I have learned...
...that a REALLY REALLY LOUD fire alarm is of little use when so many residents are deaf.
It went off this morning at about 8am. We all ran out to find out whether it actually was our property and yep, it was us. No info in the personal care room... no idea what to do really, so I called my aunt at home, who called the manager for me while I rang the fire brigade. I called them mainly to ask about evacuation (it's something of a pain in the backside when you have so many elderly residents, some of whom are unable to walk very far unassisted). The firey remarked with surprise that the back-to-base alarm had not activated at his end. (Disturbing, but it's because there wasn't one.) No smoke anywhere so we were pretty clueless as to what was happening.
And so began the fun of getting them all out of their rooms. I ran to about the first five, knocked, barged in, and told each of them just to come out their front doors so that we knew they weren't inside. Almost none of them had heard the alarm. Those that had heard something hadn't thought to find out what it was, or hadn't clicked that a fire alarm means "get out". Sigh.
I then found that some of the other staff weren't helping me. What the HELL? One was sitting and eating cereal. Another one was setting the dining tables. Good luck to the residents if the building goes up in smoke one day... don't worry, the tables will be set and the staff's stomachs will be full while people die. I managed to get them to help, and I am still surprised that I had to *ask*.
Dennis has a broken arm; Marjorie had a fall yesterday and is wobbly; Mrs Xu had not heard the alarm and had no idea what I wanted (with almost no English) so I managed to explain that she had to sit outside, and when she came out she heard the alarm and finally understood what I wanted. I walked in on one lady on the toilet (door open wide, the poor thing was in a terrible hurry). Two of them were showering. The second one, Pete, was stark naked when I walked into his bedroom. He had the good humour to laugh at my embarrassment.
By this stage the fireys had arrived and residents had congregated on the balconies to watch the "show" as eight of them walked in with gas tanks and wearing full paraphernalia. The fire engine followed them (we're on a long driveway off a back laneway). The fireys all marched around all purpose-like while 30 sets of elderly eyes followed them with keen interest. It was all very entertaining for an otherwise boring Sunday morning. The "terrible fire" was determined to be the shower of the gentleman I'd walked in on, but nobody knew how to turn off the alarm. It's a good thing the manager called me on my mobile just then, to tell the fireys how to disable it ;)
So, no fire. What a let-down! Still, it's better than actually trying to get all those people down to the ground floor if there actually had been a fire that was moving with any speed. Celia (the manager) told me that the alarm went off a week ago too, and that there was a new system going in over the next month. Thank goodness for that.
Once we realised all was good, I started letting the residents know they could go back to their rooms. But they stayed right where they were, despite the rather frosty air (probably about 10 degrees C, which to an elderly person is Arctic). Nora, who is a miniature chainsmoker whose room constantly oozes cigarette smoke, remarked, "They're strapping young men, aren't they?" and leered at them over her balcony. I attempted to make small talk about needing to be fit to climb ladders, but it became apparent their ladder-climbing skill wasn't what she was interested in. When I got back to the kitchen to try something mundane, another staff member was giggling madly. "Ester is perving on the firemen," she said. As I write this, I'm finding this difficult to believe. Ester is the sweetest, perfect 'little old lady' type person, and here she is, starring in two perve anecdotes in a row. I would sooner imagine her baking scones and bottling home-made jam.
"They're all still standing out there and talking about how handsome they are and the great bodies they have. And how they thought that firemen were supposed to be in red suits, not yellow. But how they're very handsome young men anyway who are welcome to visit any Sunday they please. And then they started discussing whether anyone knew how to set the fire alarm off next week."