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fire drill

December 19, 2003

fire drill

Last week we had a fire drill at school. It was on Monday afternoon, and although I don’t work Monday afternoons (I get the afternoon off because I teach a class in the evening), I was still at school, writing emails. So my reaction was “oh, great. A fire drill. Now I have to hang around doing nothing for a chunk of my afternoon off.” I put my hat on and trudged outside, hoping it would all be over quite quickly. All the pupils and teachers gathered outside on the football pitch, the pupils all lined up and a register was called. “Great.” I thought, “Now we can all go back inside.”

This was where the resemblance to a fire drill in a British school ended.

Suddenly, a couple of fire engines screeched onto the school grounds. Firemen jumped out, rapidly unwound a big hose, and – despite the notable absence of an actual fire – proceeded to turn their high-powered jets of water on the school. They sprayed the whole front of the school for a couple of minutes, until the imaginary fire was finally brought under control, and then extinguished.

Next, they brought out half an old petrol drum, filled it with kerosene, and lit it. The kids then got to take it in turns to use a fire-extinguisher on the blaze. After each go, a fireman re-lit it using a burning rag on the end of a stick, and this went on until the playground was hidden in clouds of foul-smelling fire-retardant. Obviously, it was all pretty cool, and I was glad I’d stuck around at school despite having the afternoon off.

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