When the fire alarm goes off, nobody panics. But that’s just because nobody cares. Our typical reaction to the piercing shriek of the incredibly effective sound system is a split second of startled puzzlement followed by a long, audible sigh.
We slowly rise out of our desks, shuffle unenthu-siastically toward the door and stroll noisily down the halls and through the quad, searching for friends and lugging backpacks (so we won’t have to run back to our classrooms to retrieve them). Even the realization that we treat these important drills as jokes prompts just another joke.
“You know if we actually had a real fire we would all be in trouble,” one student will say dramatically.
“Yeah. Oh well,” another will laugh.
“I mean honestly, this seems like the worst plan anyway,” a third will chime in, “What if there was a fire near the field?”
These drills most definitely are an inconvenience.
And yes, it is very frustrating for us to have to wait outside while lunches and tests wait expectantly on tables and desks, counting down the minutes left in the period. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take emergency drills seriously. Drills stop being funny when the real disaster occurs. Friends can get hurt as a result of our negligence.
It is likely that if a catastrophe were to happen on campus tomorrow, the student body would panic. People would forget what to do, decide to find their own way to safety or just freeze up out of pure shock. When those students would go unaccounted for on the field, friends and teachers would start worrying. It would be a traumatic experience for everyone.
The earthquake drill on Oct. 21 perfectly highlighted our incredible lack of preparedness for emergencies. In one classroom, a student chose not to take cover because he didn’t feel like it.
Another read a magazine from underneath a desk while others giggled and complained about their cramped positions. And teachers were misinformed as well.
One teacher kept his students inside the classroom until the alarm turned off and then dismissed them instead of bringing them to the field. Another made students crawl to the center of the room while dragging their desks with them.
When it finally came time for us to actually go to the field, we dawdled, joked and enjoyed the fresh air. We perpetuated a dangerous habit.
As geology teacher Wendy Van Norden reminded us at class meetings last month, an enormous earthquake will happen sometime soon, and we are most definitely not prepared.
Changing our collective attitude toward emergency drills is a simple, but necessary exercise with potentially massive consequences. Believe it or not, lives could be at stake. And that’s just not funny.