The no-alarm alarm

My wrist watch struck 9:23 am and an alarm went off. At first, it sounded like one of those lazy smoke-detectors. Then it became more steady and louder. I listened keenly but didn’t hear any foot stamps scattering across the corridors. No one was running out. No one even bothered to know in which room the alarm had gone off and why. A roommate of mine came into the room clearly unbothered. I was alarmed!

The false alarm


Two years back, I was reliably informed that the smoke detectors in our halls of residence do not function. They went off anyhow, whenever someone opened a can of perfume on themselves. You know ladies and perfumes or deodorant sprays. That gives me an imagination that these alarms went off every day in almost every room. As such, management found it wise to disassemble the false alarms off  the ceilings. That was an answer I got on asking why my ceiling had a dismantled smoke detector.

A harassed smoke detector

On a number of occasions, I have heard what seems like a smoke-detector’s screams for help emanating from the main kitchen. Question is; why is there a smoke-detector in a kitchen that uses firewood?

No-alarm alarm

It is alarming how people around here have no intuition to respond to a startling cry. Having heard the alarm, I quickly shut down my laptop, jumped into my shoes and headed for the door. One could accuse me of making haste because I had a class in a few minutes time. But as my feet hastened through the corridor, my eyes were eager to see officials investigating the case of the shrilling cry. Instead, I met this plump lazily sweeping some little dirt off stairs. I overheard her complaining about how loud these byuma bya bazungu can be. As if a fairy mother had heard her wish, the alarm stopped crying. With a sigh, plumpy noted how this kyuma kya omuzungu was about to deafen her ears.


Plumpy was cleaning a stair case that stretches just opposite the wall where the now silent alarm rests.  Just next to the alarm is a door. But clearly in Plumpy’s world, there is no such a thing as being alarmed by an alarm.

Totally alarmed!

It occurred to me that in all my stay at UCU more so as a resident student, I have never been taught by the university authorities how to respond in case of a disaster strikes. I see emergence doors, I see fire extinguishers- which by the way have no refilling dates- and water reels, but what do I do in case of a fire? I may have knowledge I attained from first aid training way back in high school, but as an institution, something must be done.

Oh I almost forgot. Am in a nation where ‘prevention’ comes after ‘disease’ or disaster.