Fire and Rescue Services personnel said they would conduct such programmes in every school to comply with a Supreme Court order of 2009 that all schools adhere to fire safety norms.

It was past noon at the St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School here, a time when groggy boys would be dragging their leaden feet to classes after lunch. But on Tuesday, there was a spark in the air. Without any prompting, the students smartly turned out on the school courtyard. Soon to begin was a mock fire drill.

Afternoon classes had been cancelled, since the drill was to be a thorough one, complete with an ambulance, a police vehicle and two fire engine vehicles. When the vehicles roared in to the school to begin the operation, startled passers-by at General Hospital Junction could be seen craning their necks to check whether all was fine in the school.

The fire-fighters meant business from the start, hauling out bundles of rope from a vehicle whose doors had been thrown open. Out came a hose and other harnessing equipment from the second vehicle. Hypothetically, the right side of the building was on fire. Fire and Rescue Services personnel climbed to the second floor and ‘rescued’ the students. The ‘victims’ were carried on stretchers — some on the shoulders of rescuers — and rushed to the waiting ambulance. NCC members, who were asked to maintain order, momentarily forgot their duty and gaped open-mouthed at the mid-air manoeuvres.

The exercise went on for close to half an hour; with the audience cheering wildly as each child was lowered. The personnel demonstrated the utility of concrete cutters, life-detectors, scuba gear, and aluminium suits. The fire hose came alive during the final stages, raining relief on the students from the heat.

Fire and Rescue Services personnel said they would conduct such programmes in every school to comply with a Supreme Court order of 2009 that all schools adhere to fire safety norms.

The drill was organised by the alumni association of the school and the Safety and Quality Forum of the Institution of Engineers.