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Fire Drill - Principal tells students to lie and hide

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Elith, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. We just had an evacuation drill last week. Its high school, and I am one of the Science teachers. During the drill I went to the Labs to turn off the gas (as required), and also checked the two laboratories and the prep room to see that the classes had been evacuated.
    One of the labs had a senior math class still in it. They told me they were without a teacher (the principal) and were taking themselves to the evacuation point. I turned off the gas, checked the other lab, returned to the first lab which appeared empty and followed the students to the evacuation point where I checked the roll for my class.
    Unbeknownst to me, the principal had told some of the students to hide in the lab, and the others to leave as normal. When I had checked the room I had not looked behind every bench or in every cupboard to see if senior students had concealed themselves during an "emergency".
    I feel I was set up to fail. For this scenario to be realistic several <u>major</u> catastrophic conditions would have had to occur:
    1: A class would have to have been abandoned by their teacher in an emergency situation and the teacher did not return to check.
    2: The students would have to have been so selfish and self absorbed that noone mentioned to a staffmember entering the room that some of their classmates where hiding.
    3: Senior students (with no recognised learning or behavioral disabilities) would choose to conceal themselves from a teacher (yes - they said they saw me enter the room) during a fire / evacuation situation.
    The check I was doing was not a "look for missing / unaccounted for persons search" - but a check to see that students had been evacuated. Rolls would be marked at the evacuation point.
    Sorry for the long rant, but this really got under my skin. I consider myself competent and professional, and think this trick by the principal was mean and unreasonable. I know I can't blame the students involved, but they have lost some of the trust and respect they once had from me. They thought it was funny to be hiding from a teacher, and told me that I was going to be "sacked" because I did not find them.
    What do others think? Am I too thin skinned or was this "over the top" on behalf of the principal? I wonder what Monday and the follow-up from this drill will bring....

     
  2. We just had an evacuation drill last week. Its high school, and I am one of the Science teachers. During the drill I went to the Labs to turn off the gas (as required), and also checked the two laboratories and the prep room to see that the classes had been evacuated.
    One of the labs had a senior math class still in it. They told me they were without a teacher (the principal) and were taking themselves to the evacuation point. I turned off the gas, checked the other lab, returned to the first lab which appeared empty and followed the students to the evacuation point where I checked the roll for my class.
    Unbeknownst to me, the principal had told some of the students to hide in the lab, and the others to leave as normal. When I had checked the room I had not looked behind every bench or in every cupboard to see if senior students had concealed themselves during an "emergency".
    I feel I was set up to fail. For this scenario to be realistic several <u>major</u> catastrophic conditions would have had to occur:
    1: A class would have to have been abandoned by their teacher in an emergency situation and the teacher did not return to check.
    2: The students would have to have been so selfish and self absorbed that noone mentioned to a staffmember entering the room that some of their classmates where hiding.
    3: Senior students (with no recognised learning or behavioral disabilities) would choose to conceal themselves from a teacher (yes - they said they saw me enter the room) during a fire / evacuation situation.
    The check I was doing was not a "look for missing / unaccounted for persons search" - but a check to see that students had been evacuated. Rolls would be marked at the evacuation point.
    Sorry for the long rant, but this really got under my skin. I consider myself competent and professional, and think this trick by the principal was mean and unreasonable. I know I can't blame the students involved, but they have lost some of the trust and respect they once had from me. They thought it was funny to be hiding from a teacher, and told me that I was going to be "sacked" because I did not find them.
    What do others think? Am I too thin skinned or was this "over the top" on behalf of the principal? I wonder what Monday and the follow-up from this drill will bring....

     
  3. kittylion

    kittylion Established commenter

    I'm afraid I don't know the legal situation here, but as a layman I am appalled that the HT (or any member of staff) should use students in this way.

    The whole point of a fire (or any) evacuation is to get everyone to the muster points as quickly as possible. Now these students have not experienced a proper evacuation procedure. Who is to say that next time the fire alarm goes, they will not take it into their heads to hide again - after all you never know what young people will do? I wonder what their parents would think if they knew. I would be furious.

    Your head has also badly undermined you with the students - and yes I think you can blame them for being so rude as to tell you you are going to be sacked, and I would tell the HT that this has been said and who said it.

    I would consider ringing your union and having a chat with them to see what they make of it.

    I hope other posters can give you more detailed advice about the legal implications.
     
  4. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    No, don't worry. Not your concern.
    You are not expected to open cupboards or places where people (adults or pupils) would not, should not be. Certainly if you WERE expected or required to do this, it would be in the instructions issued to staff. Is it? I doubt it!
    The onus is on whoever is doing the register checks to see that someone is missing, that is what the Principal was checking.
    So you can relax and have a good half term.
    Best wishes
    _______________________________________
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Seminars. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews, with practical exercises that people really appreciate.
    I shall be doing the Win That Teaching Job seminar on Saturday February 25th, and also the Moving into Headship or SLT seminar on Saturday 18th February
    www.tesweekendworkshop87.eventbrite.com
    www.tesweekendworkshop82.eventbrite.com
     
  5. Hi TheoGriff,
    We are expected to "check the rooms" - and I believe this is what the Principal was hoping to assess. Did my check detect students hiding behind/in/under benches in the back of the room...No. Is there anything written down about a thorough search for missing/hiding students at this point in an evacuation? No.
    The students did show up as missing when the role/register was checked, but from the Principal's response to the HOD it seems obvious that he believes Science staff should be performing a more thorough "check" of the Labs before getting ourselves to the assembly point to mark our own role/register to positively account for the students.
    I guess I'm just very disappointed that students were used in this way to "trick" a teacher. Overall, the system worked, the students were missing at role call and were then located. I am just really that my part in the system was set up to fail in this way. I will not make the same mistake again!
    Thanks for the support!
     
  6. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    You are expected to carry out reasonable tasks.
    This does not, in my view, include checking inside cupboards unless, for example, they are large walk-in cupboards where students are allowed to go to pick up equipment.
    Nor does it include searching for people deliberately hiding. This is unreasonable, and putting your own safety at risk in my view as it would delay your own exit if you had to look in all the places where people would deliberately hide.
    Reasonable. That is the key word.
    You shouldn't spend the half term worrying, there is nothing to worry about.
    But you should, as what you did was not a mistake but reasonable. Unless all staff are given written instructions to check for people deliberately hiding, in which case you should challenge it.
    Best wishes
    _______________________________________
    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Seminars. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews, with practical exercises that people really appreciate.
    I shall be doing the Win That Teaching Job seminar on Saturday February 25th, and also the Moving into Headship or SLT seminar on Saturday 18th February
    www.tesweekendworkshop87.eventbrite.com
    www.tesweekendworkshop82.eventbrite.com
     
  7. bigfatgit

    bigfatgit New commenter


    I would be asking if I was singled out for this and, if so, why?
    For example, were there students instructed to hide in, say, the vaulting boxes in the sports hall? What about a couple of them hiding in his office?
    Sounds like typical bullying from some loathsome oik who has been promoted above his capability
    I would not let this lie; "cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war", and all that
     
  8. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    I think maybe the key problem is that the students misunderstood "hide in the lab". What he really meant was "stay in the lab", and perhaps when he realises that they were playing hide and seek, he will realise that this is not the sort of thing you would expect in a fire situation. Checking rooms should involve a look around and a perhaps a call out, just in case someone's tripped or something.
    I'm all for the strategy of keeping some students out of the drill, ever since my sixth form days. A friend bunked off for the afternoon, but said to me "if there's a fire drill, you can tell our form tutor I've gone home". There was, but in the event, he looked round, said "we're all here aren't we", and reported us all there without noticing her absence. That was worrying.
    I'd also be all for hiding the odd part-time teacher, as I've usually had difficulty in finding out who registers part-timers, and even when there is someone, do they know who is in when?
     
  9. It sounds to me as if the HT has misunderstood his instructions on how to run a fire drill.
    He may have read that it can be a good test to hide some pupils and see if anyone notices. The purpose being to assure that people taking the registers notice that there are some pupils missing - and then raise the alarm.
    Your HT seems to have thought this meant they were supposed to be found, during a demented game of "Hide and Seek During an Emergency Evacuation".
    Generally speaking any reasonable human without developmental delay problems could be assumed to understand the instructions. There should be a lot more research and papers written on the declining intellectual capabilities of Head Teachers.
     
  10. It sounds like you have nothing to worry about at all, aside from the fact that the students now feel that they have got 'one up' on you.



    It sounds like you've been specifically targeted which is worrying. Heads quite often do this when they want to build up a case against someone and there is no sign of any capability issues. It sounds like they are trying to engineer capability issues with you. I'd watch out for other similar treatment in the future.



    You seem to have handed this situation well, but you may need to do it a few times yet.
     
  11. A discreet enquiry to your local fire and rescue service headquarters may be instructive. Sounds like a major breach of Health & Safety at least. Your LA will almost certainly have a health and safety officer who may be interested to learn of these idiosyncrasies.
     
  12. bedingfield

    bedingfield New commenter

    Fire drill?......What's a fire drill?
    We moved to a newly built school over a year ago and there hasn't been a fire drill yet, nor have we been told where the assembly point is to check registers.
    Maybe new builds don't catch fire...
     
  13. Perhaps the principal should be asked why he himself didn't follow correct procedure! Leaving his class unattended and not supervision their evacuation of the building surely is against the instructions?
    Plus, I wonder why he chose to have a fire drill during his teaching period - Perhaps one should delve deeper in to whether or not he is up to date with his marking etc etc
    The only reason a student should be held back (on my opinion), would be to test that it is picked up during the roll call. A sweep of the building at the stage of evacuation is just checking that rooms are clear of classes and that windows are closed etc. No one would expect you to be searching under tables for hiding children. That would be up to the fire service after roll call had identified those who are 'missing'.
     

  14. So your principal is quite happy to leave pupils unsupervised in a science lab !!!

    They need a good bol**cking for allowing this breach in basic H&S in the first place.
     
  15. marlin

    marlin Star commenter Forum guide

    That's what we do.
     
  16. pjhewett

    pjhewett New commenter

    I am in primary so it's easier as they are always with me, but I have trained my class so their default lining up position is in register order. It makes fire drills a cinch! We are always first to be ready in the playground.
     
  17. Sorry Bryson, I'm primary, so children are usually with their class teacher. I can see that its more difficult in secondary though, particularly if you are in a large school. Would it be feasible for children to join their form class line or would that become chaotic?
     
  18. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    That's the norm.

    Admin hold class lists, if the alarm goes off, those lists are taken to the assembly point by the fire marshal for the admin office.

    Kids line up as forms, ideally in alphabetical order and each form teacher takes a register from the list provided by admin.
     
  19. kittylion

    kittylion Established commenter

    Yes that's how we have always done it - in form groups with printed registers.
     

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