Ironing clothes is not something I do on a regular basis, but I recently bought a new steam iron and was studying the directions for its use. I placed the ironing board in a perfect location to watch CNN. Unfortunately, it was not a perfect location in terms of the smoke detector overhead.I was tentatively experimenting with the “surge” button on my highly techno-robotic steam iron when a piercing noise erupted. At first, I thought it was coming from the iron itself and I struggled to turn all the dials to “Off.” After about 30 seconds of effort, the pulsing screeches ceased. Before I could try to address the problem, the phone rang. It was the receptionist at Laurel Creek. After exchanging pleasantries, Chelsea asked: “Everything all right over there, Mrs. Wildberger? We just got a report of a smoke alarm going off at your residence.”
Before I could respond, I saw a PVE Security cart turned into our cul de sac, heading straight for our driveway. Out of it dashed the Security Chief, a diminutive blond named Terry. I met her at the door, invited her in, and asked her to check the ratio of space between steam iron and smoke alarm. “Yes,” she nodded knowingly. “These smoke alarms are really sensitive. You might want to do your ironing someplace that is away from the ceiling alarms.”
This reduced my options considerably. There are five smoke alarms in our Duplex 1 home. I assured Terry that I rarely ironed and she confided that if a garment couldn’t be taken from the dryer and smoothed out, she wasn’t interested.
During the excitement, my husband, Marty, was in his office with the door closed. He’d heard the raucous noise, but decided it must be something on television. Marty reminded me of two other incidents we had experienced in our eighteen years of living here at PVE.
The first happened shortly after we moved in. We were entertaining dinner guests and I was using our electric grill to prepare salmon steaks. As we were enjoying the salad course while the salmon grilled, a shrill sound jolted us. While the siren blared, a robotic voice repeated, “Fire…Fire…” over and over. The phone rang, the Security golf cart arrived, and we were cautioned about using a smoking grill on a counter right under the smoke alarm.
The second incident was less dramatic. My husband and I were awakened at midnight by a random “beep” that seemed to be emanating from all parts of the house. The phone rang, the Security golf cart appeared and we described the problem of the erratic “beep.” The Security guard checked the entire house, including the attic and exterior of our home and asked if she could stay and try to assess the problem.
After a few minutes wondering about the polite thing to do in entertaining a uniformed young woman at midnight, she made a decision. “I’m going to call the Maintenance person on duty tonight,” she said. We settled down to desultory conversation, she in uniform, we in our bathrobes.
Within a half hour, Dennis, the maintenance person, arrived. After examining the sources of the beeps, he opined that all of the batteries were announcing that they were weak and preparing to stop functioning. After fifteen years of loyal service, we felt the smoke alarms were entitled to the same retirement we were. Dennis excused himself, returned with five boxes of new smoke alarms, and harmony was restored.
These first-responder interactions, taking place over eighteen years and recalled with gratitude and appreciation made both of us pleased to have had the foresight to see that our lovely retirement community offered more than fine dining, lots of trees and grass, and a great bar. We had an infrastructure of caring professionals who made sure that we were safe and protected twenty-four hours a day.