101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Tuesday, June 23

Locked out of common sense

One of the services our emergency agency provides is breaking into your house if you're locked out. But there are caveats to this service, just be careful what you ask for.

THE EMERGENCY

A caller states she is locked out of her house and candles are burning inside.

THE ACTION

We arrive to a calm citizen who left her apartment to fetch the daily paper only to hear the door close behind her. She has no keys in her robe but, curiously, did take her cell phone with her this morning.

She told the dispatchers she was locked out and the dispatchers told her we only responded if there was food on the stove, candles burning or another hazard. Contemplating the cost of a locksmith she made the mistake of telling the fire department there was open flame in her multi-story type 5 heavy timber residence.

After trying the usual techniques such as finding another key, turning the knob and reaching the windows we decide force will be needed.
We grabbed the universal lock set (axe) and made towards the door.
"No, don't do that! I wanted you to pick the lock or climb in a window or something!"
"You said your windows are locked. Do you think they're unlocked now?" The other firefighter asked.
"No, I just can't afford a broken door. Why can't you just pick the lock?" She is insisting we do something we never do. Ever. I wonder where she got the idea we pick locks.

The officer looked at her and asked the question we all wanted to.
"Is there really a burning candle in there? Honestly? Because if we do this and there isn't you're in big trouble."

She shifted her weight from one side to the other looking up at the 4th floor window.

Deep breath in, "No." Long sigh.

"Just, can you call someone for me? I don't know what to do."
Without missing a beat the firefighter reaches over to the mailboxes where a dozen or so phone books lay waiting for their new owners to claim them.

"I'd try Locksmiths." And handed her the book.

We clearly explained that if there was a hazard, we need to get in and remove it and she took the book and dragged herself up the stairs and out of sight.

"No merit, Engine 99 in service with a phone book referral." Was the report to the Comm Division.

10 comments:

Bitter Blonde said...

Amazing.

Firecap5 said...

BEAUTIFUL! Here stupid, look up a locksmith!

Capt. Schmoe said...

Sadly, totally predictable.

Little Girl said...

I wish common sense was more common

brokenangel said...

People really need some common sence what about asking for a spare from maintaince. You could have always gone for the universal key ie a size 9 boot

...KMG-365, -Clear said...

"Universal key" = Halligan tool.
....Nice!

Anthony said...

In the UK, the fire service will generally respond to a lock-out, if there aren't any more urgent calls at the same time. Before doing anything they point out to the homeowner that they only use "the enforcer" (a heavy battering ram) and that if they don't find anything on fire inside, they'll charge for the service. A locksmith is generally cheaper.

Just to add: long-time reader, first time poster. Loving the blog and looking forward to the BBC program with medic999!

Anonymous said...

HM, you've been reading a lot of MC stuff. While reading this, I had to re-check which blog I was on. It was written in MC-style as if he wrote it over there, except it was missing a couple of f-bombs. Nice ;)

- F4

Michael Morse said...

In Providence we do lock-outs all the time, no charge, no questions asked. Damage control is on a sliding scale; the bigger the jerk, the bigger the damage.

Most of the time we get in without any damage at all.

Ben Yatzbaz said...

I'm pleased to hear that these people are not exclusive to the east side of "the pond". Think I'll have to start carrying a phone book on the ambulance with a book mark on taxis.....