Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your Dec. 21 column featured a letter from a reader who is concerned because an elderly friend is unable to hear the audible signal from his smoke alarm. Your reader is right to be concerned. Smoke alarms provide the early warning of fire that makes it possible to escape. Every household needs working smoke alarms on each level of the home, and all members of the household must be able to react quickly to the alarm.

For people with hearing impairments, special smoke detection devices with louder alarms or strobe lights are available.

In addition to common audible-signal smoke alarms, many manufacturers now market a wide variety of signaling devices that -- when combined -- meet the needs of all people. Residents interested in purchasing these devices should contact their local fire department for information on manufacturers and local distributors.

Smoke alarms are an essential element of home fire protection. Everyone should have the life-saving protection afforded by this important technology. Thank you for helping your readers with hearing impairments learn how they can be better protected. -- GEORGE D. MILLER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION

DEAR GEORGE: And thank YOU for continuing to be a valuable resource for my readers and me. My readers will be pleased to know that detailed fact sheets on smoke alarms and other fire protection devices can be downloaded by visiting the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) online at www.nfpa.org.

Not only are smoke alarms with strobe lights as well as audible alarms available, there's even one that can be placed beneath one's pillow or between the mattress and box spring that vibrates when smoke is detected.

A magazine called Hearing Loss, published by Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 1200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3015, also keeps subscribers abreast of other safety products such as assisted-living devices, doorbells, special telephones, etc.

Every household needs at least one working fire alarm. The inability to hear one is no longer a reason for not having that kind of essential protection.

DEAR ABBY: My boss, "Adam," is 43. I am 50. We are both divorced. We have become very close during the three years we have worked together. I have two adult children. He has none.

Adam and I spend a great deal of time together -- at work and socially -- but always on a platonic basis. The problem is, I have fallen in love with him. I realize that an on-the-job romance -- especially between a boss and a subordinate -- would be a big mistake. However, I know he cares a great deal for me, although he does not share my romantic feelings.

Abby, I am having a hard time hiding my emotions when he dates other women. It impacts my work performance. I feel it would be best for me to look for another job. He told me that if I were a true friend I would want him to be happy and to marry someone who could be the mother of his children. I do want Adam to be happy, and I love my job, but I have deep feelings for him. He thinks it is selfish of me to want to leave. Do you? -- IT'S TOUGH TO BE IN LOVE BY MYSELF

DEAR IT'S TOUGH: I do not think your desire to leave is selfish. Quite the contrary. It's selfish of him to try to make you feel guilty for wanting to leave. You'd have to be a masochist to stay.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600