School fire drills take place fairly often, but getting students out of the building isn't the only job school officials have in case of a fire.
They also have to notify the Fire Department because most school fire alarms are only an in-school alert system and not monitored by any emergency service.
Just like an alarm system in your home, the school district has to pay to have a company monitor the school alarm systems. While the burglar alarm going off will notify police, the fire alarm just makes noise.
State fire code does not require schools to be tied into a monitoring system. However, schools with sprinkler systems, like Margaret K. Lewis, do have to be monitored. Unfortunately, the cost keeps most Bay County schools flying solo.
Bay County school officials say they are trying to get the money to have MKL and seven other schools with fire safety sprinkler systems monitored. It's about $600 a school, but what about when unmonitored schools are empty?
Lt. Jimmy Talley with the Panama City Fire Department says, "We depend on the goodness of those in the community to give us a call."
In fact, that's worked in the past. Earlier this year arsonists targeted a portable at Jinks Middle School. The structure was a total loss, but that's not for a lack of trying. A neighbor noticed the blaze only about 10 minutes after it started.
Schools with manual pull stations are also not locked in with the local fire department. If someone pulls the fire alarm at Surfside Middle they then have to call 9-1-1 to let emergency services know if there's a problem.