Nearby emergency and new policy raise fire drill questions


Photo by Jared Ruderman/WTOP

Burke’s first fire drill of the 2019–2020 school year, on September 11th, coincided with a fire at a building down the street. According to DC Fire and EMS, the fire squad located the fire in a 5th-floor boiler room in the same building that contains the Giant. There were no injuries and the fireteam stopped actively fighting it at around 11:00. Although the simultaneous timing was happenstance, the fire got some students thinking about the functionality of Burke fire drills in case of an actual fire emergency.

When thinking back to the drill, Yael Nemeth ’22 said, “I feel like we got out of the building effectively but once we got to the location we were supposed to be it was disorganized, people were yelling at us to be places we weren’t supposed to be, no one really knew what was going on.” Nemeth added that the conditions were “way too cramped” and that “they should have had people spread out like last year.”

However, Head of School Damian Jones explained that change came because Burke was not meeting the fire marshal’s requirement of ten drills a year. “The reason we use the staircase is because, over the last five years, I’ve had to cancel at least a half-dozen fire drills because the field gets waterlogged,” he said.

However, students thought that the new procedures caused as many problems as they solved. “I’d rather have safe fire drills that aren’t chaotic than get my shoes a little wet,” said Sigita Puskorius ‘21.

Jones explained that the decision was primarily one of necessity. “I kept canceling drills, and the fire marshal said last year, ‘You can’t cancel any more, you have to do all ten,’ so I had to find a location where we could perform them.”