As I've written about before, when I was 10, my house burned down. The Cliff Notes version of the story is that the fire started in the garage in the middle of the afternoon as my brother and I were coming home from school. My mom ran into the house and called the fire department. While she was doing that and against her explicit instructions, I ran into the house and grabbed my green stuffed rabbit.
Now to be sure, when we re-entered our home, the fire was still contained in the garage, but that's no excuse. Fire is unpredictable.
We all got out safely, but our entering the house the one thing you should never do. Not ever. Let me repeat myself: Do not ever run into a burning building to retrieve anything. Well, anything except your child, parent, spouse, etc.
About an hour ago, while I was busy paying bills with The West Wing on in the background, I suddenly heard a very loud honking sound. Initially, I thought the noise was coming from the DVD, but then realized the sound was coming from the hallway of my condo building.
The noise was the fire alarm.
Still in my pj's at 2pm on Sunday, I changed clothes, put on shoes, tossed my laptop and all financial docs into my briefcase, grabbed my purse, winter coat and gloves, iPhone, and Bluetooth (plus chargers) and started to head out. Then I looked at Sammy and Zoey. I had to make a decision: attempt to get them into their crates and lug them and my other stuff down four flights of stairs or leave them here and hope the building wasn't really on fire.
I chose to leave them, but only because I was feeling confident I would see them shortly. The sprinklers weren't going off, so I figured the building wasn't on fire.
On my way out, I even stopped to lock my door. Because I was nervous, I fumbled with the keys.
It probably took me three to four minutes before I was ready to exit my condo.
This is where I failed.
If my building had been on fire, those three or four minutes could have been the difference between getting out and not.
All I needed to do was grab my purse, which was sitting on the table in front of me and get the heck out of my house in my pj's and flip flops.
Although the fire alarm was a false alarm, I learned a valuable lesson. I realized that I depend far too heavily on the fact that I have a corner unit and live immediately next door to a building exit. I have not planned for the possibility that I might not be able to leave the building through this exit. I'll create a plan tonight and then I'll practice it.
Always remember, when the fire alarm goes off, just get out. It's not the time to stop and pack bags. All the stuff is replaceable. And have a back-up exit plan. It could save your life.
Oh, by the way, I still have my green stuffed rabbit. He lives in the back of one of my dresser drawers. And yes, I thought about grabbing him too.