The Group: Wheeler Elementary PTA, Omaha, Neb.

The Setting: A PTA-sponsored after-school party to celebrate reaching fundraising goals.

The Idea: A DJ would spin tunes while kids played on inflatable toys and munched popcorn.

What Went Wrong: A parent set up the popcorn machine inside the school. “As the popcorn began popping, the volunteer realized she didn’t know how to turn the pot and quickly found out she was directly under a smoke detector,” recalls president Kate Hough.

What Happened Next: The fire alarm sounded and about 20 kids in the after-school program had to be evacuated from the building. The volunteer moved the smoking machine outside, then called 911 to report that it was under control. Nevertheless, three fire trucks pulled up just as people started arriving for the party.

The Outcome: The firefighters were very understanding, and luckily no damage was done other than the batch of burnt popcorn that had to be thrown out. The rest of the evening, parents popped the kernels outside.

Clear Thinking: “Now we make sure all the volunteers know how to run the machine and that it’s not under a smoke detector,” Hough says.

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