"Heart Attack" Brand Smoke Alarms
On the first day of my freshman year of college, we boys were made to gather in the common room of our all-freshman-male dormitory, where the head resident informed us that the building we were occupying was so old and had such a cranky sprinkler system that if one of us 18 year olds suddenly caused the system to “go off,” as we were prone to do, the jets of water bursting forth from the sprinklers would “drive a hole right through your hand.”
Several among us suffered from mild paranoia and now had to worry that, in the event of a fire, they'd get their very own stigmata. Psychoanalysis might have helped these friends, but there weren’t many “providers” working in the bleakness of Canton, NY in those days, so they opted to numb themselves in the Hoot Owl bar.
At some point I realized it was absurd that my tuition dollars were paying for me to live in a dormitory equipped with a deadly sprinkler system, so I left for a college that had no on-campus housing for me, and therefore no sprinkler system. And I’m so glad I did, because you can’t be injured by sprinklers if your abode isn’t equipped with them.
My current sprinkler-free home is equipped with the very fanciest hard-wired and interconnected system of smoke and CO alarms, which of course means that it is certain to fail now and again. And when it fails, it does so with great gusto, blaring out piercing sirens at 4 in the morning that have terrorized my children. More than once my adrenal glands have emptied their cache of hormones into my bloodstream, nearly causing me a myocardial infarction. This, with no smoke and no CO. “First Alert” is the wrong brand name for these devices. “Cardiac Arrest” is more apt. After several episodes of false alarms, I had no choice but to disconnect several hard-wired units and opt for old-fashioned, battery-operated devices instead.
In the future, we’ll have a robot who will not only vacuum our rooms, cook our meals, and drive our cars, but will also alert us to CO buildup in the surrounding atmosphere. Until then, I’m going low-tech.