According to assistant principal Joseph Mamana, in the state of Maryland it is required that schools hold 10 fire drills within a calendar school year. During the month of September, two fire drills occurred, the second one unexpected to both students and staff. It took administration about five minutes to figure out that the unexpected fire drill was accidentally pulled by a student near the auditorium.
Since it was an honest mistake, the student did not suffer the consequences that one would if he or she did it on purpose. Those consequences include up to a $500 fine and possible jail time as it is a criminal offense.
Administration checks the cameras to investigate exactly what happened and who was at fault. This time, the student who pulled it was standing there with their teacher when the administration came to investigate what happened. “If there is nobody there when we get to it then we know that it was probably pulled inappropriately,” Mamana said.
Each fire alarm located throughout the school is labeled with a station number. When it is pulled it shows up on a computer system on a main frame and says its exact station and location. Usually only building services looks at the panel, which is located in the basement. They then communicate through their walkie-talkies which alarm was triggered and where it is.
The abrupt fire drill mainly left students feeling either relieved or frustrated. Some students agreed that “everyone was really confused when it happened, especially the teachers, and it was really inconvenient since we were doing an in-class essay,” junior Nicole Bedanova said.
Others felt thankful for the accidental drill, “God bless. I missed an in-class essay,” senior Valerie Hubert said.
When it is a drill, Principal Kim Boldon and the administrators consult on a day to have it. They check to make sure the station works and after pulling it, reset it with a special key, then let everyone file back inside to resume class.
Sometimes an unanticipated fire drill may occur if maintenance is repairing the sprinkler or fire drill system and they might accidentally go off but most times there is an announcement given warning students and staff to ignore it if it occurs.
Within three minutes administration is able to know exactly which station was pulled and where it is. In under 10 minutes 2,500 students are able to leave the building and within 10 to 12 minutes fire trucks are here.
When the fire marshal comes, building services, after finding which station was pulled, must let him or her know. Boldon, who is the “incident commander,” meets the firefighters at the front of the building and informs them of the situation and where the station is located.
She mentions to them if it was an accident, if they had suspicions that one could start due to the scent of a gas leak or if there really is a fire.