Alarms. They are everywhere. Our cars, houses, they wake us up in the morning, they warn us that something bad might be about to happen. The following is the story of what happened yesterday.
It was just another regular day at school. Screaming children, crying children, children who have generally no idea where they are, let alone what they’re doing. Fighting children, playing children and me. The foreigner. The teacher that the others forget. The one who never goes to the meetings and who is generally the last person to find out about everything.
There I was, sitting by the window, enjoying the few minutes away from the chaos when something unexpected happened. The sirens went off. This being Korea, the sirens themselves are not unusual. I’ve been here long enough to have experienced the civil defense drills before. The fact that I didn’t know about it meant one of two things, 1. I didn’t get the memo 2. This was actually a real emergency. I figured the chances was 80-20. So my first step was a completely logical one, I continued doing what I was doing. For about five minutes the sirens continued and nobody came to tell me anything so I figured it was all good. Then, to my horror, I realised that not only was the staffroom empty, but the school was deathly quiet. Since this never happens, I figured I should make a greater effort to find out what was going on. So, I took the next step and looked out the window.
The office faces a main road and upon close observation the cars were still driving, walkers walking, birds flying and the library staff across the street didn’t seem to be fleeing for their lives, so I took it to be a clear indication that all was well. Never the less, the idea that the school was quiet scared me. However, since I get left behind on a regular basis in this school, I figured that because the children were going home at 2.30pm, if they had left, they’d probably have to come back to catch the bus. Unless it was a real emergency, in which case, I was on my own.
Just as I was settling in to my chair, the unthinkable happened. Sirens, other than the big sirens became audible. Now, things were swaying towards the 20% and I immediately regretted not getting up off my chair ten minutes previously. However, since I could hear the secondary sirens outside the window, I returned to my former look out post. Two cars zipped by with sirens on the top. Only two though, so I came to the conclusion that these were the people who actually go the memo. Once they were out of sight the only sound was the sound of the big siren, so life returned to normal.
Before I had a chance to firmly conclude that it was a drill, my floor manager came rushing in. Although me Korean isn’t perfect, I’m pretty sure she was saying something along the lines of “what’s all that racket about outside” followed by “do you think we should be doing something?”. She too looked out the window and seeing nothing unusual returned to her position as primary care giver to the 120 tiny students we have.
By this time I was almost on the point of panicking. If I didn’t get the memo and the Korean teachers didn’t get the memo then maybe there was no memo and this was for real. In which case we had all just wasted 20 minutes convincing ourselves that this was a drill and hence knocking 20 minutes off our life expectancy. If we were supposed to head to a shelter, the good spaces would surely be gone by time we arrived.
In desperation, floating between the 80 and the 20, I took the action I could think of. I logged on to Facebook and twitter, simultaneously. And there it was. Confirmation that in other parts of Korea, sirens were also being heard and that these had been confirmed drills. So ours too, was a drill.
Finally, the sirens went off and for many things returned to normal. For us, things just continued. From this amazing experience, I concluded that;
1. Should there be a real emergency, the teachers and students at my school are screwed.
2. If that had actually been a real emergency, the window was the last place I should have been standing. Refer to point number one.
3. Social media might be one day safe my life.
4. If there was a real emergency, my teachers probably wouldn’t tell me anyway so it’s every man for himself.
5. Perhaps, we, as teachers should put a little more effort into teaching our students what to do in the case of an emergency.
6. It’s a shame there was no other English speakers in the school at the time because the conversation in my head during the drill was riveting.
Thanks to all those on Facebook and twitter for sorting it out. Rest assured it really was an air raid drill after all. That will be all. As you were. You know where to leave your comments.