Chinese Language Blog

Chinese Fire Drill Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well it’s back to school, and you know what that means: orientation. The following is orientation for an “Earthquake Evacuation Drill” which is essentially a fire drill or 消防演习 (xiāo fáng yǎn xí). I figured it would be a good reason to get out of the teacher’s office, so I grabbed my video camera or 摄像机 (shèxiàngjī), expecting something interesting to materialize. I was not disappointed.

After watching a highly dramatized re -enactment of the Sichuanese Earthquake or 四川地震 (sìchuāndìzhèn), I was told to stand out in the hall, and wait… I could feel tension building and the atmosphere changing as other teachers began to nervously enter the halls. Within seconds, the quiet linoleum halls were filled with a raucous throng or 人群 (rénqún) of middle-schoolers, yelling, laughing and  darting every which way. It was sheer madness:

Yet, unlike western-centric fire drills, where remaining calm, walking and maintaining order are fundamentals, this fire drill was a lesson in controlled chaos. Children were pushing and shoving, knocking down each other, and slipping as they crammed into the staircases. Fat kids fell behind while mousey students tried not to get trampled. Even the teachers were running, pushing and redirecting children like pinballs. Man, I love the incentivized “run for your life” mentality. Get’s people MOVING.

As the students exited the building, I began to realize the true student poopulation of schools in China (ours had 6,000 plus students!). Just when it looked like a stampede would occur, the children miraculously and almost unconsciously, formed in, and fell into perfectly ordered groups (much like a brigade):

Soon announcements came from the school VP hailing this fire drill as successful and “the fastest time yet” as students, workers and teachers all cheered in unison. Words don’t entirely do this justice, so if interested, check out the videos:

Chinese Fire Drill Part 1

Chinese Fire Drill Part 2

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About the Author: Stephen

Writer and blogger for all things China related. Follow me on twitter: @seeitbelieveit -- My Background: Fluent Mandarin speaker with 3+ years working, living, studying and teaching throughout the mainland. Student of Kung Fu and avid photographer and documentarian.


  1. Samuel Brown:

    Samuel Brown The English phrase “Chinese fire Drill” came from an English ship with a mixed Chinese English crew. They were going to have a fire drill at which buckets of water would be taken from the port side, down to the engine room and then someone else would take to bucket to the starboard side and thrown back into the ocean, as it would not really be put on the engine. The translation was bad so no one went down to the engine room. They just took water from the port side and thew it over the starboard side. Why did the Chinese follow the silly command? I am an American Indian and we think White people are crazy, sounds like something they would order.

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