Fire Drills-Another look from past posts

Do you have one of these your Special education classroom?  I did! One in the main classroom, One in my office, one in the bathroom, the storage room...well they are everywhere and continually are frightening our kiddos. What can you do to help your students with fire drills. Here are ideas from posts of yesterday.

When I was a kid, fire drills were a welcomed interruption to the day. However, fire drills  can be a very difficult thing to students with disabilities.
Fire drills, especially for those on the Autism Spectrum or those with auditory sensory disabilities, can be a frightening event that is dreaded sometimes for days in advance and whose effects last way beyond the 15 or 20 minutes a routine fire drill lasts in schools.
Some of the most common behaviors I had in my classroom, were  screaming, crying, hiding under furniture and even escaping the situation entirely by running away. I had one student that could anticipate when the fire drills would occur and would start crying, attempting to run away and scream prior to the drill.
For some children its the loud sound of the fire drill, for others its the disruption of their normal schedule that frightens them. Some children don't know what to do or what is expected of them during a fire drill.
Behaviors such as these whether  they occur before, during and after a fire drill  can be a major strain on the teacher, the classmates and staff and of course the student.

Other students in the class are often negatively affected by the behaviors and staff is diverted from you what you need them to do in order to tend to the screaming, yelling, hiding or escaping. It takes a toll on everyone.  Fires drills are an important part of safety awareness and preparedness. They are not something we can abandon.

What can we as teachers do to help children when this happens to them?

One thing that can be important in the classroom is for the teacher to work with administration.

  •  See if  you can be informed about the fire drill ahead of time. The administration at my school puts it in our weekly teacher bulletin and calls me 15 minutes prior to the drill. This gave me some time to put some calming strategies into place with the students.
  • Go over the rules of a fire drill. Walk the class through the process of a fire drill, step-by-step.
  •  Role play what will happen during a fire drill.
  • Desensitize the student to loud sounds such as the fire alarm. Try using an app on your smart phone or tablet that has loud sounds on it. There are even some apps that have examples of fire drill alarms. Start off with the sound soft, introduce it to the student. 
  • Try doing mock drills with a lowered fire drill sound. As the student becomes more acclimated to the lowered sound, raise the sound level up and continue mock drills. Continue doing this until the sound is at full level.
  • Purchase an alarm such as a smoke detector, and follow the same procedure as above for desensitization. Muffle the sound, then progress as the student gets used to the sound.
  • Take the student outside prior to the alarm going off. Doing this could alleviate the behaviors that occur during the fire drill as the alarm may not be as close or loud, as it would be in the classroom. This option should really only be a stopgap solution. We need to be teaching the students what to do and how to be safe in emergency situations.

One thing that has worked in my classroom and in many other classrooms is to use Social Stories. Social Stories were created by Carol Gray  in 1991 to help teach social skills to people with autism. They are stories with short descriptions of situations with statements about what is expected of the student or what the student can expect.

Here are a few suggestions for using Social Stories for situations such as fire drills in the classroom.

Use of Social Stories

1.   Prior to implementation of a new social story, be sure to communicate the new task beintaught to all the people involved in your student’s programProvide a copy or share the steps of the task being taught in the story to those professionals working with the  student so everyone is approaching the task in the same manner.
2.   Introduce the book to the student as you would other literary selections (i.e. look at the cover, discuss it, look at the pictures. Adapt as necessary for your student. 
3.   Read the story aloud. Reread the story on a regular basis so you can review the steps and the student(s) become very familiar with what is expected. 
4. After the student becomes familiar with the book and its content, send a copy of the book home with the student. Integrate the parents into the teaching process as well by sharing the book with them.
5. If you do practice fire drills as I  have done, also review the book immediately prior to the fire drill practice as well as on other days to make sure the information presented in the book becomes second nature.  Review the book as necessary to keep the steps fresh and supplement the teaching with the visual schedules and step poster.

 Check out the revised social narrative.
Click the pictures to visit my store.


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