When the fire alarm goes off at school…for real

I want you to think for a second about the confusion that could be caused in a school when a genuine fire alarm goes off. I now want you to imagine the alarm going off as the kids are being dismissed at the end of the school day. Welcome to my world guys, because this recently happened to me!

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We’ve all experienced fire drills, but when a genuine fire coincides with the end of the school day you can imagine the chaos that ensues.

If you can picture the scene, I arrived at school to hear alarms going off. The infant classes are dismissed a few minutes earlier than the junior classes and so my youngest daughter, Izzy, was handed over to me as normal because she is in an infant class.

Over in the playground, however, something was clearly amiss. The junior school-aged children (Year Three and above) were neatly lined up in their classes. Some were still in their PE kit and all of them were looking slightly bemused and a little concerned.

As the moments passed and I took more information in, I realised staff members had sealed off the playground with the children inside it. If this was a fire drill, it was happening at a bizarre time of day. All things considered, this seemed to be genuine.

Those parents who only had kids in the infant school didn’t even notice anything was amiss. They simply collected their kids and left. The rest of us were left milling around trying to figure out what was going on.

After a few minutes, information made it’s way to us that there had indeed been a small fire. The alarm had been raised exactly as the infant school children were being dismissed at the end of the day.

Armed with this info, I went over to the fence of the playground with a couple of other parents and shouted to my oldest daughter. She didn’t respond. I didn’t discover this until later, but the kids had all been told to stay quiet.

That sounds harsh, but I realised afterwards that it made total sense. Fire engines were on their way and instructions might need to be shouted to the children very quickly. We all know how hard it can be to get children’s attention. It’s harder still when they’re chatting and distracted by classmates.

The children, I have to say, were brilliant. Some of them were clearly very worried but they didn’t make a fuss and simply stood quietly in line. The staff did a great job staying on top of the situation. 

As for the parents, most were brilliant. Concerned, yes, but for the most part they waited patiently for their children to be allowed home.

Apart, that is, for a couple of them who really let the side down. One mum blatantly disregarded the instructions issued by a staff member while a dad attempted to go and get his daughter before staff said she could leave. I’d best not go into detail, suffice it to say The Court of Facebook delivered its sentence.

After what seemed like an age, the Fire Service arrived. It was at this moment a lot of the kids burst into tears. Until then, it probably seemed a little surreal to them. The sight of the fire engine made it very real indeed.

Apparently the school authorities were waiting for the Fire Service to say it was safe to dismiss the kids. Pretty much the second the handbrake was applied on the fire engine, the all clear was given. I was surprised at how quickly this happened but it quickly dawned on me why they didn’t dawdle. Would you want to tackle a blaze with 200(ish) school kids in the area? No, you wouldn’t, you’d want them gone ASAP.

The fire turned out to be genuine but tiny. Thankfully it was swiftly contained, rumour has it by the caretaker.

As I said at the start, we’ve all experienced fire drills. Seeing the genuine thing in a school was eye opening. We may have got home an hour late, but the school staff, firefighters and kids were just superb. The inconvenience was worth it knowing everyone was kept safe.

Can you imagine what this was like? Have you experienced similar? How would you have reacted if you had turned up at school to such a scene. Please leave a comment below!

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4 Comments

  1. January 1, 2019 / 7:30 pm

    Happy New Year to you and the family and it sounds as if the kids are being well trained. The way things are these days fire and other drills are, sadly, essential. If I’d have turned up my immediate guess would be school shooting with tears of joy at the sight of the fire truck (which reminds me of a tinker toy).

    • John Adams
      Author
      January 3, 2019 / 10:34 am

      Very profound words there Jeanna. I know lock-down drills have been a thing in the US for years but British schools have introduced them in the past few years as well. It is a very sad sign of the times. I think, however, the fact it all went to smoothly shows that the drills kids and teachers have are worth the effort. Telling that it was parents who ultimately let the side down.

  2. January 4, 2019 / 2:23 pm

    From a child’s perspective it scary. I’m afraid to say that when I was at primary school we had a very serious fire. It was caused by exterior painter using a paint stripping heat gun that cause a fire to rip through the false ceiling. I was about 8 and I still remember things about that fateful day vividly. It was just before lunch and the alarm sounded. We were soon all safely away from the building an lined up. I remember thinking it was a drill until we saw the smoke. Then we soon heard the sirens of the fire engines. My strongest memory is seeing the first one swing into the playground with e firefights hanging off the back! I now realise he much have jumped out to open the gate and then jumped onto the back as it passed him. We lost a large part of the school that day. Thankfully nobody was hurt and even our school guinea pigs survived thanks to the firefighters giving them oxygen from their masks! My mum was a dinner lady and the dinner that day was fish and chips, so I know it was a Friday. I remember them whleeing the lunch trolleys out into the playground so we all had our lunch al fresco. The school was shut for a couple of weeks (yay!) and then we were back but in lots of temporary portacabin classrooms. Fear, I remember being scared – for sure. But the professionalism of the teachers and firefighters are what stopped anyone getting hurt that day.

    • John Adams
      Author
      January 5, 2019 / 9:22 am

      This is just fascinating. I can tell from the way you have written this that the memory is ingrained and had a major impact on you Dave. It just shows how important the reaction and professionalism of the school staff and fire service staff has to be. In both our tales, I think they did well. Amazing the even the guinea pigs were saved.