Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The 5:40 a.m. fire drill


The sound wakes me up; it's 5:40 a.m. We had a power outage in our neighborhood the night before, and now one of the smoke detectors has a low battery.


I burrow into the blankets. I'm consistently deluded when smoke detectors start chirping in the middle of the night; I think they're going to stop but, no. Dave never hears them. He could sleep through the apocalypse and then he'd wake up and ask (assuming we survived), "Honey, what happened?!" just like he does when he nods off as we're watching a movie together.


Sabrina walks into our room. "What's that noise?" she asks. I tell her. She shrugs her shoulders and returns to her room.

We try to change the batteries on the smoke detectors that have them–a bunch are wired to our alarm system—on a designated day; experts often recommend doing it in November with Daylight Savings Time. But usually we are fated to hear....


Fireman Max bounds into our room with a giant smile on his face. He has his trusty Fire Chief plastic hat on. Because when you are an aspiring firefighter and a smoke detector beeps, it is a big deal. Max doesn't just adore fire trucks—he worships all fire protection devices. Everywhere we go, his face lights up when he spots a fire alarm pull station, an extinguisher or a smoke detector.

"EH UH!" he announces. ("GET UP!")

I obediently get out of bed. Dave: "Snore."

Max trots over to Dave's side of the bed and prods him: "EH UH! EH UH!"

Eventually, we all gather sleepily in the hallway. Max has grabbed the "Today's Heroes" coloring book firefighters handed when they visited Max's school and is showing us a page that says "This is our fire drill plan."

Oh. He wants to have a fire drill.

"Ast!" he says, shuffling his feet in a running motion.

"You're right, if there was a fire, we'd have to move fast," I tell him.

"Ah ah an oh!" he says.

I translate: "Stop, drop and roll!"

"That's what we would do if we were on fire," Sabrina agrees.

"In-no!" he says, pointing to a window.

"Yes, we would have to go out by a window if there was a fire and we could not get out by the front door," I say. Fireman Max is on it—we are in good hands. Now, if only he could train his parents to get on top of that battery thing. 

Now that we've reviewed the necessary safety precautions, we have to pinpoint the "BEEP!" source because our house echoes. It's a smoke detector in the attic. Dave and Max go upstairs, and Max supervises as Dave removes the alarm.

"Ahries!" Max says. ("Batteries!")

We have AAs, AAAs, Ds and Cs. No 9Vs. We never have 9Vs.

"Max, we'll buy a battery later," Dave says.

"NO! Now!" Max says, very clearly.

"Sweetie, Daddy will buy them later," I promise.

And then, because I know what he wants to hear, we talk about his firefighter future.

"Fireman Max, when you grow up, you'd like to be a firefighter, right?" I say.


"And you want to help lots of people, right?" 


"And you want to go to kids' schools and teach them to be safe, right?"


"And you want to sit in the back of the fire truck, right?" 


Then we all head back to sleep except Max, who sits down at the desk in his room to play with a fire truck.

When we finally get the 9V battery the next day, Max watches as I put it in and re-install the detector.

"Oood!" he said. ("Good!")

When I was a kid, fire drills at school were great because you got to take a break from class and—in the spring—head outside. The ones at work aren't all that amusing, but fire drills at home are pretty awesome.

Image: Flickr/Bart


  1. We had a fire drill yesterday. I still cover my ears until I get outside.

    1. I hope you live someplace warm. I as well cover my ears, especially my right one because thats the one with the hearing aid.

    2. I do live in a warm climate. It gets bad in the summer (100 degrees is pretty much expected.)

  2. That's good. Here in NY, its cold and before winter break some kid pulled the alarm when It was 15 degrees out and we were outside for 20 min.

  3. Sorry your sleep was interrupted at least Max got to test out his firefighter skills


Thanks for sharing!