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  • Writer's pictureMariaelena Comaroto

How a Little Bit Goes a LONG Way

It had been years, if not decades, since I was involved in a High School fire drill. And I certainly wasn’t expecting today to be the day to break my record. But it was.

I showed up to my daughter’s High School to be oriented to my new volunteer role in the academic center, and I left many hours later very well oriented to many facets of her school. My favorite kind of days are days like these, where nothing goes as expected because instead it was far more interesting and entertaining than I could have ever imagined on my own.

It all began when I set foot on campus. At first I heard what I thought was a tone signaling a change of periods, but it was followed by another shorter tone and a voice much like Siri’s on a loudspeaker announcing that, “there has been a fire reported in one of the buildings, and to please evacuate”.

I stood for a moment listening to the series of tones and the announcement play on repeat and found it oddly soothing despite the clear messaging about a fire in a building. The campus was otherwise quiet and orderly, so much so that I questioned what was actually going on.

In my day a fire drill was hectic, and I knew why it had always felt that way for me. The surprise of the drill itself was always a bit unnerving, but it was the horrible alarm that went off, piercing my ears and sending my nerves off the Richter scale that did me in. I clearly remember my heart racing and the feeling of blood rushing to my brain. It was all so chaotic and unpleasant.

Today a fire is every bit of a possibility and threat as it was when I was in High School, but luckily these students, from my observation, are being trained in the same drill without all the fuss. And if a fire were to occur, I suspect this group would do very well in evacuating and staying safe under the circumstances.

Staying calm in chaos can be learned, and I believe that it ought to be learned. It’s just a fire drill, but it was just the change in the alert system that made all the difference for me. The threat of a fire is enough to worry about, and that threat was the only one I felt today because there were no awfully loud noises to compete with it, and the Siri-like voice explained what was going on very calmly.

I wonder what else can be accomplished when our environments are given proper consideration and respect? When I look around my community I’d like to see more of it set up for the success of a group, and not chaos.

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