It is a godsend for students during a boring class period and a nuisance for teachers’ lesson plans. We seem to have fire alarms on a monthly basis, and even a daily basis during the last weeks of school. And luckily, despite all of these alarms, we have experienced no serious fire threats on campus.
But to anyone who has seen a Paly fire drill, the careless chaos appears to be anything but safety proof. Would the allegedly organized pandemonium on the football field suffice to organize and catalog students if buildings were up in flames? Most would say no. But assistant principal Jerry Berkson is finally working to streamline the process, with safety being the first priority.
“We’ve had so many false alarms that we’re in the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome where people don’t take it seriously,” Berkson said.
After seeing the escalated chaos due to the false alarm on Wednesday, Nov. 3, Berkson has begun work on a new drill process.
The present system is so flawed that current drills are not even being implemented correctly, according to Berkson.
“We’ve had so many false alarms over the last two years, and everyone’s frustrated,” Berkson said. “As soon as we get the all-clear, we clear, where we should actually complete the process so people are used to it.”
In the past two years, Paly has experienced fire drills every few weeks. Out of this number, exactly zero have been from a serious fire threat. Causes include burning popcorn, fried chemistry experiments and the most ludicrous of all, burning curling irons from girls primping their hairdos in the ladies room.
Berkson is looking to simplify the structure of drills by eliminating complications that have resulted in the chaotic procession currently in place.
“Is sending students to their fourth period class the right thing?” Berkson said. “I mean if it happens during second period, you should just go with your second period class.”
Other issues like teachers with preps will be addressed.
“I’ve got to come up with a few ideas and run them by a few people, including staff,” Berkson said. “Staff members have emailed me saying they have ideas, so I’ll talk with them and get their input.”
After almost four years of absolute mayhem during drills, Paly will finally get a drill system that does not waste everyone’s time while also keeping students in safe practice for a real drill.
“People have to take it seriously because you don’t want to get your hands caught in the cookie jar at the time when it is real,” Berkson said.
Hopefully this reform will take  place soon, preferably before the class of 2013 graduates. You would think that this safety issue would have been taken care of long ago.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to CVS.”

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