"It's ok. It's a drill."
After I got over my worry that monthly evacuation drills would traumatise my kids by making them think about fires and earthquakes and weirdos (oh my!) I am really happy that they are so disaster aware and that the kinder and the school make a lot of effort to organise drills at all different times of the day- morning, during lunch time, while they're in the pool etc etc. This was the first one during after- kinder care and it is a bit different as the kids are not in their age groups, they have different staff (two from the kinder and four to five part time carers who only work the out of hours shifts).
The principal turned to me and quite firmly instructed me to squat down and wait for instructions.
The 3yo and up group had been outside playing. The 0-2yo had been in their room. When the principal ran out of the office waving a great big red flag (they are practising without the PA in case the electricity goes out in an earthquake) and yelling for the kids to gather the kinder staff (they are all still at kinder just not in charge of kids after 4:30) all blew their whistles (they wear them around their necks) and jogged to the centre of the playground. The after hours staff rounded up the kids and jogged them to the centre where they squatted down. The head of after care grabbed the roll from the doorway to aftercare and came over and reported to the principal how many 3yo+ kids were here, how many regulars and how many pay-by-the-day kids. The 0-2yo came hurtling out in the big wagon (like a cot on wheels with a handle and brakes) with their shoes in a bag hooked on the side. They were having a grand time. The one non-walker was being carried and the teacher put her in a baby backpack as soon as she got to the middle of the ground. The head of 0-2 head of aftercare reported the number of kids. The head teacher reported the number of staff and the principal tallied it up and added "and one parent." That was me.
It all happened so fast and was so well co-ordinated. The roll was read and all the kids in the 3+ group raised their hands and said 'here!' clearly. The teachers quietly and calmly kept the kids from fiddling or wandering away and the principal applauded and then told the kids how well they had done.
"Today you had a drill and you were already outside. And your class teachers weren't out with you. How did you know what to do?"
"We saw the flag!"
"We heard the whistles!"
"Did you hear the PA?"
"Yes! No! Noooooo???"
"No. There was no PA today. If there's an earthquake we might not be able to use the PA but you can hear the whistles and see the flags and you all knew what to do! Good job! Now, there's only a little more time for outside play today so go and have fun!"
It was really great to see. Made me feel safer knowing how well oiled the evacuation machine is. Of course I know that in a real disaster there would be much more panicking but still... And I was glad that the principal did her wrap up without traumatising them about their chances of surviving an earthquake in a thirty yo building with more glass than walls.
If there's ever a big earthquake here I hope I'm at kinder!