I live in the basement suite of a very big house. I wonder a lot about what will happen when the inevitable earthquake hits the Lower Mainland. Will I be crushed under three ceilings or will all that mass coming down on top of me create a safe bunker?

The fire alarm goes off almost weekly. (My oven is old and I have no fan; my upstairs neighbours seem to use the alarm like a temperature gauge.) It went off again this morning, and it didn’t stop for at least a minute. It’s a talking alarm, too (and bilingual!), warning for carbon monoxide by name.

Not once in my life have I heard a fire alarm when there was an actual, dangerous fire. How do I know when I should worry, when I should call 911, when I should run? I know today it wasn’t me who set it off, and I can hear someone upstairs, so I think we’re fine? I suppose I’m grateful the alarm is working, if not exactly as intended.

But if it keeps crying “wolf,” how will I know when it cries “fire”?