Six Tips for More Effective School Lockdown Procedures By: Eric Phillipson
Here are some evidence based best practices you can incorporate into your school to enhance the safety of your students and staff:
- Be Direct – Don’t Use Code Words
Code words, especially in emergency situations, tend to confuse rather than inform. They open the door for misinterpretation and unnecessary mistakes that prove fatal in many situations. Instead, be direct by using simple, easy to understand phrases that alert and inform, such as “lockdown with intruder”. However, you should utilize number or letter codes for entrances, exits, stairwells, and other key structures to assist first responders in a tactical response.
- Training For All Staff Members Is Crucial
This may seem simple, but practice does make perfect. Equipment like the Sleeve and security cameras can be helpful in preventing and mitigating emergency situations, however, equipment is only ever as good as the human element behind it. Having an unprepared staff can be fatal in emergency situations like those involving an active shooter. Hold regular trainings for all staff members in coordination with local public safety officials to increase preparedness by having an alert and well-trained workplace.
- School threat assessment
- School violence prevention
- School crime prevention practices
- School security procedures and awareness
- Reporting Procedures
- Consider Incorporating security measures into the design of new and remodeled schools
- Reverse Evacuation Drills Are Critical
Rushing people inside a building before a lockdown is a situation that often occurs but is rarely expected. When preparing for a lockdown, make sure to also have reverse evacuation plans in place to usher people indoors—instead of being locked outside—in the event of an emergency.
- Have More Than One Type of Lockdown Procedure In Place
Here at Fighting Chance Solutions, we like to keep things simple. But having only one plan for a lockdown procedure is dangerous. Often, administrators may be averse to overreacting to minor situations. At the same time, these minor situations are just as likely to spiral out of control. Having less severe—or “soft”—lockdown options, where weapons are not present, is an important tool for preventative safety.
- Create a Crisis Communication Plan
Many lockdown plans cover what to do during an emergency situation, but very few have guidelines for the aftermath. Communication with students, parents, and the community at large is essential to securing a safe and effective learning environment after an emergency. Select a trained spokesperson for the school, have a clear key message to communicate, and be prepared to answer a variety of questions about the incident, including the who, what, when, where, and why. Make sure to also have a social media policy in place for keeping your community informed both during and after the incident.
Schedule regular bi-annual communication meetings with your community’s local police, fire, emergence medical services, and emergency management professionals.
Eric Phillipson is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, having served over 20 years as specialist in the former Soviet Union.
Eric has extensive experience in security training for corporations, schools, and NGOs and is proficient in ALICE active shooter training.
Eric also led special Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) accountability and recovery missions world-wide, to include service in Iraq, where he commanded a team tasked with recovering WMD-related chemical, radiologic and industrial material.