March 1, 2007: Newark Fire Department Pranks 1180 Raymond Again

This morning the City of Newark, NJ decided to harrass us again at 1180 Raymond Blvd. with another pretend fire alarm. They were at least nice enough to warn the building so we got a notice last night that sometime today (from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm) that there would be a fire alarm test. This is, I believe, the tenth time that I have had to go through something like this. After the first few times the building understood that I had to be contacted before the alarm would be set off so that I could get Oreo safely out of the building. Of course what the Fire Department has done is create a situation where absolutely no one will ever believe them if there is actually a fire in the building. Everyone is aware that “fire drills” kill. Any fire drill that isn’t forewarned is designed to teach people to ignore alarms.

In our case, the fire department is giving us a warning but the warning says that there will be a drill sometime during the day! Sometime during the day? That means that they have effectively “turned off” all fire warning abilities for the entire day. No one in the building would even consider the possibility of there being a real fire at that point. And considering the number of times that they have done drills here already and the number of false alarms that have occurred it is no wonder that everyone just hides in their apartments until it is all finished. In just six months they have destroyed the entire fire warning mechanism that they claim to care so much about. It is completely worthless. We are more likely to respond to the sound of sirens in the street below than to alarms in our own building.

To make matters worse the alarms are so loud that Oreo and I cannot stay in the building while they are going off. It is very painful for Oreo and all of the other pets trapped in this suppossedly pet friendly building and for me the sound is so loud that it causes disorientation and nausea so severe that I have, on occassion, had serious issues attempting to exit the apartment let alone the building. While I have never been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome this is the exact response that is expected in many people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and, I believe, that having an alarm so loud and having strobe lights flash is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act that is designed to keep situations like a fire from becoming dangerous because of the so-called safety mechanisms. Because the alarm is so awful and because I can’t take any risks of being trapped in the apartment with Oreo I have to spend the entire day just waiting for the call that the alarms are about to go off (the building knows that I MUST be contacted before setting off the alarm – but I believe that I am the only person who is contacted.) I can’t shower, nap, leave, etc. until the fire department has come in, violated my home and cleared me to go about my business.

Fortunately today the alarm test was on the early side so Oreo and I had most of the day to not worry about it. But the alarm was tested for more than fifty minutes during which time Oreo and I had to stand outside, in winter. I walked Oreo around the park the long way taking our time. We returned but had to leave again and walk around the block. Then we walked to the rental office to find out if they knew anything that could be done about the situation. They directed me to contact the New York offices which I did as I had very little to do but stand outside with my shivering dog waiting for the fire department to stop fooling around. An hour I had to spend just standing outside! This is my home. I only stay at home one day a week (except for about half of the weekends.) Out of the approximately twenty weekdays that I have spent in this apartment since we moved in in late September almost half of them have had fire alarm “tests” or false alarms at least! HALF! Imagine how upset you would be if the fire department came to your house every other day and told you that you either had to endure audible torture and so would your pet or you could stand outside while they run around your house. It wouldn’t make you very happy. Now add to the violation feeling the knowledge that they are blatantly endangering hundreds of lives in this building and presumably scores of other buildings in the area.

Maybe our building is unique. Maybe the fire department is upset with the developers for some reason or maybe they aren’t happy with the type of people that are moving into the downtown area or maybe they are just against the populating of downtown Newark altogether. I don’t know what motivation the fire department could possibly have for wanting to hurt the residents of 1180 in this way but I can’t believe that anyone would buy their “testing the equipment” excuse at this point. They should make sure the whole thing works before people are allowed to move in. If the building isn’t safe then it isn’t safe. If it is then stop crying wolf and let us be safe.

To see what could be done about the fire alarms I called the fire department offices in Newark. Unfortunately the only person who can “help me” is the fire chief and he left early today and was not reachable. I am told that I can call him tomorrow. In the meantime the fire department has scheduled another day long fire alarm “test” tomorrow much to my chagrin. I am not home, of course, tomorrow and neither is Oreo but I am furious about the fire department having the right to enter the apartment building anytime that they want when they are being reckless. I thought that the fire department was supposed to be the guys who were serious about saving lives. Ha! Not in this town. Apparently fire safety is just a big joke to them. Maybe they don’t grasp that these are real lives that they are toying with. Real people. Or maybe they just don’t care about the kind of people that often live in Newark. Newark has suffered a lot from that kind of hatred and it needs to be stopped. I thought that the “Department of Homeland Security” was supposed to be taking this alarm pranking stuff really seriously as any type of alarm prank like what has been going on here is clearly a threat to safety. If 1180 was hit with an airplane right now and the fire alarm went off, who would leave? No one. Everyone would stay right in their apartments feeling secure that the last ten alarms were false why would this one be different – especially when they have a nice piece of paper stating that the alarms will be tested today. Of course, they add, that instructions will follow over the PA system. But the PA system is only audible when the alarm is off and only when you have left the apartment.

After the fire alarm fiasco I walked over to Food for Life and got an early lunch. I would have eaten there earlier but I had to be sure that Oreo would not get caught with the alarm going off. Then it was back to work. It is getting pretty embarassing having to tell the office that I am unavailable over and over again because of the fire alarms.

My afternoon was pretty uneventful. I managed to record a little for a class that I am preparing for CCA and I finished uploading the Technical Web Design class that I did in 2005 along with two Kelley’s Heroes parades from 2001 and 2002 that dad sent over to me today. That is everything video related that I had to upload. I am planning on ordering Pinnacle Studio 10.5 any day. I am using my birthday money from dad to buy it for myself. I don’t do much video editing but I might if I had a nice tool and I want to start doing some class stuff.

Last night Dominica and I finished watching the third season of Angel which ends on a massive cliff-hanger (much like Star Trek TNG did that one year when Captain Picard became one of the Borg!) So now we really need to see the fourth season. I forgot to mention that I also finished reading “Free as in Freedom” this week and finished listening to “The Johnstown Flood” which was really interesting. I think that the Johnstown Flood is a real tragedy in the sense that Americans have not been well educated about the flood in recent times and it was such a major event in the late nineteenth century American culture. It was the biggest thing to happen in America since the Civil War up until the flood happened. Today most people have never even heard of the flood and at the time people would have been amazed that anyone didn’t know about it for hundreds of years to come.

Don’t forget the “Picard Song” if you haven’t seen it before.

Dominica got home and I walked over to Food for Life and brought us back some dinner.  We were both very tired tonight.  We spent the evening just relaxing and watching some DVD television shows.  I did manage to order Pinnacle Studio 10.5.

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