The Five Phases of an Early Morning Dorm Fire

A fire drill in a dormitory is a foreign concept for many. The prospect of dropping everything at any moment to escape a possible open flame can be daunting. Luckily, I am a dormitory fire drill veteran and am here to let you know exactly what you can expect.

 

Phase 1: The initial shock

A voice, stern and urgent blares from the hallway instructing you to “Please evacuate” and is followed by earsplitting long tones that scare you out of your slumber. Disoriented by sleep you attempt to hit snooze on an alarm on your phone that is not actually going off. The long tones end and the voice is back, making the true cause of the commotion sink in. Something is on fire. You slide out of bed, weak in the knees from being startled awake. Only then does your suitemate stir, not because of the deafening fire alarm, but because she heard your footsteps on the carpet.

 

Phase 2: Getting out of the room

Just as you are turning the doorknob, you realize you are barefoot and in pajamas. You begin mapping out a series of cost-benefit analyses in your head. If this is an actual fire, is taking the time necessary to put on a bra and actual clothes worth inhaling some extra smoke? Then you imagine yourself in a hospital recovery ward telling the other patients that when the ambulance picked you up you were the most stylish looking of the rescued. You put on a sweatshirt and collect your sleepy suitemate.

 

Phase 3: Getting out of the building

Your group hurries to the stairwell and is immediately swept up in a sea of pajama-clad evacuators, pushing you from all sides. Just when you feel as though you are going to be permanently engulfed by the cranky students, they stop without warning. You slam into the person in front of you. There seems to be some congestion on the lower floors. You are tempted to yell “Women and children first!” but you hold it in. The crowd nervously inches downwards to the lobby. Luckily, one boy has taken it upon himself to keep everyone’s morale up with his positive words. “I hope you all realize that if this isn’t a drill we are all going to die!” Despite the bottleneck effect that the narrow stairs have managed to create, you do not die. Instead, you emerge into the early morning air. A firetruck waits in the street. You are instructed to move down to the far side of the sidewalk in case something explodes.

 

Phase 4: Now what?

The adrenaline is wearing off now and you are able to truly take everything in. Everyone is shifting around uncertainly, sleep rumpled and grumpy. Hair is disheveled and the only makeup to be seen is leftover mascara clinging from the night before that clings to a few eyelashes. Your attire, a pair of too short lime green pajama shorts you acquired in the eighth grade, seems like standard fare. You hope the people who make looking beautiful all the time a priority are humbled by the experience. Since you are close to the dining hall, you convince your group to go and get an early breakfast. All of the excitement has left you with low blood sugar. You need juice and eggs. And possibly one of those scones with the little white chocolate chips because your morning has been stressful. The herd of dormitory refugees has the same idea and moves into Marciano. The firetruck sits with its sirens and flashing lights turned off, a sign that the building will not be burning down today.

 

Phase 5: The aftermath

The truck drives off, disappearing into morning traffic. Students trickle back inside and use the elevators with relief. The security guard has grown tired of answering questions about why the alarm was triggered so a sign has been set up that says “we do not know why the alarm went off.” Your ears still ring as you remember the loud blaring and listen to the group of people next to you sing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” at the top of their lungs.

 

Now you know what to expect from an early morning fire drill. When the time comes for you to take part, I wish you the best of luck on this wild ride.