Neighborly Concern and Other Sketches

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    33,894
    The basic sketch: Apparently, there is a situation across the street. Adjacent neighbors report a smoke alarm sounding inside a townhouse. With a car in the driveway. And interior lights on. After a couple hours they called the fire department.

    It's harder to describe the question we had with the police and a neighbor's garage door a couple years ago at a friend's house, but the same question arose.

    Why wait?

    In this case, did they only call the fire department because they were annoyed? Did it take a matter of hours for the fact that someone might be unconscious to occur to anyone?

    Even I knew it was going on. Sure, I get to say I didn't know it was still going on, but neither was I paying attention when I returned from my errand; that is to say, if I go out in the street, I can hear the alarm, and it clearly didn't strike me that I had been gone for a period and the issue still wasn't resolved. I probably figured, like so many people do, that someone else was already on it. You know, since we already knew about it.

    Nonetheless, the fire department is around. They have achieved entry and nobody seems to be rushing as if a life is at stake.

    Still, though, it occurs to me that none of us really did anything for a couple of hours, which is a hell of a period to wait. I mean, the lesson of the day has something to do with the idea that it wasn't visibly on fire, so, you know, whatever.

    We can also add in another complication, that we're accustomed to ignoring these alarms because they go off so easily. But that's the thing; this isn't the kind of weather when the windows are open and your smoke alarm trips because the neighbor is roasting a pig out back. Something had to set this thing off, and to what degree do I expect anyone in the neighborhood to actually recognize the significance that it's winter.

    To wit, I can offer plenty of seemingly logical little reasons why people didn't call the fire department after thirty minutes, even if that logic is to simply note human behavioral irrationality.

    And since, you know, nobody's actually dead or anything, it becomes a thought experiment.

    But a neighbor shows up two hours later looking for a phone number in order to start playing tag around the tree until we find the homeowner, because someone finally called the fire department. Well, shit, we probably should have done that at eight, not ten-thirty.
     
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Or "damn, his fire alarm goes off all the time for no reason, too."

    During college we quickly learned that the nightly "fire alarm" had nothing to do with actual fires (or smoke) but with the financial decisions of a school who didn't want to waste money on new smoke detectors, when the old ones were perfectly capable of making lots of noise.
     
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