PO Box 920559
Needham, MA 02492



A Surprisingly Good Elevator Pitch for a Firefighter

It’s 12:30am and they respond to my 911 call with lights flashing but no sirens.

My smoke detectors are alternately wailing and robotically intoning “EVACUATE” but there is no smell of smoke or sign of fire.

We can’t find the dog – she hates loud noises – so I endure the earsplitting racket as I search under the beds and among the cushions and, well, back under the beds because that’s where she usually hides.

The firefighters arrive to me, my wife, my two kids, and our dog huddled outside on the side steps because it’s less cold outside than it is loud in the house.

They check the house for carbon monoxide, smoke, gas leaks, and yes, fire.


So they disable the faulty smoke detector, give us some advice, and head out.

And it gets me thinking about your Elevator Pitch.

Because up until Sunday night I assumed that firefighters were one of the few professionals that didn’t need an Elevator Pitch Coach.

Tell people you’re a firefighter and you get instant status.

People want to hear about your job and your work and your stories. (You must have so many stories).

These heroes show up bright eyed and bushy-tailed in the middle of the night ready to run towards every danger I’ve taught my kids to run away from while dialing 911. 

But as they were leaving Sunday night they saved themselves another trip to my house.

“We disabled the faulty smoke detector,” the tallest one says in the way that instantly makes you trust him.

I just shake my head. “But how did you find it.”

“Look for the red light. Most of them will be green. One of these things doesn’t belong.”

I know it’s a lie. Here’s how smoke detectors really work.

But then he uses the Elevator Pitch that ensured I wouldn’t wake him up again this particular night.

“Look, we found one that was faulty, but there could be more. If they go off again tonight it’s another faulty one. Just look for the red light, unplug it, and take the batteries out.”

I distractedly nod as I usher the kids back into the house. We get them back into their beds. They fall asleep. I turn on the TV to wind down.


Not again.

I took the firefighter at his word and looked for the red light.

Every single one was green.

All 20 of my smoke detectors were showing green.

So – and here’s the key – I didn’t call 911 again.

Instead I grabbed a step stool and disabled them all.

Ok, before you fire up your keyboard to flame me about how unsafe that is:

  1. I didn’t disable the smoke detectors in my kids’ rooms or next to the furnace
  2. I was in more danger from the three women in my life not getting any sleep that night than from the chance that this night would be that super unlucky night my house would go up in flames
  3. The new smoke detectors (all 20 of them) will be here and installed tomorrow (keep that stepladder handy!)

It’s a different kind of Elevator Pitch.

We know when to call the firefighters.

But how about when not to call them?

I appreciated the empowerment – I didn’t have to wait outside again at 3am for him to return – because he had clearly explained possible next steps and next actions I could take.

What would you like people to know about interacting with you?

That’s also a great Elevator Pitch!

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