Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fire Drill? --- a Middlegrade Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

The fire alarms sounded at Tess’s middle school.

The Principal’s voice came over the public address system, “This is a drill. All students and staff will evacuate the building as though there were a fire. There is not a fire. Repeat, all students and staff will evacuate the building immediately.”

When they left the school building, they found the school buses in place, and the Principal directed the students to go into the buses they usually used, with those students who walk to and from school to go to whatever buses had extra room. This was unlike any fire drill they had ever had. It was a bit disorderly and even more puzzling.

Soon, fire engines and police cars came to the school. These first-responders entered the building cautiously, accompanied by two large dogs. Again, this was different from any prior fire drill.

On the buses, the students were talking excitedly.

“Why are we waiting so long to go back into the building?”

“Why are the police here?”

“What are the dogs for?”

Tess thought she knew. “I bet it’s a bomb.”

That caused excitement. Soon all the kids were saying it was probably a bomb. They were glad to be safe on the buses.

After about half an hour, the police and firemen and the two dogs left the school building, and the students were allowed back.

When Tess got home, she told her brothers, Rick and Tim, and her mother about what had happened at school and waited eagerly to ask her father about it.

Mr. Williams arrived just before dinner. A fireman and emergency medical technician [EMT] with friends on the police force, he would be expected to know what had happened.

He told Tess and Tim and Eric and Mrs. Williams, “Around one this afternoon, the school got a call from someone claiming he had hidden a bomb there. The voice was young, so it was likely to be a prank, but the Principal did not want to take any chances and decided to have the school emptied out so the police and firemen and the bomb-sniffing dogs could check out the building. When nothing was found, everyone was allowed back in.”

Mrs. Williams, a teacher at the school, added, “We were told it was a drill, and that there was no fire. We were made to think it was a fire drill, but later it was clear it was not. The next time they announce a drill, some are going to think it is another bomb or bomb threat.”

“Yes, calling it a drill, making it seem like a fire drill, kept everyone calm, but the next time, who knows? I think ‘honesty is the best policy,’ as the saying goes, but I understand why the Principal chose to do what she did.”


One of a series of fifty instructional short stories for young students.

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