Like the vast majority of people in Australia, we have smoke detectors fitted in the house. Last night, at about 7-30, the smoke detector certainly went off! The noise was deafening. The problem, however, was that we could neither smell smoke nor see smoke. Yes we had a fire burning in the fireplace in the family room, but that was no different from any other cold night. There was no evidence of a smoke leak from the fire but I extinguished it anyway. I looked everywhere inside and outside the house but nothing to be seen. And the smoke detector went on and on!
I decided to call 000 - the emergency number in Australia - and was quickly channeled to the NSW Fire Brigades. I explained the situation and was told that I had done the right thing and that a fire unit was on its way. About 10 minutes later we had a fire truck and team outside. Like me they checked everything and found nothing. It appears that either our smoke detector had thrown a wobbly and that there was no danger or that, unnoticed by us, a gust of smoke had billowed from the fireplace and triggered the detector. Either way, there was no fire problem.
I felt somewhat embarrassed and apologised to the Station Officer for calling them out on what turned out to be a false alarm. He was absolutely clear - the smoke detector was going off, I had reason to be concerned; I had done everything right and he was pleased that we had acted as we had. He pointed out that had I not taken this action and there had been a fire in the ceiling cavity (which is where we both suspected the problem might have been), the result could have been disastrous.
The fireys spent about 30 minutes checking every possible problem area. They used heat detectors in every room and throughout the ceiling cavity. They went outside and examined every wall and every inch of the roof. And throughout they were friendly, polite, professional, supportive, and thorough. Where they removed any fixture they replaced it correctly and then they apologised to us for any disturbance they may have made!
Sure they were just doing their job. Sure they were just doing what they had been trained to do. But this was customer service at its best. They left us feeling very positive about their response and enormously impressed with every part of the interaction from the first moment of dialling 000 to the last moment when they left.
A great big "thank you" to the team at Pymble Fire Station.
Wouldn't it be great if everyone involved in dealing with the public had the same service ethos as the Fireys? Its not impossible.
More about Douglas Long at http://www.dglong.com