Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: My neighbor's cooking sets off her smoke detector and I'm worried about a fire. What can I do?

By Dianne Ackerman  | February 15, 2019 - 12:00PM

Is she using her smoke alarm like a timer?


Dear Ms. Demeanor,
My neighbor always burns meals in her oven and sets off her smoke detector. I'm worried she's going to cause a fire. What should I do? Signed, Highly Flammable

Dear Flammable,

If the alarm just goes off and alerts her to the problem, let it go. Some people use a smoke detector the way other people use a timer. And when I lived in a house, my alarm would go off every time I stepped into the kitchen. Guess it was just so surprised I entered that realm. I’m sure there is more noise than the sound of a smoke detector in your NYC neighborhood.

However, if your neighbor is elderly and/or infirm, this could be the beginning of a much larger issue. Is she starting to cook something and then completely forgetting about it? Does she respond to the alarm or ignore it until smoke pours into the hallway? These are things that need to be addressed by the super or the management company. 

Recently one of my neighbors left something in the oven and it caused a small fire in her kitchen. The fire department was called and when they entered, they found that not only was she a bit of a hoarder, but many of the things in the apartment were highly flammable. They issued her a summons and said they would be back to inspect her apartment, and told her the next incident would result in a fine. 

When you live in an apartment building, you must always consider those in close proximity. In this case, perhaps it is your neighbor who needs help and consideration. What seems like mere nuisance could end up as a tragedy.

Look in on her and see what you can learn. And under no circumstances ask her for cooking lessons.

Ms. Demeanor

Dianne Ackerman is the new voice of reason behind Ms. Demeanor. She has lived in her Upper East Side co-op for the past 20 years and is the vice president of her co-op board. She is filled with opinions that she gladly shares with all who ask—and some who do not. Have something that needs sorting out? Drop her an email.

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