Peace of Mind is Everything: Fire Safety with Kidde
The following post was sponsored by Kidde.
Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast just over a year ago. We were living in New York City, in an apartment facing West, 8 stories above where the East River meets the island. Our building was in Zone A, the mandatory evacuation area when the order came in on Sunday.
Not having any family around, we booked a hotel room in Union Square, away from the edges of Manhattan where they were fearful of major surges. The hotel, already nearly booked solid, put us in a room on the very top floor of the 20+ story building. Our view earlier in the evening before we put the kids to bed was that of a lit up South end of the city, the Freedom tower blazed despite the pounding wind and rain. We were awakened in the middle of the night to the tapping of the shower door in our bathroom, and the sloshing of melting ice in the sink. The winds were so powerful that the room was literally swaying. We peered out the window to see that not only had we lost power, but the entire South end of Manhattan was dark as well.
The next morning we made our way past downed trees and garbage strewn across the abandoned and quiet streets towards our home. The East River had risen 6-8 feet and swallowed the basement and ground level of our building. We returned to our building to stay 10 days after the hurricane, once the mandatory evacuation had been lifted and power finally restored. The heat was back on and water was available once again, and life began to resume as usual until midnight, the third day after we had gotten home.
I had fallen asleep on the couch working when I was awakened to yelling and banging on our door. It was pitch black in the apartment aside from the glow of the buildings outside our window, and I stumbled, terrified, to open the door and see what was going on. I flung the door open to see a wall of white smoke and the exasperated, urgent tones in my neighbor’s voices telling me there was a fire and to grab my babies.
There was no alarm, there were no lights. The silence was almost deafening and black darkness nearly blinding.
I woke up Justin and we threw wet blankets over our sleeping children’s heads and carried them down the emergency stairs in single file line with the rest of the tenants of our building. Perhaps it was panic, or the toxic fumes tightening my throat, but I was sucking in air like there was an elephant on my chest. We made it out ok, though we spent the night again in a hotel and awoke with black soot caking the inside of our noses and our clothing reeking of toxic smoke.
Our building’s elevator shaft had caught fire due to complications from flooding, so the smoke had permeated our 6th floor nearly entirely. Our building’s smoke alarms were hard wired and had also been compromised during the hurricane and they did not go off. The emergency lights did not go on, and there was no organized evacuation in place whatsoever.
I have never in my life been so terrified, and I lived through the Loma Prieta 7.1 earthquake and tornadoes. It’s taken me this long to write about it because of the posttraumatic stress I’ve experienced, complete with nightmares and elevated anxiety. There are few things that are as destructive and terrifying as fires, and I will absolutely never forget it. I began to research the laws regarding fire alarms in residential apartment buildings, fire codes, and even the model of generators that our building was equipped with. I called our local congressman, wrote letters to FEMA and actively participated in recovery efforts in Staten Island and New Jersey.
While I was aware that the smoke alarm inside our apartment were working-it went off every time I burnt toast-it didn’t sound, and none of the emergency lighting went on in the hallways. Perhaps that means that the “battery backup” was also compromised or faulty, I’ll never know and frankly I don’t care. What I know is that I wasn’t prepared to care for my family in the event of a fire, and from that point on I’ve made it a priority to educate myself.
It was at this point that I participated in a Twitter party hosted by my friend Amy Oztan for Kidde Fire Safety products. After learning more about their products, and how their alarms specifically operate with a sealed-in 10-year battery (which means you don’t have to replace the battery – you just replace the alarm after 10 years), I knew I had found the brand I wanted to champion in regards to fire safety.
In the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, we learned of numerous tragedies tied to the storm; people dying from drowning and electrocution, but most notably and common cause of death was from carbon monoxide poisoning. Kidde’s products include carbon monoxide alarms as well as smoke alarms for residences. I am terribly fearful of CO because of the lack being able to detect elevated levels by smell or sight, so having a CO alarm right along with a trusted smoke alarm is now absolutely key in our home.
The scariest part of living through the fire in our building wasn’t the smoke and evacuation and the accompanying sheer terror of not knowing where the flames were. The part of that experience that will always stick with me is the feeling of utter helplessness and not knowing what to do with my family in those critical few moments.
The best things that we can arm ourselves with are knowledge, a safety plan for various situations, and the very simplest form of protection: smoke and CO alarms. I’m truly thrilled to be a Kidde ambassador, and I hope to help others arm themselves with knowledge (and hopefully equipment) throughout the next year.
Sponsored by Kidde. All opinions are my own.