Never Shout ‘Fire’ in a Crowded Family Room

You are going to be tempted to judge me. Maybe you should judge me. First, for being irresponsible. Second, for being unmanly.

For a guy that sets being a good dad atop his list of ambitions, it’s hard to confess to behavior that is irresponsible or unmanly. Behold the courage as I do both.

First things first: Being irresponsible. I admit that for months, maybe even for more than a year, I have allowed for there to be no operational smoke detectors in my house. At this point, all firefighters and insurance adjusters have left the room. I can feel you judging me.

Sad but true. To make matters worse, the disabled smoke detectors were in plain view. Every evening, as my wife and I met over a burning can of Sterno, kidding, glass of wine, I could look up and see the uncovered and battery-less hulls of smoke detectors, mocking my “good dad” pretensions.

What excuse could a man who professes to love his children have for leaving them vulnerable in such a way?

Mine was this: I have no ladder.

Which is the unmanly part.

All those months ago, I had tried to to the right thing, borrowing a ladder to change the batteries in all the smoke detectors, but my neighbor returned to reclaim it before the job was done. Maybe now I should add procrastination to the list of failings. Anyway, there the detectors hung, useless and out of reach.

Now, you know me too well to think that I will leave these confessions out there unredeemed.

Did I recently give my house a fire safety overhaul?

Yes.

Was it hard?

About as hard as going to Home Depot.

I was actually sitting in the front seat of my sub compact, getting ready to head to the House of Orange, when I realized my mistake. The first item on my shopping list was a six foot ladder. I got out of the car, looked around sheepishly, and walked over to the minivan. I got in and tried to bolster my self confidence with a good “Let’s Do This,” but there was still a hint of self-doubt in my voice.

I was in good hands at Home Depot, however, even before I left. I checked out the How to Chose Fire Safety Equipment Project Guide on the website and drew up my shopping list.

- Ladder (mentioned that)
- Smoke detector for living room and bedrooms
- CO2 detector for kitchen
- Additional full size fire extinguisher (I had a shrimpy one under the kitchen sink)
- Fire safe
- Big Orange Bucket

At the store itself, Chelsea quickly recognized my clueless expression and guided me to the aisle where all the Kidde Fire safety products were to be found. She helped me pick out the right smoke detectors (10 year, no battery changes required — good for the unhandy), CO2 detector, and fire extinguishers.

Fire safes were on a different aisle and choosing one took a while. I don’t have much storage space in the house, so I wanted something compact. Besides, we don’t have many precious gems lying around. I just wanted something big enough for a few documents and a hard drive. Of course, they had just the thing.

Why the Big Orange Bucket? Because “Let’s Do This!” That’s why. Water balloons need homes, too. And bucket brigades used to put out fires, but not anymore. And my credibility needs the boost of having that thing around. I may leave it outside the front door for a while.

Speaking of credibility, I am not going to describe how long I struggled to open the new ladder before finding the little plastic brackets that held it closed for shipping. Nor shall I give details about how many times I drilled holes for the drywall screws only to discover a stud. I will not confess how many times I climbed to the top of the ladder, addressed the smoke detector, and dropped all the screws on the ground. You don’t need that. I don’t need that.

Suffice it to say that even with my lack of skills I managed to install four smoke detectors, a CO2 detector, deploy my fire safe and fire extinguisher in about an hour. Done and done.

It’s all kind of funny now that the house is stocked with functioning fire safety gear — to laugh at my laziness about getting this done, but if something had really happened, it would’t be funny at all. And after I had installed everything, I realized just how much it had been bugging me. I was genuinely relieved. Even more so because I was scheduled to leave on a business trip the next day.

Take my advice: Do it today. You’ll feel better for it.

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this Let’s Do This campaign. As a part of the Let’s Do This campaign, I am receiving compensation in the form of cash and gift cards, for the purpose of promoting Let’s Do This and The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.