of money right?) and drifted off to sleep. On second thoughts , my wallet and the car keys as well.

And then we sat bolt upright – 4 or 5 beeps. Or did we just imagine it?

Update : came across this in a site-"Smoke detectors go off between 2am-6am because the ambient temperature drops considerably then. This causes the battery voltage to drop below the smoke detector’s low voltage warning level and bingo, off she goes!!!"

And I am not alone in my conspiracy theories :-)

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