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A Chinese Fire Drill

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A Chinese Fire Drill

Today is another fire drill which are always interesting.
Last year was the first fire drill for my current school. On a side note, one of the things that are never covered in orientation for new teachers are fire drills. The first time, you more or less wing it or follow an experience teacher or the students.

One thing I noticed is that we lined up within 30 feet of the building under the shady trees. I do not know if this is a good idea. If the building had been on fire the dry conditions in Changchun would had made the trees ideal fire wood. But hey, at least we were in the shade. Also found out that Chinese law requires that people are physically trained to use a fire extinguisher. Fair enough. So, the staff took a large trash bin and made fire. The students put out the fire like a pro. However, this wasn't the fire. As we stood comfortable in the shade no one seemed to noticed that a a strong wind was blowing towards us. As the fire was put out it created a bellowing smoke that rushed towards all of the students. A slight panic ensued as people rushed to avoid the smoke. There is never a dull moment in China!

Earlier this year, we added a significant number of classrooms. The school was started by a man who manufactures glass windows for the automotive industry. The first floors of part of the school is still factory. Think of a rectangle with a circle intersecting the top corner of the square. The two floors of the factory is part of the rectangle. The rooms were in the rectangle however there was one point of entry into the rectangle for the school; the third floor. To get to the third floor classrooms you have to walk the long end of the length of the rectangle to get to the entry point. The fourth floor can be access through an opening halfway down the length. You can also access the 4th floor from the third floor area as well. There are access points, but they are used by the factory and therefore we do not have access. To make a long story short, the 3rd and 4th floor had a horrible bottleneck. With the increase number of classrooms and students, it would get worse. The Chinese staff devised a plan. The divided the classrooms into three different color zones (red, blue and yellow). Each one would have a different exit point.

The Fire drill.... for some reason the Chinese staff stand at various points in the hallway like the firemen do in the US. Unlike the firemen, they direct traffic which of course undermines the drill. Anyway, our drill was a huge success. BUT. One day later, the fire alarm goes off. Chaos ensued as no one knew what to do or where to go. There was no Chinese staff to supervise and teachers lagged behind as we make sure no one is left behind.

Problems: Students did not know that some fire exits were permissible because they still had signs stating no entry for students. There is no knowledge of "color zones" either. So even if the doors had a "zone color" the students still would not know if they could. Since there was no Chinese staff to direct the flow, they went where through the doors they knew or last years route.

Another note, my classroom is in the zone that exits the building, then we walk along the building to get to the assembly point. I was always told when you exit you should immediately move to a safe distance.

I am sure today's drill will be another success. I just hope we will never ever have to do for real.