“This is not a drill”: Decatur evacuates building during bathroom fire

History teacher Kirsten Embry talks to a student while waiting for the all-clear. Her lesson plans, which included important exam prep, were ruined when the fire alarm sounded.
History teacher Kirsten Embry talks to a student while waiting for the all-clear. Her lesson plans, which included important exam prep, were ruined when the fire alarm sounded.

Around 10:30 a.m., the Decatur fire alarm went off. As students filed out of their classrooms, bookkeeper Saadia Foye immediately warned over the intercom that it was not a drill.

The fire was undoubtedly disruptive. History teacher Kirsten Embry had planned an “in-depth assessment protocol” to prepare her third-period Higher Level history students for their upcoming IB exams. It was a lesson that required every student’s presence, and she needed the full hour and a half to complete it.

“I will try to recreate the magic another day, but it appears unlikely that I can get every student to attend two days in a row,” Embry said.

Someone allegedly lit the fire in a boys’ bathroom trash can with some variation of a tobacco product. Embry said she was “sincerely glad everything’s okay,” but didn’t understand why someone would be so careless.

“I think that people are idiots,” she said, “and they should take their recreational habits outside the building.”

(From left to right) Seniors Autumn Phillips, Kristen Ware and Jori Harris sit together during the evacuation. "I'm kind of bored, and I'm wishing they would tell us what's going on," Harris said at the beginning of the evacuation.
(From left to right) Seniors Autumn Phillips, Kristen Ware and Jori Harris sit together during the evacuation. “I’m kind of bored, and I’m wishing they would tell us what’s going on,” Harris said at the beginning of the evacuation.

Seniors Autumn Phillips, Jori Harris and Kristen Ware also felt irritated at the disruption. During the evacuation, they sat together on the bleachers in the Decatur stadium with the rest of their class.

“It’s just a real inconvenience, and we’re not given any information,” Phillips said. “At first I was scared because Ms. Weber was like, ‘come on guys, this is not a drill. Get out of here, get out of here.’”

Like Embry, Phillips thought the source of the fire was ridiculous, and that the culprit had made a huge error.

“That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said. “Literally, what are you doing with your life?”

Harris and Ware agreed. Harris thinks that Decatur should implement monitoring in the bathrooms “if fires are going to be happening.” Ware was glad that the school took the fire seriously, but thought that the full-evacuation was a bit overboard.

“If [the school knew] it was something silly, like them lighting something in the trashcan, then maybe we all shouldn’t be sitting out here,” she said.

Students crowd the bleachers in the Decatur stadium during the drill. The entire fire station responded to the fire, sending all of their trucks to the scene.
Students crowd the bleachers in the Decatur stadium during the drill. The entire fire station responded to the fire, sending all of their trucks to the scene.

Above all, Harris was uncomfortable about how unprepared she felt in the midst of the evacuation. She thinks Decatur should discuss fires more frequently, since fires “aren’t uncommon and there are a lot of ways for them to start.”

“I feel like it’s the kind of thing we should really talk about more, considering things like this can happen,” she said. “We’re all freaking out because it’s not a drill.”
Aside from the trash can, no one was harmed. Class resumed at 11:20 a.m., in time to finish the last part of third period.

This story was updated on Mar. 24, 2016.

 

3TEN • Copyright 2020 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in