Friday, July 14, 2006

Fire!

We had a fire drill at school today. It was not, however, remotely like the fire drills I had in school. First, it's a once-a-semester (sometimes once-a-year) event that has been planned for weeks, and everyone knew it. It's actually been rescheduled a couple of times because "it might rain." It's the rainy season in Thailand; there's a good chance on any given day that it's going to rain. Andy (one of the other farang teachers) suggested he just pull the fire alarm one day. There are two problems with this, it would seem: one, there's no fire alarm, and two, Teacher Jick (my boss) said, "if it's a surprise, the students will walk all over each other." Right, because we wouldn't want to spring a fire drill on anyone, would we?

Anyhow, they finally decided to just do it. To add an element of excitement, the school had the gardener and some of the teachers set small fires throughout the grounds. Yes, you read that right. Real fires. All over the campus. There were three visible from the windows of my classroom. Once the fires were going good and strong, someone in the office played the sound of a siren over the intercom. This caused my co-teacher to run to the windows, scream "fire!" and run to the door yelling for the kids to get down and get out. So much for everyone staying calm. I had 19 three-year-olds belly-crawling out of the classroom with their hands covering their mouths - which was probably necessary, given the smoke that was coming through the windows! Three of the teachers ran around the school yelling "fire!" to practice alerting the students, on the theory that if there ever really WAS a fire, the intercom wouldn't work and we'd have to rely on this method. Let's hope there's not a fire.

Once out of the classroom, sans shoes, we hobbled over to the canteen to meet up with the rest of the school. Then the fire department arrived (on a side note, John said the windshield of the firetruck read "Welcome to Khon Kaen. How nice). One fireman jumped out of the truck and began to hose down a nearby building and the adjacent lawn. This caused a few jokes among the farang teachers about how it was really a yard-watering drill or a power-washing the school drill. He managed to water the lawn pretty well, but I don't think the building got very clean. The water looked slightly brown (this is Thailand, after all, and it would be ridiculous to use clean water to put out a fire).

After we all cheered and applauded the fireman for "saving" us, a local fireman gave a lecture about fire to the students. I didn't understand it because it was all in Thai, but apparently it included the chemical composition of fire extinguishers and an in-detail explanation of why fire burns. I'm sure my KG 1 students were enthralled. Some of them did enjoy the demonstration of fire-extinguishing techniques. The firemen would turn on a propane tank, light the flame, and then allow student volunteers to extinguish the flame using water, fire extinguishers, etc. Very safe. It was probably the only part of the demonstration that got everyone's attention. It did make a couple of my kids cry, but they got over it quickly.

Can't say I feel all that prepared for a fire at school now, but it was a cultural experience for me!

5 comments:

Drew Wilkins said...

This is great! Think about how much more interesting senior year in high school would have been (remember all those fire/bomb drills?!) with this kind of fire drill! Can you imagine Mrs. Brenner running down the hall yelling, "FIRE!!"...

suprbacana said...

Awesome!! We used to have tornado drills in Minnesota where we had to go to the basement of the school (this was elementary school...we had the cafeteria in the basement...weird). Anyway we'd get rushed to the basement and have to huddle together with our hands laced over the back of our necks until (I swear she was a Nazi) the principal felt she had tortured us enough. Then we got the lecture about how back in 1970something there was a real tornado hovering near the school and everyone had to stay huddled like that for hours and hours. Yikes. I always wondered what happened if somebody had to pee..........

;-)

Zimm said...

This is one of the best posts by anyone ever.

Kimberly said...

Hysterical! Where was Trea while all this was going on? Ethan would have been glued to the fire truck.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. I love your writing.

Mom Jeffery