It was a blistering hot sunny Southern California spring day. I had just returned from lunch to the elementary school I work at. Before I entered the classroom I noticed a small plume of smoke on
a nearby mountain. I asked my coworker who was also returning from work if she knew where that smoke was coming from. She said a fire must have just started because she came from that direction and did not see anything until now.
About 30 minutes later that plume of smoke increased into a full fledged brush fire on a nearby mountain. The sounds of fire trucks in the distance was quite a comfort. From my classroom window I could see staff walking back and forth to view the blaze which created increased alarm. Children returning from band to the classroom created additional unrest when they described the fire to the other children.
We have practiced numerous routine fire drills where we were aware of the day and time, and the class calmly, cooley, and quietly exited the classroom to the blacktop after the alarm was activated by the principal.
The phone calls to the classroom and the walkie talkie beeping continuously confirmed this was not a routine situation. The principal, feeling pressure from inside and out, made announcements to comfort scared children and anxiety ridden staff. Fear filled parents began picking up their children in droves; they lined up against the fence of the school demanding the release of their children. The principal, after discussion with the fire department, received authorization to evacuate the campus.
A mass message was sent out to parents. A cell tower burned down on the mountain so the ability for the staff to contact the outside world became delayed or non existent. At the end of the day it all worked out, all the kids were safely released to parents or guardians. The firefighters did an awesome job to protect the school and nearby homes. But, what I learned is you can plan for an emergency but you can't plan for its severity...be open to adjust.