I wish that I could have had my camera

So as the title suggests, there are no pictures accompanying this post, but I had to write it down anyway.

It should surprise no one that I had a fire drill today. I work at a school. As far as things go, even in a foreign country, that goes as common sense. It makes far more sense since I live in emergency conscious Japan. Listening to emergency alarms in another language is sort of nerve wracking. You get used to it, and maybe that’s another post for another day. Incidentally the word for fire, as in dear God there is a fire, is Kajida.

Anyway. They sounded the fire alarm, which, after the initial alarm tones, pretty much sounds the same as it does in America minus the ear splitting tone that could wake the dead. The students shuffled down as many as five flights of stairs in a calm herd. Unlike what I’m used to, no one expects absolute silence.

We all shuffled out the back door out onto the athletics field. That’s when I realized that things were just a bit different. See, in Japan, it isn’t just the school that runs the drills, it’s the actual fire department. Across the field, standing resolutely, was a man in uniform blue holding a stop watch. We were being timed, so students and teachers sprinted the last few feet across the yard. Everyone fell into places with their classes or the other faculty.

I found a few people that I work with regularly to stand with because I knew we were going to be waiting and wanted to talk. Then I turned around.

Three faces were peering out of one of the windows on the fifth floor of the building. Since all of my teaching experience has so far been in American, my first reaction was crap those kids are messing this up for everyone. Nope. Dead Wrong.

Those three students were right where they were supposed to be. As if on cue, a single firetruck drove up the hill and around the outside of the field. It backed in. One of the firefighters jumped out so that he could watch and wave the driver into place. Then in practiced formation everyone else jumped out of the truck. In about two seconds, they had the braces dug into the ground and one guy had jumped into a control seat tucked onto the back of the truck. He turned on the lift while two other firefighters climbed into the bucket, which the first firefighter and turned open for them from the control seat.

I think you see where this is going. They raised the ladder and “rescued” the students from the fifth floor window. Now before you go all, how dare they endanger their students by pulling them from a window, think about it. Should an actual emergency really be the first time a student actually has to do something like get into a fire ladder bucket? I’m not really sure it should be.

To that aim, the last part of the drill involved two members of the faculty and two members of the student body having to put out a “fire” with some of the extinguishers kept in the building. Don’t worry. The “fire” was actually a red rubber cone. Frankly ending my day watching two third year boys scream fire and attack a cone was pretty hilarious. So was watching one of the teachers accidentally shoot the other with the extinguisher. Extremely practical, yes, but also very fun.

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