Fire drills in winter

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ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
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Fire drills in winter

Situation:

It's a freezing cold day in January (I'm making a hypothetical out of an actual situation). You find out that your kindy kid had a fire drill at school that day. They were outside for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, but with no coats/mitts on. Yes, I understand that in a real-life situation there's no time for outdoor wear, but do you think it's acceptable to allow young children to stand outside a school for a drill in -20 (or lower) temps?

Just wondering. Because DD had a drill the other day. Perhaps they called the drill because it was particularly mild (maybe only 0 degrees) but they were still out there for quite some time with no warm clothing.

Do you think the protocol for a drill should be to emulate the exact scenario of a real fire, which would be to get outside safely as soon as possible, leaving the coats behind? Or, do you think that if it is deemed safe by staff that the children should be able to grab their coat before lining up at the door?

i'm kind of torn, truth be told.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1683

Wow! Why wouldn't they have coats/mitts on? If I let them, my students would have their coats, beanies, and gloves on in the 72 degree classroom. We have a bit of a cold spell at 25 lately and their warm stuff is close enough to grab before leaving the room.

But, no. I don't think 20 - 30 minutes is okay to be out in the cold without their warm stuff. Are they allowed to be inside during recess/lunch in this weather?

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

I will preface my answer with a little of my life history. When I was 12 years old my house burnt down. It was the middle of the night on January 17. It was -6 F. From that experience I can say that fires happen in all different kinds of situations.

From the perspective of a parent, I would probably be irritated if my child was outside in the cold that long without proper clothing. I am trying to remember from my childhood if fire drills were only in the warm weather or not. I am not sure.

I guess I would have to say that if where you live is cold 75% of the school year, not all of the fire drills could be in warm weather. It would be prudent for the teachers to have coats and mittens and such on. It also would not hurt to practice to getting them on faster so that in a real emergency it could be done quickly. (Of course as I am writing this I am looking back at standing on the side of the road in 3' of snow in nothing more than a t-shirt, my older brothers coat, and barn boots. No pants.)

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1533

I do not think they should be outside without coats. In a real fire yes, but this is a drill and their safety is important.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

I think it should emulate the real thing. There should be no uncertainty in the actual situation (a real fire) for the child. A drill is supposed to teach the exact procedure. That said I think that they probably did call it because it was such a mild day. I know in our district, there is a place for each school within a block or so that they walk to if it is too cold to stand outside (Usually a church).

I remember when I worked in Calgary we had one when I was 6 months pregnant and the field was covered with ice. My inside shoes were not made for ice, and the grade 7s had to hold me upright and help me to our spot and back. So embarrassing.

ETA: In my experience fire drills in cold weather are seriously walking to your spot, doing attendance and trooping back in. They try to make them as quick as possible.

ftmom's picture
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"mom3girls" wrote:

I do not think they should be outside without coats. In a real fire yes, but this is a drill and their safety is important.

Yes, but I think it is important for a child to know, and practice, the exact procedure so in an emergency they arent confused. Especially since you dont always know if it is a drill or a real emergency every time.

ftmom's picture
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"ethanwinfield" wrote:

Wow! Why wouldn't they have coats/mitts on? If I let them, my students would have their coats, beanies, and gloves on in the 72 degree classroom. We have a bit of a cold spell at 25 lately and their warm stuff is close enough to grab before leaving the room.

But, no. I don't think 20 - 30 minutes is okay to be out in the cold without their warm stuff. Are they allowed to be inside during recess/lunch in this weather?

In my experience, most cold weather places only let the kids stay in if it is -20C or colder (including wind chill).

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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"ftmom" wrote:

In my experience, most cold weather places only let the kids stay in if it is -20C or colder (including wind chill).

Have pitty and tell me what that is in Fahrenheit, pretty please Smile

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
Joined: 05/19/02
Posts: 671

It should be done like it is a real fire.

I do know that here in Mass they have a certain time frame between when they do the drills that they have to follow or they won't be found complaint by the fire dept and that is a personal experience from a job at a residental school. They would give us 10-15 mins warning before the drill mostly because of the amount of children in wheelchairs or children/teens who would flip out and have to be restrained outside (it's much better to be prepared to have to restrain someone when a fire alarm is going).

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4099

We had a fire alarm go off the other day at work. I admit it, I grabbed my coat & purse before evacuating, and I doubt that extra two seconds would make any difference in a real life fire. :oops: Tiven had a fire drill at school a couple of weeks ago on one of our really cold days (maybe 40, you Canadians are probably ROFL about that!) and she said all the kids were shivering but the teachers had put their coats on. :rolleyes: Since then, she's left her coat on the back of her chair instead of in her cubbie. In a real emergency, the kids are supposed to be walked over to a nearby school to wait in their cafeteria, or if that's not possible, to an even closer church to wait in their hall. I think being stuck outside in -20 degrees for 15 or 20 minutes *would* be considered an emergency in any other circumstance, and the kids should have been taken to safety. I'd raise hell with the principal.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

Have pitty and tell me what that is in Fahrenheit, pretty please Smile

ETA - According to Google that is -4, which is still pretty darn cold.

ftmom's picture
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Posts: 1538

"Spacers" wrote:

We had a fire alarm go off the other day at work. I admit it, I grabbed my coat & purse before evacuating, and I doubt that extra two seconds would make any difference in a real life fire. :oops: Tiven had a fire drill at school a couple of weeks ago on one of our really cold days (maybe 40, you Canadians are probably ROFL about that!) and she said all the kids were shivering but the teachers had put their coats on. :rolleyes: Since then, she's left her coat on the back of her chair instead of in her cubbie. In a real emergency, the kids are supposed to be walked over to a nearby school to wait in their cafeteria, or if that's not possible, to an even closer church to wait in their hall. I think being stuck outside in -20 degrees for 15 or 20 minutes *would* be considered an emergency in any other circumstance, and the kids should have been taken to safety. I'd raise hell with the principal.

This is probably why they had the drill when it was warmer. They have to have them within a certain time frame, so they probably jumped on a warmer day.

Also, I think that one adult grabbing their jacket is way different then 20 kindergarteners trying to get on their winter gear.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"ftmom" wrote:

Also, I think that one adult grabbing their jacket is way different then 20 kindergarteners trying to get on their winter gear.

A good reason why it is a good idea to practice this when it is a none emergency situation.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I think it is awful that it was cold but it happens. I wouldn't be all bent out about it. I know the schools have to do so many in a certain time from per the fire dept.

When I was in 8th grade we had a drill and the fire dept. forgot to notify us in the 15 minute window or whatever it is. So, the entire school thought it was a real fire. We had a pool in school and a bunch of 7th grade boys had to run outside, in January, in a towel for what was a drill. (Normally, they would have pulled them out of the pool to get dressed of course). That was pretty funny at the time. As a parent, *THAT* I would probably be mad at as the FD failed to warn properly. (Had it been a real fire it would have been fine.)

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3309

Yeah i kind of agree with the rest, that its ok to be done in the cold, as long as they try to pick a milder day and are fast as possible.

As an aside
-20C is really low! I would consider where I live to be a cold weather climate and the rule is that if its below 10F the kids stay inside. But i suppose cold weather climate is relative! Smile

But also, not every child comes properly dressed for the cold weather so i think the cut off is reasonable.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1533

At our school (small private school) we have 1 fire drill a month, 1 lock down drill a month, and 1 earthquake drill a year (these are the state requirements in Oregon) Cold weather fire drills are unavoidable (it has been in the teens here for a couple of weeks) We do have the kids put on their coats and other warm gear in the winter months before the fire drill sounds.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
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"KimPossible" wrote:

But also, not every child comes properly dressed for the cold weather so i think the cut off is reasonable.

BTW, this is my biggest pet peeve as a teacher (or one of my biggest) parents that do not send warm enough clothes.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

I have been thinking more about this. If you live in a climate when it is cold enough much of the year if you were outside for very long you could freeze to death, then part of the fire drill should entail is getting properly dressed to go outside quickly. If there were to be a fire you would need to get a coat before going outside, so that should be part of the drill.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

That's not how it works. Putting coats on takes valuable time. FD can bring blankets etc and kids can be transported out of the school. If my daughter's preschool class had to get hats and coats on and the fire was near them..they would be dead.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Jessica80" wrote:

That's not how it works. Putting coats on takes valuable time. FD can bring blankets etc and kids can be transported out of the school. If my daughter's preschool class had to get hats and coats on and the fire was near them..they would be dead.

Yep. Like the others, I would want the Fire Drill to mimic the real thing.......but I would hope that the school would use their prudence in picking a milder day to call it! Smile Just like I wouldn't want someone running through the halls screaming "NOT A REAL GUN MAN!!!" in the event of a lockdown drill, I think that there is something to be said for mimicking a "real" fire drill ~ and obvs in the event of a real fire the children will be escorted to your secondary location and kept warm (or can warm their mitts and toast weiners around the roasting building to keep warm) if the building is on fire ~ they will be taken care of by the first responders. The bigger concern is them being outdoors for like 20 mins with inappropriate clothing in the case of a drill~ that totally WOULD bother me.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I have been thinking more about this. If you live in a climate when it is cold enough much of the year if you were outside for very long you could freeze to death, then part of the fire drill should entail is getting properly dressed to go outside quickly. If there were to be a fire you would need to get a coat before going outside, so that should be part of the drill.

The are all required to wear shoes Smile and like I said, if it was a real fire in really cold weather they would immediately head towards the alternate building. Our playgroup was caught in one of these once, and they dont even muster them in the field, but head straight for the church if it is cold weather. It wouldnt take longer than a few minutes to get there. I would rather have my child get a bit of frostbite, then not make it out of the building due to smoke and fire.

mommytoMR.FACE's picture
Joined: 04/10/09
Posts: 780

"ftmom" wrote:

Also, I think that one adult grabbing their jacket is way different then 20 kindergarteners trying to get on their winter gear.

If I am wearing a jacket it means my child is wearing one too. Shame on those teachers for being warm int heir jackets right in front of shivering children. How selfish.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

"KimPossible" wrote:

Yeah i kind of agree with the rest, that its ok to be done in the cold, as long as they try to pick a milder day and are fast as possible.

As an aside
-20C is really low! I would consider where I live to be a cold weather climate and the rule is that if its below 10F the kids stay inside. But i suppose cold weather climate is relative! Smile

But also, not every child comes properly dressed for the cold weather so i think the cut off is reasonable.

They do have a winter gear 'drive' at city hall at the beginning of the school year to ensure that all kids have access to warm clothes. When I was in Calgary I taught at a school with a lot of immigrants, and they had a pretty large collection of jackets etc for the kids, as a large number didn't have warm clothing. There was always a rack in the office that the kids could come pick coats from. I haven't seen it on such a large scale here, but I received a second hand snow suit this year, and then passed it on when we got another one for a gift. A little girl in DD's class got it, and they think that is really cool Smile

ftmom's picture
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"mommytoMR.FACE" wrote:

If I am wearing a jacket it means my child is wearing one too. Shame on those teachers for being warm int heir jackets right in front of shivering children. How selfish.

FTR I meant Stacy grabbing her jacket at work, not the teachers. I agree that it doesnt seem right that they would get to pick up their jackets when the kids cant. Unless the school has some sort of policy about it, but I have never seen that before.

Danifo's picture
Joined: 09/07/10
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When my daughter was in daycare in Calgary when they did fire drills, each room had a set of blankets that the teacher would bring out and cover the kids for the 5 minutes they were outside. When we had them at work we took our coats but that was because they were hanging by our exit door

There she went out most days unless it was below -15. In Mass, she rarely goes out if it is raining or snowing or windy.... We kind of think it is wimpy.

I think the fire drill should be done how it would be done in a fire. If weather is a concern, it should be addresed in your plan. In your drill, they might only be outside for 2 minutes but in the real thing, it could be a long time.

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

I've lived in FL all my life. I'm a wimp when it comes to the cold. Anything below 55 and my eyes are watering, teeth are chattering, and bones are aching! If it is freezing outside, my students and I are going out with coats in the event of a drill. Teachers are almost always alerted about upcoming drills (at my school) and I would have the students prepared with coats on. In my experience, getting them to line up and get out the door quickly isn't the issue. The issue is once we get on the sidewalk and there is a mass exodus and kids tend to stray. That's the part of the drill that needs practice. Obviously, in a real drill we wouldn't have our coats already on and we'd just have to suffer through the cold until we were taken to a safe (and warm) location.

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"Alana*sMommy" wrote:

I've lived in FL all my life. I'm a wimp when it comes to the cold. Anything below 55 and my eyes are watering, teeth are chattering, and bones are aching! If it is freezing outside, my students and I are going out with coats in the event of a drill. Teachers are almost always alerted about upcoming drills (at my school) and I would have the students prepared with coats on. In my experience, getting them to line up and get out the door quickly isn't the issue. The issue is once we get on the sidewalk and there is a mass exodus and kids tend to stray. That's the part of the drill that needs practice. Obviously, in a real drill we wouldn't have our coats already on and we'd just have to suffer through the cold until we were taken to a safe (and warm) location.

This made me smile as last week we had a warm spell and it hit 55 and I put a t shirt on!

Joined: 03/08/03
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Can't they teach the kids to grab their coats on the way, and put them on once they're outside? That doesn't take up valuable time if they work out a system for it and practice that. I think there are many solutions. I'm also not sure why they'd have to be outside for 20-30 minutes. I just asked my kids how it works, and they said that they are not allowed to put on coats because they are trying to learn to get outside quickly, but they are not kept outside for more than five minutes.

Sapphire Sunsets's picture
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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

Can't they teach the kids to grab their coats on the way, and put them on once they're outside? That doesn't take up valuable time if they work out a system for it and practice that. I think there are many solutions. I'm also not sure why they'd have to be outside for 20-30 minutes. I just asked my kids how it works, and they said that they are not allowed to put on coats because they are trying to learn to get outside quickly, but they are not kept outside for more than five minutes.

It depends on how much time the whole school has to get outside and where they are supposed to be, it's usually only a couple minutes.

How long they are outside would be based on how many classroom's are in the school and having to check in with each one of them to make sure everyone is there( if they walk around doing this it's longer, if they have all classroom's with walky-talky's it's easier). I do believe when they do the drills they have to check every station (i don't know the tech term) where it lights up to tell them where a fire is, and they may have several throughout the school (especially if it's been added unto).

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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In the Northern areas, I do not believe they should go outside without their coats. I remember one time there was a kitchen fire at my school. We were out on the football field for an hour. It wasn't freezing, but it was cold enough to want a jacket. We all had our jackets on. There was a different time where something happened (I forget what it was), but they took us to a near by church and our parents picked us up from there. It was a bit of a walk still. I must have depended on the time of year. I think even in an emergency you have a few seconds to grab a coat. Not too long ago there was a debate saying with people saying 30 or so seconds was time to save someone's life, surely if you practised and kept the coats near the door 30 seconds would be enough time to orderly grab your coat. IME the fire department does not come in just a few seconds. Here the average 911 time is 7 minutes. In really cold temperatures I would not want to be outside in sub zero temps without a coat for 7 minutes.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
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I've tried to respond like 3 times. Stupid laptop.

I admittedly know nothing about the fire drill procedure and policy at my daughter's school. I am looking for it on the Board website. The school is K-4, and there are several classrooms of each grade, so there's a lot of pretty young kids. I do not believe that in a fire drill a child should be allowed to stand outside for more than 5 minutes with no coat if it's cold. There's -10 cold, and there's -40 cold. And yes, it gets that cold. Some fire drills are arranged with the fire dept (they attend, have a mock scenario, talk to admin etc.) and presumably would be planned in advance with no advance knowledge of weather conditions for that particular day. I do not think it's fair or safe to let young children to stand outside in high windchill values with no coat. That said, I do not think in the case of a real fire teachers should be allowing children to dilly dally with coats mitts, getting them put on while still inside, etc. Also, when the alarm is real there is often no way of knowing if it's a false alarm, if it's carbon monoxide, a faint detection of smoke with no visible fire, raging fire, etc. So, it should not be left up to teachers to make a determination if it is or isn't safe for a child to put on their coat. I think that it should be part of the drill. Alarm sounds, line up, wait for instructions, grab coat off hook, assemble outside at your designated location. If the hallway is filled with smoke, then usual protocol kind of changes, right? You're doing the whole stop, drop and roll and obviously no time for coats. Life is in imminent danger. I get that.

My first instinct though, knowing that in a drill my 5 y.o. is standing outside for 15 minutes (albeit when it was only at about the freezing mark) makes me angry. I am sort of torn between my maternal instinct to protect my child (the way that every fiber of my being wanted to race and pick her up from school the day of Sandy Hook) and following procedure (not stirring the pot, so to speak). I think that once I find out what the procedure is I'll be more informed and be able to feel more strongly in either direction enough to say something to the school administrators.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
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"mommytoMR.FACE" wrote:

If I am wearing a jacket it means my child is wearing one too. Shame on those teachers for being warm int heir jackets right in front of shivering children. How selfish.

This was my reaction too. I also won't take off my coat in the car if I get hot if T is with me and stuck in his coat. If we were outside and he didn't have a coat, I wouldn't wear mine either. I feel like, if he has to suffer through it, so do I (and also, it's easier to regulate the temp by turning down the heat or whatever if we're both wearing the same stuff.)

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I think it was awful that the teacher's took theirs. They are not supposed to here either.

We had a fire drill at one of my work buildings last week. The fire chief went off on someone who brought her coat, bag and coffee.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

That is terrible that the teachers took theirs. The fire drills on base are conducted and planned by the fire department so the school gets unofficial notice from spouses, but they usually aren't given advance notice. So at pickup time during a small snowstorm, the alarm went off. I was shocked and then horrified as all of the babies were put into the mobile cribs and toted outside with just one blanket for each crib. I took off my parka and put it over the crib my kid was in (part of the drill is to count the parents but not allow them to help so I couldn't pick him up) but the fact that it could and did happen when I wasn't there to do that made me a little angry. The teachers didnt' grab their coats either so the count was done and we went back in. I do think they should do it as they would a real drill, but common sense says if it's snowing/lightening (that happened at Keesler) or the weather just isn't cooperating to try another day.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
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I have never heard of anyone getting advance notice about fire drills. Doesn't that take away the spontaneity of the drill?

Joined: 05/31/06
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I don't know, I often picture a teacher having their coat slung over their desk chair, whereas the students are generally in a closet at the back of the room (for ElEd) or in their lockers or MS or HS. I think that if I was literally sitting or standing at my chair when the drill went off, I'd probably grab mine too, but of course HS students aren't going to their lockers or eled kids aren't going to the coat closet to get theirs. I Agree that it probably doesn't look great, but the teacher may have just grabbed it by instinct, not necessarily to be a dbag or anything. I'm sure if I was standing by my desk I'd probably reach out for my coat too, just as a matter of habit.

Again, I think that the real issue is the time that the students were forced to stand outside. This reminds me of a heated debate we had on here years ago about parents not being allowed to leave their cars running in car line. A child is simply not going to freeze to death in 5 minutes outside in winter appropriate clothing (or overheat to death on a 104 degree day standing on blacktop, either) ~ nor are they going to die sitting in a turned off car in car line. That said, 20 minutes standing outside in those temps is inappropriate and unacceptable on part of the school in a drill situation.

wlillie's picture
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I don't think I've ever done a fire drill we didn't know about. There have been plenty of times since I've joined the Air Force that some idiot set the thing off or they were working on it and didn't tell anyone, but even as a kindergartner I remember being told we were having a fire drill that day. Public schools and the nursing homes we knew too.

Joined: 08/17/04
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The only time I've known of a fire drill is at my old job and it was because we would schedule it as the building owners. We usually sat inside which the FD knew we were doing.

Current job, school..never knew.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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"Potter75" wrote:

(or overheat to death on a 104 degree day standing on blacktop, either)

I tried Googling it, but could not find the answer. How long would it take for a child to become sick/die if left in a hot car on a 104 degree day? I would not think it would take very long at all.

Joined: 05/31/06
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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I tried Googling it, but could not find the answer. How long would it take for a child to become sick/die if left in a hot car on a 104 degree day? I would not think it would take very long at all.

I have no idea. What does that have to do with a fire drill? We play outside and go to the beach in 104 weather. Haven't died yet. We also sit in the car with it turned off (our car has a roof, so its shaded). Car line is never more than 5-7 minutes or so, and if the AC has been on and my children and I are appropriately dressed (as we are on hot days) we have yet to have almost died. The car is pretty well insulated and the windows are super tinted pdiddy style. We generally all have ice water with us as well. I find it hard to believe that they or I could die in car line, from heat or cold. Ditto a fire drill. Many people live in homes without AC, even up here in the NE where we get horrible heat waves. An open window can do wonders. THe person who started the debate that time was outraged that her children had to be without heat or AC for a few minutes. It reeked of over privilege.

Joined: 11/28/06
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"Potter75" wrote:

I have no idea. What does that have to do with a fire drill? We play outside and go to the beach in 104 weather. Haven't died yet. We also sit in the car with it turned off (our car has a roof, so its shaded). Car line is never more than 5-7 minutes or so, and if the AC has been on and my children and I are appropriately dressed (as we are on hot days) we have yet to have almost died. The car is pretty well insulated and the windows are super tinted pdiddy style. We generally all have ice water with us as well. I find it hard to believe that they or I could die in car line, from heat or cold. Ditto a fire drill. Many people live in homes without AC, even up here in the NE where we get horrible heat waves. An open window can do wonders. THe person who started the debate that time was outraged that her children had to be without heat or AC for a few minutes. It reeked of over privilege.

This has nothing to do with the debate....but a 5-7 minute care line??? Seriously??? I envy you! Our car line is a minimum of 30 minutes every afternoon. It is awful.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

"Alana*sMommy" wrote:

This has nothing to do with the debate....but a 5-7 minute care line??? Seriously??? I envy you! Our car line is a minimum of 30 minutes every afternoon. It is awful.

Yep. I have to drop off and pick up my DD every day (which for her is 4 days/week) because it is preschool and they don't offer bus service, but even my sons kindy is just a few minutes ~ most kids take the bus in our area, so parent pick up and drop off isn't that long of a line. His drop off is a joke on the days I do it because there is only one PM kindy class and there are only 16 kids in his class, so I just pull up and he hops out. I can't imagine sitting in my car for 30 minutes! I've also gotten good at showing up towards the end of the line for preschool to minimize my wait time Smile The preschool does request that parents do not idle their cars, and they have four different teachers loading and unloading kids in the drop off area, so they move kids in and out really quickly. My DD can do her own 5 point harness, so the teacher opens the door and helps her safely up and into the car, and she buckles herself in as we move to pull out of the lot. Its quick and efficient.

Joined: 03/19/05
Posts: 338

I asked Sam what they do for fire drills in his class (he is in 1st grade). He told me that if they are in the classroom they grab their coats and line up. They usually get them on while walking or do it outside. He said they do not get on their boots. If they are in another area of the school, then they just go outside.

I think this works well for Alaska. This way only a few classes will be outside without coats and they will get special attention first. The teacher has them stuff their mittens and hat in a coat sleeve so they have those as well.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"cristancanoe" wrote:

I think this works well for Alaska. This way only a few classes will be outside without coats and they will get special attention first. The teacher has them stuff their mittens and hat in a coat sleeve so they have those as well.

That is a good idea.