The practice of setting off a fire alarm when there isn't actually a fire or an emergency in order to make sure everyone knows what steps to take in the event of an actual fire, ie, filing quietly and calmly out of the building, not panicking, and not taking the kitchen sink with you. Fire drills are most common in schools.

I was six years old, encased in my neo-Prussian style school uniform, standing in the gymnasium not really listening to the teacher anymore. I had refused to stand for the national anthem again that morning and had had an argument with her. She hadn't turned me in to the principal because the last time I had been beaten and had to miss several days of school. I was tired of looking at how the black wiry stubble on her legs stuck through the mesh of her stockings and watching the other kids pretend to look interested in what she was saying. I wandered off and saw a large red metal thingee on the wall. It said FIRE on it in raised lettering. I passed my fingers over the lettering. There was a glass tube held by a mechanism. I wondered if the glass tube contained a chemical that would actually start a fire when the mechanism was pulled. Then I thought, don't be stupid. Probably a fire hose comes out of the thing when you pull it. The glass tube is just something holding it together. So I pulled on the panel to see if
  • a fire would start if the glass tube broke, like a spy biting down on a cyanide capsule
  • a hose would come shooting out of the wall and spray everything
  • something else would happen
  • or nothing in particular would happen.

Something else happened. A bell started ringing very loudly. I walked over to the gaggle of other children and saw the teacher gasping like a fish. We all marched outside while she yelled and gibbered. We stood in the schoolyard and watched other classes come marching through the doors. We all lined up while the teachers and principal waved their arms.

I think that fire-trucks might have come but I don't really remember. After twenty minutes or so they found just what fire alarm had been pulled and that my class had been there. The principal and my teacher stood side by side and demanded to know who pulled the alarm. I put up my hand and walked forward. I told them about the glass bar, the cyanide pill, and the hose and that something else had happened.

They said that I couldn't come to school tomorrow. My eyes opened very wide and I smiled.

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