Thursday, January 13, 2011

Emergency Handling

In Poltergeist XV from Learn Me Good, Mister Teacher talks about a situation that occurred where he had to evacuate his students from his classroom. He shares,

“So this brings us to today's wild panicked exodus. My class was going well. We had just read a Reader's Theater out of the book. We were mixing math and reading, discussing the fractions we had seen in the little play. Suddenly and without warning, one wall seemed to explode with a horrendous sound. It was like an elephant was right outside the classroom, hitting an extended G flat to warn its troop of danger from intruding poachers. At the same time -- and this sound lasted 15 or 20 seconds at least -- a huge cloud of white smoke billowed forth from the HVAC unit. It was like the Smoke Monster from Lost had come to attack, and it hadn't even appeared to me in the form of dead loved ones. I pray to God that it was just steam, and not some kind of toxic gas. Unless I wind up getting super powers out of it, and then it's ok.”

This brought back a couple of memories of emergency situations that I have been in at home and in the classroom. I am terrible at dealing with emergencies and I’m so glad my husband and my paraprofessionals are level headed.

Many years ago I taught a high school self contained special education class in a portable. In fact, mine was the only portable at the school. Now, I’m sure you are saying how awful that is but we didn’t mind. We loved it! In fact, I taught in the portable 11 years there even though they wouldn’t let me plant flowers around it because it was not a permanent fixture. Usually administrators stayed away (they were afraid we might complain about the conditions or maybe they just forgot about us) and left us alone to do what we needed to do. This portable was very old and over the years I had complained and they had to make needed repairs. In fact, one year I could see the grass outside in the one inch gap between the wall and the floor. The final straw was when a mouse came up to look back at me. I sat in the principal’s office refusing to teach under those conditions so the maintenance guys came out. They said they had to run cables underneath to make the box square again because it was about to fold up like a house of cards. The floor was also weak in places and they made me mark the floor with Xs so they could put cinder blocks under those weak places. But all this wasn’t the emergency.

The emergency happened when one day, two of the long fluorescent light fixtures dropped down out of the ceiling. We immediately got the students out of the room but not before I grabbed my laptop and purse! We ran out in the midst of smoke and the smell of something burning!

We spent the rest of the day in the library while maintenance fixed the problem. The reason we had a problem was that it had rained the day before and the roof was flooded with water making the ceiling droop. They got the water off, fixed the light fixture, and covered my whole portable roof with the biggest blue tarp you have ever seen. They tied the tarp down to my huge flower pots that I had situated on the corners of the portable. Oh, they put 4x4 wood beams around the room inside to prop up the ceiling. I taught around these beams and tarp for about 3 years until I finally transferred to another school closer to my home. Needless to say, teaching in the portable lended itself to lots of excitement over the years.

The other big emergency we had happened at home. I’m not exactly proud of how I handled myself at the time. My husband was watching TV on the couch (with his eyes closed of course!). My wonderful dog woke him up when the oil furnace caught on fire. The house was filled with smoke! In fact, the smoke was from the top of our cathedral ceiling down to the couch so my husband rushed in the bedroom and woke me up. Immediately I grabbed what I guess I thought were the most important things to me besides my husband and rushed out of the house. Imagine my surprise when the firemen got there and I looked down to see that in one hand was the dog and in the other was my grade book! My husband was so mad that I didn’t grab wallets or pictures or anything else besides my grade book! We still laugh about that to this day. I guess I had always been drilled that losing my grade book equals loss of my job so I’m really glad when we started doing our grades online! What a relief. Now if I ever have another fire, I can forget about the grade book and actually grab the wallets!

My suggestions to all teachers are to think about your specific situation and make a plan for an emergency evacuation. Even though the school has a fire drill plan, think about what to do if it only applies to your situation and make an individual plan. Plan on who does what and gets what things out with you. At one school, we even had an emergency bag near the door with information, attendance sheets, pencil, first aid supplies in it which was great. At home, we have copies of important documents, and emergency money plus whatever else we decided was important in an emergency bag. We know to grab this bag if we need to evacuate our house.

What are your plans for an emergency? Do you have any other suggestions that would be good to share?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'KF&RS Dennis Fire Engine' by: Ken

1 comment:

Sioux Roslawski said...

We used to have an emergency huge bucket (like a jumbo pickle bucket) by each of our classroom doors, with toilet paper, a flashlight, bandaids, our clipboard, etc. I called it the "pee pot" because I imagined if we had to be stuck somewhere for a while, well...

I taught in a portable for a year, and loved it, too. One reason: I had ac and the rest of the building was NOT airconditioned. (Although once I stepped out into the blistering heat and humidity for restroom breaks and lunch and PE, I think the effect was worse.) The second reason: I (obviously) had a key, so I could go in on Saturday or Sunday and work. The final reason: the path to the portable was gravel, which meant that no high-heeled administrators were likely to bother me.