Monthly fire drills no longer announced

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Element of surprise simulates realistic situations for students in mandatory emergency evacuations


By Susie Chen

<schen@hilite.org>

As the fire alarm rings, sophomore Danielle Yin slowly makes her way out of the school, mingling with her friends until the teachers call out to return to the building.

Yin’s actions are much like those of the majority of the school; with fire drills announced the day they happened last year, students tend to dismiss the importance of the procedure and simply acknowledge it as time out of class. However, this year the school will more closely follow guidelines created by the state to change how this emergency drills will operate.

In compliance with state guidelines, fire drills this year will now become impromptu, according to Principal John Williams. The rationale behind making them spontaneous, he said, is that this procedure will simulate a real emergency evacuation, so students and administration will know how to react when an actual situation arises.

“They really should have always been like this,” Williams said. “If we know when (a fire drill) is ahead of time, it is not realistic. We don’t have the luxury of knowing ahead of time in a real emergency.”

The implementation of unplanned drills will help school officials observe the speed of the school’s evacuation.

“I think it’s smart to see how fast we really can get out of the building in case there’s a fire,” Yin said.

Typically, the administration is required to conduct one fire drill per month. “We usually wait until the end of the month,” Williams said. That way, he said, malfunctions that may set off the fire alarms prematurely, such as abnormal water pressures, will fill the monthly fire drill quota without additionally disrupting class time. Williams said that Assistant Principal Doug Bird is the one who oversees the emergency drills and is responsible for seeing when drills are conducted.

As for how this new change will affect students and faculty, Williams said, “There are no adjustments that will have to be made. We’ll all go about our day. We’ve had fire drills when the alarm has accidentally gone off, so this is not something extremely different.”

Although the first time the alarm goes off might startle a few students, Yin said she thinks most students will get used to it. “Honestly, I think most of the students won’t care too much,” she said.

Williams said, “This new system allows us to get a really good idea of how the school would react in an actual emergency. You try to make a drill as realistic as you can,” Williams said. The only disadvantage Williams said he sees in the new fire drill procedure is if a test happens to occur the same time as the drill; on the other hand, he said this only helps more in the simulation of an actual crisis.

The exact procedure for the fire drill, however, is still in the works. Bird said that he is still working on the procedure, which may take a couple more weeks.

Yin said she feels the creation of this new system is a better idea and will benefit the school in that students will take it more seriously.

“I know that during fire drills, everyone gathers and talks to their friends,” she said. “This new procedure makes it so it’s actually a scared environment.”

SUGGESTED GUIDELINES FOR FIRE DRILLS

  • 405.4 Time. Drills shall be held at unexpected times and under varying conditions to simulate the unusual conditions that occur in case of fire.
  • 408.3.3 Time of day. Emergency evacuation drills shall be conducted at different hours of the day or evening, during the changing of classes, when the school is at assembly, during the recess of gymnastic periods, or during other times to avoid distinction between drills and actual fires.

2005 NATIONWIDE BUILDING FIRE CODES / SOURCE

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