Let’s see. High school seniors in their final semester of high school, have participated in at least 125 drills during their years in school; therefore, students know what to do.
The fire alarm went off during first period, and my students just sat there.
Instead of jumping up and walking down the hall in a quick but orderly fashion, my students just sat there.
“Get up, folks! Let’s go,” I stated firmly, and finally they marched out of the room . . . slowly.
We participate in monthly drills so that students know exactly what to do in the event of a fire. It’s quite simple. Get up, walk out of the building quickly and orderly. (We once emphasized silence, but that’s fallen by the wayside).
Why didn’t my kids jump up instinctively and follow what they had learned in the drill?
Was it too cold outside? Probably – 45 degrees in Georgia is cold, but that wasn’t the reason.
Were they lazy? Probably – but how many students are so lazy that they will forgo the opportunity to enjoy a classroom interruption?
My students sat there simply because my school experiences at least 1 false fire alarm each week. At least once each week, we follow an adjusted alarm procedure:
- The fire alarm rings.
- Students walk out of classrooms and walk towards the exits.
- Twenty seconds later, the school secretary announces over the intercom, “Ignore the fire alarm. Ignore the alarm and return to class.”
Because students are repeatedly told to ignore the fire alarm, we are indirectly teaching them to ignore all fire alarms. Now, when the alarm sounds, students sit in their desks and do not leave unless teachers emphasize that they must leave immediately.
I remember reading about a tornado that struck an Alabama school during a dance many years ago. No one was injured because students immediately followed the drop-and-cover procedures they had been taught and had practiced for years. They behaved instinctively.
I know that fire rarely strikes schools today, particularly new buildings like my school that are equipped with first-rate fire protection. I still worry about what would happen if we actually had a fire when so many students are accustomed to sitting through fire alarms unless the teacher insists that they leave.
Yesterday, I was stunned at how slowly my students reacted when I told them to leave the classroom. I was even more unnerved when my class walked out into an empty hallway because most classes remained inside their classrooms awaiting an announcement from the office to ignore the fire alarm.