Last week the junior high I teach at had a fire drill.
I’m going to assume everyone reading this blog has a grid for what a typical fire drill entails. If the reader doesn’t, it usually is just making sure everyone exits in an orderly and safe fashion.
Here is what is different about Japanese fire drills (vs. U.S. ones):
1. The students changed their shoes on the way out. – Yes, Japanese take their shoes off when they enter houses. They also do it when they enter select businesses (schools and hospitals, yes. Traditional restaurants, yes. Most other stores, no). Since this was a planned drill, the students all collected their outdoor shoes from the cubby holes a few minutes before, then changed on the way out. I asked my co-teacher and he said in a real drill they would just go outside in their indoor shoes.
2. Once the students exited the building, they ran to the designated gathering point. My teachers always yelled at us if we broke into a jog. Here, it was expected. Not a full out sprint, but a rapid jog. Like storm troopers on a mission.
3. They all wore caps – I knew about the shoes thing. My sister had told me about it years ago when she was a teacher in Japan. But this year, for the first time, I noticed the caps. Japanese students have caps that they wear during their daily cleaning time. Apparently they also wear them during fire drills. What I want to know is whether they would all reach for their caps in the case of a real fire.
4. And they all held handkerchiefs – As far as I could gather, this was to have something to cover their mouths with to prevent smoke inhalation. Makes sense. But what if you don’t have the handkerchief with you? Do you dig through your bag to find it before exiting? So many questions…
5. They actually practiced putting out fires. It wasn’t a real fire, but the firemen who had come to observe the drill gave a short lecture and then about twenty students took turns taking the pin out of a fire extinguisher and aiming it at the fire. They used real extinguishers but filled them with water which was aimed at an orange pylon. This part I really like. I’m 30 years old and I’ve been shown how to use an extinguisher, but never having actually used it, I sometimes wonder if I would botch the whole operation in a panicky moment. Here they practice. I say, Good show!