In Event of Fire, Don’t Panic!

I had a worrying phone call this afternoon. One of my neighbours rang to say that they spotted smoke coming out of either my house or the one next door. Naturally I was a little panicked. I haven’t even moved into my new house and I was now having visions of it burning to the ground. I grabbed my car keys and ran for the door. (Actually, I just walked. This is Thailand – teachers don’t run even if there is a fire.)

I have to admit fire has been at the back of my mind for many years. I work in a school that has nearly 1800 students in a small cramped area. When I used to go to school back in the UK, we had regular fire drills every year. Even the local fire brigade attended. As the drills were frequent, everyone knew exactly what was expected of them and where to go. No such thing here in Thailand. From what I can gather, none of the local schools have a fire drill. I ventured to ask our school administrator whether she had a plan in the event of a fire breaking out. She quickly hushed me. Apparently, talking about it will make the event happen.

I brought up the subject a number of times and, to their credit, we now have a fire alarm and a brand new set of fire extinguishers. We even had a demonstration on how to use the colour coded fire extinguishers. One for the classrooms and the other for the computer rooms. But, still no plan of what to do in the event of a fire. Where would all 1800 students go? I was going to ask them again, but, of course, if there is ever a fire, I will be the one to blame for bringing up the subject!

Surprisingly, I have never witnessed a fire in the ten years I have been living here. In fact, I don’t believe I have ever seen fire trucks racing down the road to put out a fire. I know they do have fire trucks in Thailand because there is a fire station just around the corner. I think the only time I have ever seen them on the road was during the Songkran festival when they were blasting pedestrians with water from their hoses.

As I was driving to my townhouse (yes OK, I know it is a ten minute walk but this is Thailand) I started to wonder what I should do in the event of a fire. Up to this time it wasn’t really my responsibility. I have always lived inside the school and if there was ever a fire, it would have been the responsibility of half a dozen other people to sort out. Now, as a householder, I would need to know what to do in case of a fire. Strangely enough, as I was waiting for the lights to change, I spotted a sign on the other side of the road for the first time. It said: “In case of fire, please ring this number xx xxx xxx”! Not exactly a short easy number to remember, but I would have to try and make a note of that.

A few minutes later I was parked outside the house. Everything was locked up. I had the keys for the front door, but the metal shutters had been pulled down and padlocked. This I didn’t have keys for. I stepped back to see if I could see any evidence of a fire. Nothing. I then walked around to the mosque on the other side. Again, nothing. False alarm. There didn’t seem to be a problem.

I was relieved. But it made me think about fire precautions I should have in the house. Things like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. I don’t think I have ever seen any of these things in a Thai house. I also don’t remember seeing anything like this in Central or Home Pro. I will make a note to take a look at the weekend to see what I can find.

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