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Danger Warning!

I failed my fire drill


After rushing to Over the Rainbow to get a last minute birthday gift for a neighbor’s party that started in half an hour, I returned home twenty minutes later to find the ground level floor of my home full of smoke.

Like an idiot I ventured in and began looking for the source of the smoke. First though, I walked through and opened the back door to air out the place because of the floating, layered haze of black smoke. It smelled like an electrical fire. Then I ran frantically upstairs and down searching for flames. As the smoke was clearing I isolated the source to the washing machine and dialed 911.

The emergency operator transferred me to the Anchorage Fire Department dispatch, and as she was getting details, she asked me if I was in the house. I was. She told me to go outside immediately and not to go back inside. I did. Soon, all the neighbors were outside too.

In just a couple of minutes I heard the sirens as the firefighters headed to my house from Station 9. The Anchorage Fire Department showed up in force almost immediately. Two ladder trucks, a tanker, an emergency vehicle, and an Anchorage Police Department cruiser delighted and fascinated all the neighbor kids, while worrying all the parents and adults.

Several firemen went methodically from room to room upstairs and down and found nothing but my messy house. After determining my washing machine motor burned up and that no fire had spread into the walls, they departed just as quickly as they showed up. I was left with a great sense of relief that my home wasn’t on fire—also much gratitude that the fire department showed up so fast and that they were thorough, courteous, and professional.

After they left I started wondering why I didn’t hear a smoke alarm when I came home to a house full of smoke. Turns out my carbon monoxide monitor was not a smoke alarm combo as I thought, and no smoke alarm existed on the ground floor. I’ve since corrected that, picked up a couple of fire extinguishers, and installed extra smoke alarms to supplement the ones in the bedrooms upstairs.

I feel very fortunate there was no fire and I’m glad it turned out to be a drill, but not everybody gets the luxury of an unexpected fire drill before something bad happens. It brings home a fact the Anchorage Fire Department shares on its website: “Alaska has the highest number of fire incidents and fire fatalities per capita in the nation.” The department has a “Fire Stoppers” program to knock Alaska off the top of the list, and the program is detailed online at muni.org/departments/fire where there is a wealth of fire prevention information. Everyone should do their own fire drill. Every month.

And everyone should read the July issue of Alaska Business Monthly. The team has put together another really great magazine. Enjoy!

—Susan Harrington, Managing Editor

This first appeared in the July 2014 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.
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