Imagine you are in bed, sound asleep, sometime between the hours of two and three on Saturday morning when you are suddenly jolted awake by a faint beeping sound. You can just barely hear it over the noise of the box fan set which is on the highest setting as it always is when you sleep, no matter what time of year. The room is dark but you see a little bit of light coming down the hallway into your bedroom. It’s not the easy white light that hangs above the dining table and illuminates the living room each night, but an orange light that is foreign to you. You sit in confusion for a moment before you piece the faint beeping and the light together to form the conclusion that your apartment is on fire, and you’ve got to get out now. What would you do?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this scenario and my actions in the ensuing seconds and minutes. There is only two points of exit in my apartment, the sliding glass door onto the balcony from my living room, where the fire was already in full blast, and the front door located just feet away from that same room in the hallway. The balcony would be less than ideal even if the fire wasn’t already there because after exiting onto it, I would then have to jump to the ground below, risking serious injury, so the front door would have to suffice as my way of escape, and I would have to get there quickly. What would I take? My wife is obviously at the top of my list of things to get out of the apartment unharmed, but she’s a heavy sleeper and I doubt the noise would wake her up. I’d shake her awake, my hands and words urging her to get up quickly to leave, but she’s the type of person who sets multiple alarms in the morning, so I’m sure she’d be less than willing to get up the first time she’s awakened. She would though, because it’s a matter of life and death, and in that moment I’m sure she would see the perils of just seven more minutes of sleep.
The fire has grown larger and smoke is now hanging heavy in the air, coming down the hallway inducing a coughing fit that I don’t have time for. I think about taking the car keys, to save our most valuable possession, but I believe in the Memphis Fire Department’s ability to control the fire before it reaches the parking lot, and don’t think either of our cars will be in danger. In times past, people would probably have rushed to get photo albums, to preserve all of the memories held within them, but now everything is digital and I have copies of at least most of my pictures on my phone, computer, and stored safely inside the cloud, wherever that is. I hate the thought of losing my books, but it would take far too long to skim the bookshelves looking for my favorites with the blaze burning just feet away. I would take my laptop. It is something I use on a daily basis, something I’m using now to write this, and without it I’m sure I’d feel a great sense of loss. At least I would have all of my music and pictures, and be able to use it to write after a traumatic event like a fire, which in some way I’m sure would relax me at least a little bit. Fortunately, this is just a scenario and not a reality, but I’m glad that I have a plan, just in case one night I am awoken by a faint beeping and a burning fire in my living room. If that were to happen I know exactly what I would do and what I would take, and my wife and I could exit our apartment safely to live another day.