The hardest wake up calls usually come when you're wide awake. I must admit I remember this day like it was yesterday. I am very grateful the consequences of my negligence were just a bit of an embarrassed look on my face. I am telling you this story today so we won't have to report on a tragedy over the weekend.

Here is how the story unfolded. I had just left the grocery store and was turning off Johnston Street into my neighborhood when my mobile phone rang. It was my alarm company telling me that there had been a fire alarm reported at my house. The dispatcher asked if anyone was home. I told her I would be there in two minutes and I would call her back. She told me the fire department had been dispatched and asked if I wanted to cancel the alarm. I told her , I don't know I will let you know if I see smoke billowing out of my house.


This was not how I planned to spend the afternoon. I was hoping to take a short nap before the kids got home from school, but no! My alarm system decided I should get to know my neighborhood fire department. Fortunately it was a false alarm, the house, the dog, the dirty dishes are not damaged or even clean. So why would a built-in monitored alarm give a false reading? Here are some things you should look for.

Smoke Detectors- First, you should have one. Second, it should be in working order. That means check the batteries if it is battery operated. Did you know smoke detectors need to be cleaned? They do and you really need to know how to do that.

General Maintenance- When is the last time you had your alarm company come out and check your system? If you're like me the answer is never. That's because you only want to hear that alarm when something bad is happening. These systems as sophisticated and bulletproof as they are do have weaknesses. If your alarm company hasn't inspected or tested your system in a couple of years you might want to consider calling them.

Dust and Dirt- I bet the last time you cleaned around where the smoke detectors are located was just before the first Clinton inauguration right? Dirt and dust can clog up the sensors in these systems. That lack of air flow over time can give the unit a false read. Of course if you call and have your alarm company check out your system they should do that for you.

I hope you never get a call that your house is on fire. If you do, I hope it is a false alarm. I must admit it took several hours for my heart rate to return to normal. I thank the Lafayette Fire Department for their prompt response and for sticking around and double checking my house and my attic. I know they get paid to fight fires but I get the feeling they would rather get paid to prevent fires from starting.

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