Each year, the fire drill day is a stressful day of the week in Lower El. There is usually a large amount of screaming, crying, and general madness when the alarm goes off. At my old school the sound was just a bell that rang in a certain pattern of beeps. The alarm at my current school looks like those red light boxes you see in the mall. It's quite loud and has a flashing light that's pretty bright. Even as a grown up, I practically jump out of my seat because of the echoing sound in our tiny cottage with low ceilings.
This year I took a new approach to the fire drill day! I usually tell them about it, and practice it a few times without the noise a few times. My little guys are always super sensitive to sound, which is common for kids with autism and other disorders. I thought I'd try to reinforce the concept of practicing for fires and make it like a fun game. The method to my madness was based on 2 books that I found and love!
The First book I read was Miss Mingo and the Fire Drill by Jamie Harper. The story is about a fire drill and how all the animals in her class are scared. It's a cute little story that also talks about how different animals do different things when they are scared. I skipped over this part (it's in smaller letters and the story makes sense without reading it) because one of my little boys was already acting it all out, and I didn't want to give him more reason goofiness. Haha. In the story they learn about "stop, drop, and roll" so I starting pretending I was on fire and rolling on the ground in the middle of the story. The kids thought it was hysterical and I let them all try it before we moved on to the rest of the story. They LOVED it! Their new teacher tells them it's okay to roll on the floor! When the story was over I told the kids they would have a fire drill the next day. They were a little anxious about the noise, but the story definitely lightened the mood. Click on the picture to order from Amazon. I actually got my from Scholastic Book Clubs, but I don't think I can link to that.
The second book I read on the day of the fire drill (Friday) and it was called Stop Drop and Roll. I think I also got this from Scholastic originally, but it's been awhile, so I don't remember. In this story a little girl is a worrier and during fire safety week she suddenly has a whole new list of things to worry about in case of a fire. She starts telling her family they need smoke alarms like they have at school, they need to practice an escape plan, and then she can't remember "stop, drop, and roll" because she's so nervous. Suddenly she's at a party and shouts out "stop, drop, and roll" when she sees candles on a birthday cake. It's super cute. I stopped several times in the book and let kids act things out in class. We crawled on the floor and pretended there was smoke and we had to get to a cold door. Then we did "stop, drop and roll" again because they loved it so much. There was a lot more gibber jabber about fire sprinklers and smoke rising, and it was a very fun little lesson!
I told the kids I didn't know what time the drill would be, just that it was in the afternoon. So I let all the little ones keep a pair of noise reducing headphones at their seat. They can still hear with them, it's just quieter. Then, thankfully I got a call from the very nice new secretary in the office. She remembered my kids were sensitive and gave me a 5 minute warning. So nice of her! This was especially helpful because I had a little boy in the bathroom, not wearing any pants! He seems to need to take his pants and shoes off to go to the bathroom, which take a long time for him to get back on. The phone call was greatly appreciated so I could make sure he was dressed!!
Then it happened... the alarm started blaring... and NO ONE SCREAMED OR CRIED!!!!! Success!!!! They all listened and made a train (a line at the door) and followed me out as quietly as they seem to be capable of since I've met them, and we all went out. They were rather disappointed they didn't get to see a fireman though. I told them firemen only come in a real fire, not a practice one. Then we all walked quietly back to class.
When we got in the room, the kids started jumping up and down and cheering about how good they were for the fire drill and how much fun it was!! This just made my day! So I put on Good Night Gorilla (a Scholastic movie version of the book) as their reward. Another teacher walked in my room and one boy bounced like a bunny telling her how much fun the fire drill was! I giggled and so did she.
So, I was thinking... I'd really like firemen (fire people, firefighters, whatever) to come visit my kids at school, or maybe a little trip to the fire station. Have any of you done this before? I think my kiddos would really like it. How do I go about doing it? Do I just call the non-emergency fire dept phone number? Do I walk up to the closest fire station hoping a fireman opens the door and would like to help out a friendly teacher on their doorstep? One of them being cute and single would just make it even better. Haha. Not likely, but I can keep that part a daydream.
Lastly, one boy had a terrible day on Thursday, but wonderfully on fire drill day. He ran up to his mom telling her all about needing to make sure they had smoke detectors in the house and how he was going to make an escape plan for them. Adorable!