Sunday, October 14, 2012


I remember fire drills when I was young.  My parents would wave a match under the fire alarm and I would leap out of bed, open my window, and crawl out onto the roof.  They would be outside with a ladder to let us down from the roof and my brother and I would gratefully go back to bed.  My dad was a volunteer fire fighter so he was really keen on making sure we had a plan and knew the plan without any confusion whatsoever.  Drawing models of your home and detailing exits and fire contingency plans makes a lot of sense when you have a house but living in a condo makes a lot of the standard preparations seem ... bizarre.

Elli's teacher sent her home with homework to draw our home and detail our emergency plans.  In a condo on the 12th floor those plans were pretty boring.  Let's see, we could draw in all the windows just like the form asks, or we could remember that going out those windows is a 50 meter drop to certain death.  We could draw in all the alternate exits and different ways of getting out of the condo, or we could note that every room has precisely one door and there is only one way out of the place.  It just isn't the same to prepare when the only possible plan is 'Go out the door, down the stairs, and out.'  I guess when they send these plans home with kids they just ignore the fact that many of them live in condos or apartments that make the instructions quite silly.  There are things you can tell kids that live in apartments, of course, but the instructions are entirely focused around house fire planning.

The other funny thing is that in school they are taught to exit the building *immediately*.  In the condo we have exactly the opposite instruction:  Stay in place and do nothing.  The concierge will tell us over the intercom if we have to leave; otherwise we should sit tight.  Initially I thought this was a bit nutty but then I considered how bad it would be if, for example, everyone had to leave right away and people were forced to carry an invalid down 16 flights of stairs in a real hurry.  After the tenth person died from falling down the stairs because some buffoon lit a cigarette in the parking garage the policy of 'evacuate condo buildings right away' would stop in a hurry.

It feels like in many cases the schools simply assume that kids have specific lifestyles.  They are assumed to live in houses, have lots of relatives that want to purchase junk from the school in fundraising drives, and have parents that are desperately concerned about safety and legalities.  Of course some people fit any or all of those categories but I fit in none and it always strikes me as a bit odd that school policies seem to make these assumptions of parents even though they are so often false.

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