While public schools in South Korea differ in many ways from public schools in the US, one thing they have in common is that they both have fire drills. I can’t speak for all public high schools in Korea, but the way mine conducted its fire drill was rather unorthodox. 

I was sitting in my classroom one afternoon with my co-teacher, grading exams, when the fire alarm went off. Students stampeded out of their classrooms and down the hallway in panicked chaos. There was some order, however, after exiting the building and forming single-file lines on the soccer field in front of the school. 

During the student stampede, I peered out of my classroom window to see thick clouds of smoke pouring out of another window at the far end of the building. Suddenly an ambulance and fire truck showed up on the scene. 

Out of all my years as a student, a fire drill had never been anything more than a drill. 

And as it turned out, this was also just a drill. A teacher explained to me that the best way to practice for a real fire is to make the fake one feel as real as possible. As soon as my heart beat returned to a normal pace, I agreed. 

To take it a step further, the fire-fighters demonstrated how to use a fire extinguisher, and even let some students try. 

It was very cool. 

Fire Drill