Briefly Summarized: how fire drills hurt school preparation: Despite the high number of fire drills, they serve little purpose in our emergency preparedness

Emilia Charno, Ilana Hill, and Samantha D’Alonzo

The world has been having a disaster-news problem. School shootings do not always occur conveniently in the first fifteen minutes of a period. Staff is not notified beforehand of a fire via mass email.

So why does almost every single one of Schreiber’s twelve state-mandated fire drills occur in this fashion?

The fire drills endured on an almost weekly basis during the early months of the school year are repetitive, unrealistic, and take away time from class without providing a worthwhile practice experience.

These drills are merely distracting inconveniences, rather than practical drills.

All these drills teach us is how to leave the building through the nearest exit.  Even that is not really accomplished: often, during fire drills, students can be seen running from one side of the hallway to the other after realizing that their class had gone the opposite way.

Yet, in the event of an actual emergency, it is vital that teachers be able to quickly account for every student in their class.

These drills have become extremely predictable due to more teachers notifying students when they are about to occur, more fire drills being concentrated  at the beginning of the period, and more drills in the first quarter of the school year.

Ironically, the school can get more of a benefit from a student looking for five minutes of infamy who pulls the fire alarm; at least that is unexpected.

“I’ve heard the fire alarm go off so frequently I don’t assume it’s an actual fire, just a drill,” said junior Emma Mills.

This mentality is widespread among Schreiber students and certainly removes a sense of urgency in reaction to the alarm.

“When I hear the fire alarm my first instinct is to finish what I’m doing, not to immediately evacuate the building,” said junior Naome Sajnani.

Because the fire alarm is set off so frequently that students are desensitized to it, an actual, life-threatening emergency where the students and staff must quickly exit the building would be very dangerous.

You would be hard pressed to find a person panicking during a run-of-the-mill fire drill.  Gossiping: yes. Wasting valuable learning time: yes. But actually acting as if this is a serious situation:  no.

Therefore, when the students at Schreiber were given a taste of true disaster with a mysterious gas leak in 2014 they reacted the same way.  However, if a major gas leak or natural disaster were to arise, the student body would likely not follow proper protocol out of improper training or blatant disregard.

Greater variation and sneakier implementation could enhance the effectiveness of these necessary drills.  By experiencing drills at different times of the period and year and in different weather conditions, students could truly learn how to act in the case of a disaster.

Besides creating a more realistic experience, these variations would allow the faculty and the student body to identify any flaws in exit strategies or protocol.

We cannot rely solely on the quick thinking and common sense of staff and students in emergency situations.