It’s a call people dread anytime, especially when traveling. The home fire alarm is sounding and firefighters are on the way.
Such was the case at a home west of Boston on April 20, 2017, when at 1:28 a.m. our Central Station received a smoke detector alarm from the second floor of the dwelling. With no answer on the home phone, firefighters were immediately dispatched.
“A residential fire alarm can often be related to cooking,” said Douglas Pacheco, the American Alarm Central Station Operator who handled this fire alarm. “First, we call the house, and many times the resident will tell us it’s just something on the stove. If there’s no answer at the residence, or if we get multiple alarms from different areas of the home, we dispatch right away. We have to react as if it’s a real fire until we get confirmation that it’s not.”
After dispatching first-responders to the home, Pacheco called the first alternate phone number on the customer’s call-list and reached the homeowners. “We were out of state, so when we got that call in the middle of the night you can imagine we were very concerned,” said one of the homeowners, who asked that the family name and home address be kept confidential.
Upon arrival, firefighters gained access to the building and found no fire, but they did find a heating unit in the attic was leaking water, which cascaded down and tripped a nearby smoke detector. Firefighters turned off the heating system and shut the water. The homeowners were advised of the situation and called their heating contractor for assistance.
“If it hadn’t triggered the smoke alarm, the water could have gone on for days and caused a lot of damage,” the homeowner said. “Even though there was no fire, we were so pleased the system detected trouble and the fire department responded swiftly. It was a situation that could have been much worse.”
Pacheco, who has worked in the security industry for more than 20 years, said handling priority alarms like this one is what the job is all about. “I don’t want to sound corny, but I like being the person people look to when they need help,” Pacheco said. “And it’s not just me. It’s a team effort. We work together on calls. On this one, we had a technician here coordinating with the heating contractor, there were the first responders in the field doing their job, and other operators here handled follow-up calls. We all work together to help the customer.”