Monday, 22 September 2014

Burning Questions

What is this?


Answer – the new hand operated fire bell we have for the church


It is such a beautifully simple design – no wires, electronics, or 21st century gadgetry – just turning the handle makes a wonderfully loud noise. I love shield-like shape of the backing plate [a curve of constant width] and the smooth circular front.Looking at it  reminded me of two incidents that happened in the school where I first taught.

Examination or evacuation?

It was in the 1970s, during “The Troubles”  and sadly there were a number of bomb threats in mainland Britain at that time. Obviously these all had to be taken seriously. Some mischievous pupils on study leave during ‘O’ levels [this was before GCSEs] took to telephoning local schools and claiming to have left bombs on the premises. Our school had two calls in one week – the fire alarm was sounded, the school was evacuated – and eventually we all went back inside again to continue the day, once it had been confirmed as a hoax. The third time it happened, some students were taking an exam in the gym. This was a separate building from the main school, and serried ranks of desks had been set out for them.

“The fire alarm has sounded. It is undoubtedly another hoax. Continue with your exam” said one teacher. “Those of you who wish to stay and burn with Mrs X may do so - the rest of you put down your pens, leave your papers and line up by the door, ready to be evacuated” said the other. Every student stood up!

break glass

Who sounded the alarm?

I was involved personally in the second incident. I had a free period and was in the staff room, just after morning assembly, when the fire alarm went. We all lined up on the field and registered our forms, while the caretaker went all round the premises to find out what had set off the alarm. After a long time, he came out to the Head and said he could not find any alarm which had been triggered. The Head announced that we were to abandon Period One, and go to the second lesson of the day. My lesson was in my own form room, and as I went in, an 11yr old [not the brightest in the year] said “Miss Hall, I lost my penny” He explained that he was lining up outside the room earlier, and tapping his penny on “that little red box outside” and it went in. He couldn’t stop to retrieve it, because at that very moment the alarm went and they all went outside.

I suddenly realised which “little red box” he meant! I fished in my pocket “Here you are, have this penny instead. Now sit down we have a maths lesson to get on with” When they all went out at break time, I checked. Sure enough, there was a penny sized slot in the top of the box. His coin must have slipped down, somehow triggered the alarm, then settled at the bottom of the box, out of sight, glass unbroken! I raced back to the staffroom “I know who set off the alarm – but the culprit has no idea at all that he did it!” I announced. During the next lesson, the caretaker went round, putting tape over the slot on every one of the “little red boxes” !

Since then, when doing supply, I have made a point of looking at the fire alarm boxes. A girl never knows when she might need to escape from a particularly difficult class, after all!

Is it bizarre of me to admire the design of the new fire bell and yet hope that it never gets used?


  1. What a tale! Yes, it's always good to find out where the fire alarms, extinguishers & fire exits are. I remember in the 70s we had a fire drills & bomb drills, evacuation was to a spot further away from the buildings for a bomb scare otherwise the routine was identical. Lovely design, so simple yet effective. Vee x

  2. No, I don't think so, it could be a sign of your arts appreciation in Maths.........

  3. Oh, face down on the grass,hands over the head...all lying in neat rows.I remember it well.
    I have an emergency car window breaker for a key ring...I think it's pretty.
    Jane x

  4. We have a very special alarm - the early warning for a nuclear war! Match that one! lol!

    1. I remember your blogpost about that one - I do not know anybody who could beat that [and hope your alarm never gets used either]

  5. That's smart. Keep it simple! I think it's so funny that kids like to put things in holes.

    1. It all depends, PP, on which thing in which hole!!
      Toast in the DVD slot, beads up the nostril, and keys down the drain can be a trifle annoying sometimes!!


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