It is that time of year again…right before the leaves change color, the occasionally crisp day intermixed with blazing heat and suffocating humidity, and the teachers still have the glow of optimism of the new year, yes, it is the time for Fire Drills!
We always work to get the fire drills completed early in the year to make sure that students and teachers, and we administrators, out in a rain storm or blizzard. There are the standard complaints issued about why can we [the teachers] not be told about this to adjust our plans accordingly? The response of that a fire doesn’t let you know when it is going to ignite is never a good enough answer.
Last year, we had our 2 fire drills very early in the year. As a school, we wanted to get a good reading on how our escape time would improve with practice. How can you accomplish this?! We had them on consecutive days.
Please keep in mind that while we are calling these drills of last year “drills”, we did not know that at the time.
The first alarm was triggered by one of our chemistry teachers. While performing the classroom rendition of the Hindenburg (which is a normal demonstration), this teacher managed to set off the smoke detector in room because they used powdered zinc instead of mossy zinc. When the balloon burst, the zinc powder that clung to the inside of the balloon was released into the air and thus the smoke detector began ringing.
The second “drill” of last year, the day after the first one, was set off by…drum roll, please, the same chemistry teacher. The teacher is so talented that they found a whole NEW way of setting off the alarm. (This time is was a Sodium and water reaction).
So, now we arrive back at this year. At 8:48 am, the alarm signals. Students, teachers, police liaisons, and administrators move in concert to get our students out of the building. I run down to the chemistry lab. I am happy to report that, this time, it was not the chemistry teacher’s fault!
The fire department arrives, we get the “ALL CLEAR” signal at 9:01 and we being herding students back to their classes. I note the times to record in the crisis plan log and begin gathering my personal effects for my Admin Team meeting that was slated to start at 9 am. (Normally, if you are late, you owe a dollar for every minute tardy, but thankfully, we were excused from this penalty for this day).
You remember how I previously mentioned that “As a school, we wanted to get a good reading on how our escape time would improve with practice. How can you accomplish this?!” Well, always wanting to improve the process, we did not want to wait an ENTIRE day to have another fire drill.
The alarm went off again at 9:06.
We evacuated yet again; the fire department didn’t even have the opportunity to leave our building yet. We received the 2nd all clear at 9:23. We found the culprit (it was steam from a dishwasher).
All in all, we have 2 drills down in the books, the students and staff improved their time from the 1st drill to the 2nd drill and I didn’t end up owing $23 for being late to an Admin Team meeting.