Silence Is Golden

I don’t believe it. Another disturbed night’s sleep.

At a quarter to two this morning we leapt out of bed to an ear splitting electronic screeching. No fire, thankfully, but the smoke alarm had chosen that particular moment to notify the universe that its battery was about to run out. What sort of timing is that? And how, exactly, do you make these things stop? Eventually, Mike unscrewed it from the ceiling and ripped the battery from the unit. After some ten minutes of its incessant racket, peace was finally restored. It took a whole lot longer to get back to sleep.




Six years ago I’d just finished full time work. We were living in another old thatched cottage and I was casting around for something to do next. Between holding down a hectic job and the travelling that entailed there hadn’t been much time for work on the house. It seemed as good a place as any to start. The smoke alarm there was the bee’s knees. It was wired in to a burglar alarm system that, in its turn, was connected to a 24 hour security call centre.

I’d decided to repaint the back hall and the first morning got stuck in with the sander. Less than five minutes later a claxon goes off at full rip. I launch myself in the direction of the alarm board, grabbing the phone mid run and trying to ignore the trail of thick dust following in my wake. I already knew what I’d find in the control board’s display.

It took an age to get through to the control centre and to complete their identification routine. “I need to cancel a call, it’s a false alarm”

The woman on the other end was calmer than me. “Your smoke alarm seems to have been activated.”

“I know, I was sanding. Please cancel the call.”

“I’m sorry, Madam, I can’t do that. The Fire Service has already been alerted.”


“I’m sorry, Madam, it’s standard procedure.”

“How do I stop it??”

“Call 999…”




“Which service do you require?”

“Fire, but I don’t want to call a fire engine, I want to stop one”

This operator is even calmer than the last. Essential procedure I know, but she needs to take down all my details before anything can happen at all. My stress levels are going through the roof and there’s not even a fire. “I need to stop the call out, there’s no fire, I was sanding..”

“I’m sorry, Madam, I can’t do that.”


“It’s standard practice Madam, if there is a call out we have to answer it.” The Fire Service will always check for themselves. “I’ll put a call through to the appliance and get them to turn off the siren, how’s that?”




It didn’t take them long. A knock on the door and six burly firemen are standing on the lawn. All of them pile into the cottage, helmets and all. In the cramped hallway we’re like sardines in a can. They peer into every room, suggest that perhaps next time Madam might want to put a plastic bag over the smoke alarm.. and get ready to depart.

“I’m so sorry”

“It’s OK, it was a nice run out. And good to know where you are.”

Six firemen. Is that one fire engine or two?

Oh, the embarrassment.



Silence Is Golden

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2017-11-06T20:53:52+00:00October 5th, 2012|Tags: |


  1. Sue October 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Well that’s one way to meet some hunky firemen!!

    My only alarm incident, was when I moved into my last shop, while cleaning I accidently touched the burglar alarm sensor in the corner and triggered the alarm. I could not stop the thing from ringing. In all the paperwork that the landlady had given me nowhere was there the code for the alarm.

    I phoned her and stood outside the shop on my mobile, I coldn’t hear myself think inside the tiny little shop, she had no idea of the code either! I met all my new neighbours as they all came out of their shops and homes to see what the bl**dy awful racket was. Lots of suggestions were forthcoming but nothing worked. In the end I found on a teeny tiny sticker on some paperwork the number of the alarm manufacturers, so I rang them. The nice chap that answered said the only thing I could try would be the original factory reset code…….it worked and silence returned, never was I so embarrassed.

    The shop next door was a Barbers shop and one by one the customers came out and poked their heads into my shop with some funny quip!!

    Sue xx

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad I’m not alone.. good way to attract some new customers too?!

  2. elaine October 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    As least you knew that if there had been a real fire they would have turned up pretty quickly. You seem to attract trouble – it must be a gift you have.

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      I’m coming round to believing it, Elaine!

  3. Simone October 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Well no one can accuse you of not trying to stop the engine!!! Thanks for including the advice about using a plastic bag over the unit. I shall do that if I ever feel inclinded to do some sanding nearby!!!

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      Smart move…

  4. Annie (Lady M) x October 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    I am having problems posting comments, it keeps coming up with ‘internal server error’. So I am not sure if you will get this!

    I wouldn’t be complaining if 6 firemen turned up on my doorstep. In fact it would make my day 😉

    My fire alarm is crap. It kept making random cheeping noises and I ended up turning it off which is dangerous, but at least I keep my sanity!

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm - Reply

      I am having problems too, there is obviously an issue today. Temporary I hope, otherwise I will get on to the host. Thank you for persisting (I’ve also replied on ‘About’).

      They were quite hunky firemen actually. Even in a dither I did notice that!

      Welcome to rusty duck, Annie.

  5. Josephine October 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Random chirping noises means it’s time for the battery to be changed, THAT annoying chirp is purposely designed to get your attention.
    I’m partial to firemen, and randomly set my alarm off with a burning candle, just to have them show up 🙂

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      Somebody needed to tell our smoke alarm that random chirping was all that was required, rather than all out caterwauling! But as we have now destroyed it, perhaps the new one will be better behaved.

  6. Penny October 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    My goodness what service !!! In my early twenties I worked in a lovely shoe shop in Brighton. The burgalar alarm went off one New Year’s Eve. I was a part key holder – one part of two but & lived miles away. The manageress lived locally but was out partying so the Police had to collect her as she’d had a drink to escort her to turn the Alarm off ( no burgalary ) She gave them her number for a date !

    ( Lovely Annie I can’t leave a comment on your Blog at all ( again ) I had to download something – which I did but no joy )

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      Nice one. I hope she got the date…..!

  7. john October 5, 2012 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    i was beaten to the “hunky fireman” comment

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      Tall, dark and handsome.

  8. starproms October 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Well at least you had the pleasure of six burly firemen standing on your lawn! Did you insist that they stayed for a cup of tea?

    • Jessica October 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      I wish!

  9. where the journey takes me October 5, 2012 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    We had a small fire in the lift at work one day but it was not enough to set off the alarms – but eventually through word of mouth we all evacuated the building safely apart from one of our Solicitors (who is now a Judge I should add) who noticed from his office window that we had all lined up across the street but not really knowing why. He opened the window and we shouted up at him to get out as there was a fire. He didn’t really believe us – at which point he leaned out of the widow and jokingly waved a white handkerchief from his top jacket pocket like a Damsel in distress just as the Fire Brigade drew up outside – as you can imagine they were not amused – however they were still very hunky even when cross!! If you don’t want to have six cross Firemen in your kitchen next time – stick to the plastic bag trick when sanding!

    • Jessica October 6, 2012 at 9:44 am - Reply

      He He. After my own hunky fireman incident I had (both) the house smoke alarms well wrapped up..

  10. Rosie October 8, 2012 at 10:18 am - Reply

    Well you did try to stop them! I could tell a tale of a lost cat, a deep hole and five firemen in my living room, drinking tea, at midnight after delivering said cat and the weekly newspaper article which followed, you’ve guessed ‘ding, dong bell, pussie’s down the well’ but it would take far too long:)

    • Jessica October 8, 2012 at 10:33 am - Reply

      He He. Firemen take up a lot of room don’t they??! I hope the cat survived unscathed too.

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