Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life or anything else that she finds amusing.
seen weekly in the Daily News of Kingsport. She has written
for Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
To carry her weekly column in your
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Online Since 1999
||Testing the Fire Alarm...
Are Testing the Fire Alarm System
I have your attention, please? May I have your attention,
please? We are testing the fire alarm system. Please disregard
all alarms until further notice."
Periodically, we receive this alert over the office building
intercom system. Everyone looks at everyone else and wonders what we
will do if the building actually catches on fire during one of
the tests when we are disregarding alarms. So far it hasnít
happened, but the first time may be the last time.
Shortly thereafter, the lights begin to flash, the sirens
begin to sound, and everyone sits glued to their chair,
ignoring the alarms until further notice. We are not sure
exactly what the further notice will be. We hope that it is
not flashing lights and sirens.
The phone rings and one is barely able to hear over the sound
of the sirens blasting in the background. "What's going
on?" says the voice at the other end.
"Oh, it's nothing, they are testing the fire alarm
system." We don't worry about it unless we smell smoke.
Then there is a rush of air as the sprinkler system is tested.
Usually this makes everyone a bit more nervous. We wonder
where we will dive to get out of the flood if they decide to
test with actual water. We also wonder how we can be sure that
water will come out instead of air in the even of a real
After reoccurring false alarms all day, we become rather
complacent. Finally the intercom announces: "We have
concluded the test of the fire alarm system. Please regard all
alarms from now on." Once again we are back on alert.
For some strange reason, these tests are usually followed
shortly thereafter by a fire drill. A prerecorded message
comes on the intercom. "A fire has been reported in the
building. A fire has been reported in the building. Please
move quickly to the closest exit and leave the building. Do
not use the elevators."
We always wonder why it is recorded and who, if anyone, is
actually in charge. Then we realize that no one is in charge.
It is a recording to create the illusion that someone is in
control to prevent panic in an emergency. How reassuring as we
grab our valuables and head for the exit.
About halfway down the umpteen flights of stairs, another
voice comes on. "This was a false alarm. Please return to
your workplace." So, like cattle we all turn around and
go back, thinking to ourselves, "Oh, yeah, thatís what
they told them in the World Trade Centers, isn't it?"
Sometimes we actually get all the way outside before the
announcement. This only occurs on days when it is pouring down
rain, however. It is only after we are soaking wet that we
find out that the alarm system malfunctioned and it was a
Well, better to be told to go outside when there is no
emergency than to remain in the building when there is one, we
think, as we crowd on the elevators trying to get back
upstairs and actually get some work done in the middle of this
We have fire drills, bomb drills, and weather emergency
drills. We are about due for another one as it has been a
while. Oh, the joys of working in a high-rise office building.
If we ever have an actual emergency, we will certainly be
As far as I can remember, however, we have only had one actual
emergency ever.... and that time the alarm didn't go off.
Copyright 2005 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
Now in print!