“I left Charlie upstairs,” my wife broke down as tears started streaming down her face. “I thought you had him.”
We were standing outside our house around 9pm on a Sunday night. The boys were safely in my wife’s SUV parked across the street warming up. We were outside waiting for the fire department to arrive.
Minutes earlier, I had been in the basement working on some writing, my wife was upstairs reading and the boys were asleep. Our CO alarm started going off in long intervals. She and Zacharie scrambled down, I scrambled up, and read the meter as saying GAS.
Used to false alarms, but not certain this was one, I called the non-emergency line to ask what I should do.
“Sir, we ask that you always call 911 when your alarms go off. Please get everyone out of the house immediately.”
This was when we realized that Charlie was not with us. He was still upstairs. My wife scrambled up to get him, and we ushered everyone outside. There was no immediate rush, it’s not like the house was on fire, but the boys were still afraid at being woken up and ushered outside in short pyjamas and bare feet.
My wife and I waited outside for the firemen to arrive when we thought back to the 3 to 5 minutes we spent inside, calmly getting things together to take the boys out. That’s when my wife remembered that she had not immediately collected our youngest son. And that’s when she remembered her rings were still inside.
The firetruck pulled up, and two guys went inside with a proper gas meter to check the entire house while we waited outside.
“What if this was a real emergency?”, I thought. What if it had been the smoke alarm that had gone off and there had been legit flames in our house. The family was spread out across three floors. We would have had no time to get out. I’ve always thought I could collect a photo album or back up hard drive before escaping in an emergency.
Not a chance. Even in this ‘calm’ evacuation we forgot things. One son had no shirt, the other had no shoe. Imagine if the pressure was really on?
One of the firemen came out of the truck with a couple of colouring books for the kids. My boys have much experience with the fire hall that came to our house, we visit them each year to drop off toys at Christmas, and they’d seen the colouring books before. But they snapped them up. Sitting in the truck, waiting to see what was wrong in their house, they were rampant for a distraction.
After 10 minutes, the two firemen came out with nothing to report. Their meter had found no gas. They said perhaps it was a dust build up and that we should change our batteries even though our gas meters are the kind that are plugged in.
We thanked them, and then hustled the boys back inside. Despite it being now 90 minutes past their bedtime, their adrenaline was pumping and they weren’t in a mood to head back to bed.
“Daddy can we do some activities to calm ourselves down?,” Zacharie asked.
So they sat at the kitchen table and worked through the books while my wife and I looked at each other and wondered ‘what if it had been serious.’
This isn’t a sponsored post, but I’d like to thank one of the sponsors of the Dad 2.0 Summit, Kidde Fire Safety. They’ve been a supporter of dads and our conference for the past few years. At Dad 2.015 I won the CO detector from Kidde that went off in this situation. I was so grateful to have the device in my house, false alarm or not.
I hope you have smoke and CO alarms in your home. Have one on each floor. Check them regularly, change the batteries, and make sure your family has a plan to get out safely. We got a warning this time around, and I’m so grateful for it.