Fire Drills at a Korean High School

Fire Drills at a Korean High School

So the other day I experienced my first fire drill at my school. I was notified of it as soon as class was starting so class only lasted ten minutes before we had to make our way out the school. I was expecting the alarm to go off, we line the kids up outside, administration checks the building to make sure no kids are left inside, done.

But that’s not how Korean high schools do things.

Firstly, the organization was a hot mess. Kids just leave the building. No single file line, no silence, no walking with their classroom teacher, no exit plan. Nothing! The kids literally just leave, and the teachers just nonchalantly shoo them out. Some kids try to stay inside and hide! I had to tell 8 kids to get out the building.

Only to get outside and see some teachers have a water hose spraying the building! So now I’m thinking there was a real fire. I ask another teacher if there was a real fire and he said no, they are just practicing. But next thing I know, darn near the whole fire department is pulling up to the school with the sirens and horns blaring. And now I’m back to thinking that there must have been a real fire to have to go through all of this.

There was a smaller emergency van and two large fire trucks that rolled up to the school. In America, there are about one or two people that will get off the truck and go inside to check the building or whatever it is that they check. When all is clear, the kids can go back inside. Not here in Korea. Instead, they fire up the water hoses on both trucks and begin to spray the building just like they would if it were a real fire. I don’t remember how long they do this for but I’m sure they wasted enough water to bathe half the school population.


So we’re done spraying random school windows with precious water. Now it’s time for a presentation. There was a man, I’m just gonna call him The Chief, that came up to a little platform in front of the school and proceeds to give a mini presentation about Lord only knows what because I don’t speak Korean.

But I did understand that towards the end he was explaining to the kids how to use a fire extinguisher. The Chief even had some kids come up and practice putting out a mini fire that he started. He had this thing that looked like a miniature grill with coals in it. He lit it, the kids practiced putting out the fire. The end. The next thing I know, the kids are stampeding their way back inside the building. All of this took around 30 minutes.

Now that the drill was over, there was still ten minutes left of class. I walk back inside with my co-teacher and was completely baffled when she looked at me and said “see you later” then walked back to her office. Ummm??? We still have class don’t we? So I go ask another teacher that speaks some English and he goes “There is still time. You must manage your kids now until class is over.” Great.

So I just walked back to class and told them that they could do what they wanted. My only rule was they had to stay inside the classroom. Surprisingly, they were pretty well-behaved. They weren’t very loud and actually thanked me for allowing them to do what they wanted for the final minutes of class. I didn’t even think it was that big of a deal. I just figured why bother teaching when the entire student body is hyped up on precious, natural vitamin D and there is no reeling them back in? They got their sunlight, they didn’t have to learn anything for 30 minutes, and they’re feeling good. They can have the last ten minutes. It’s not like I could get through 50 minutes of a lesson in 10 anyway.

So that was my first time experiencing a fire drill at a Korean high school. If, like me, you find yourself confused, hopefully this will prepare you for fire drills at your own school. But if this little blog post wasn’t enough, just be sure to find one of your co-teachers and stick closely to them until it’s over. And if your co-teacher is like mine and completely dips after the fire drill…well, you’re on your own lol. But if you have polite kids like I do (in that particular class) then managing them should be a piece of cake.

Bye for now!

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