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How Classroom Door Lockdown Drills Save Students and Teachers’ Lives

Lockdowns in school have been a standard since the incident at Columbine High School in April 1999. Aside from learning how to prepare for emergencies such as fire, tornado, or earthquake, children across the US have learned how to prepare for potential active shooter events.

Active Shooter Event drills are most commonly known as Lockdowns. Opposite to a fire or an earthquake drill, children are taught to stay inside the classroom instead of evacuating immediately. Instead of exiting through doors, children are taught to close and lock their classroom doors.

But what exactly happens during a classroom door lockdown? Is it an effective way to handle active shooter events?

How Do Classroom Door Lockdown Drills Help?

Two decades have passed since the Columbine High School Shooting and the trend of school shootings is not decreasing. Since 1970, there have been a total of more than 1,360 K-12 school shootings. This includes 111 school shootings in 2019.

By year

Source: CHDS K-12 School Shooting Database | Riedman, David, and Desmond O’Neill | Center for Homeland Defense and Security, accessed January 20, 2020, www.chds.us/ssdb.

Before 1999, schools are perceived as the safest place for children. According to Stephen Berkowitz, a psychiatrist who spoke to the Washington Post, "They wouldn’t now, even though it’s still true. The perception of safety is no longer there."

In 2018, there was 116 active shooter incident in schools. It has exposed 25,332 students to on-campus gun violence, which has added to the growing fear behind active shooter events.

Students exposed to on-campus gun violence since Columbine

Source: Students exposed to on-campus gun violence since Columbine | Steven Rich | Washington Post | accessed January 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/school-lockdowns-in-america/

To combat active shooting events, schools have implemented lockdown drills to help prepare children and provide automatic responses during those high-tense situations.

One of the drills recommended is ALICE Training. ALICE training stands for:

  • Alert
  • Lockdown
  • Inform
  • Counter
  • Evacuate
ALICE Training

The goal of ALICE training is to be able to elicit an automatic response. In a high-tense situation like an active shooting event, people involved tend to freeze. They are overwhelmed with panic and fear. Routinely going through the motions of ALICE training helps students mimic it when a similar situation arises.

One of the key steps in an ALICE drill is the Lockdown. To keep away from danger, students and teachers stay inside classrooms, away from any doors and windows. Classroom doors need to be barricaded to stop an intruder from coming in. In a 2015-2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, at least 95% of schools have drilled students on a lockdown procedure.

In a 2013 FBI study, active shooter events last within five minutes from the start. Intruders move on when they encounter locked rooms. In some cases, intruders try to unlock doors using their weapons but are stopped because the room is barricaded.

First Responders get to a scene from four minutes to 11 minutes. Before first responders get to the school, teachers and students must lessen the chances of active shooters to do damage within the first five minutes.

According to Jaclyn Schildkraut, an associate professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York talked to the National Public Radio (NRP), active shooters have fewer opportunities to kill people if the building’s lights go out and doors are locked.

Public doors are often difficult to lock during high-tense situations. Most public doors are outward-swinging which means barricading the entrance with chairs and tables is not effective. It’s highly recommended that each classroom has a lockdown device that can facilitate faster and effective lockdowns.

Sleeve Image

Lockdown devices such as The Sleeve² can secure your children’s classroom doors in seconds. The Sleeve is an easy-to-use lockdown device designed for outward-swinging doors. Barricade your classroom door and protect everyone inside the classroom in seconds!

When an active shooter is in the building and evacuation is not possible, the best response for students and teachers is to hide and go on lockdown. Keeping out of reach and out of sight from the active shooter is the best chance to survive the attack.

Criticisms on Classroom Door Lockdown Drills

Despite the current situation, not everyone is pleased with lockdown drills in schools. Many fear that conducting lockdown drills will cause anxiety in children. Parents worry about the stress that’s put on children by exposing them to harsh truths on violence at an early age.

Katherine Cowan, a spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), says, "Every parent wants their kid to be safe. What does it look like and how are schools balancing the negative effects (of drills)? What's harmful and what’s not? Lots of parents are asking those questions right now."

NASP acknowledges that lockdowns can save lives. However, they want to also shed light that such drills can produce stress, anxiety, and trauma symptoms to students and teachers. Planning is a crucial step in ensuring lockdown drills are a success.

NASP recommends the following to mitigate the psychological effects of lockdown:

    • Work with law enforcement to create a lockdown drill plan. Seek assistance from school resource officers and school-employed mental health professionals in planning the drills.
    • Conduct well-prepared and well-thought-out drills.
protect
  • Start with an orientation about the lockdown drills. Explain the purpose and give an overview to students and teachers.
  • Always announce drills. Do not inflict unnecessary stress by letting anyone think that the emergency is happening unless it is true.
  • Schools should take trauma histories of everyone participating in the drills. Special accommodations must be given to any student or teacher that may be affected. (For example, advance warning of an upcoming drill).
  • Ensure teachers are able to recognize traumatic stress reactions and know how to help.
  • School administrators must be present during the drills.
  • Discuss lockdown drills to parents. Add information in parent and student handbooks.
  • Consider posting information on social media when a drill is being conducted to lessen spreading wrong information or confusion in the community.

More so, lockdown drills also help organizations like the police and school administrators to find out if there’s a need to change protocols or processes in the emergency plans. Going through the motions of each lockdown drills can provide observable data that can improve overall school safety.

What You Need To Know About Classroom Lockdown Drills

By now, it’s clear that lockdown drills are important. But, what exactly do you need to know about your school’s classroom door lockdowns?

Understanding your school’s lockdown drills can let you know what help you can provide. As parents, it’s crucial to be involved in your child’s learning inside and outside the school. Most importantly, knowing your school’s safety procedures can help ease your worry for your children.

Here are some things you need to know about classroom door lockdowns:

  1. Active Shooters give up on entering a room when it’s locked.

    Unless there is a specific target, active shooters do not spend time breaking down locked doors. Especially, if those doors are barricaded.

    Active shooter

    An attack lasts for at least five minutes. Once first responders and police arrive at the scene, active shooters have restricted movements. In this case, surviving an attack means lessening opportunities for the active shooter to harm anyone by keeping them out.

    Hallways should be cleared. A person who is in a room must stay in it. A person in the hallway must find the nearest room, lock it, and keep away from the shooter’s line of sight. Everyone must keep away from doors and windows.

    A particularly motivated shooter could try to break in by using their weapons on the locks. So, a barricade is necessary to make sure the shooter cannot get inside the room.

  2. Classroom doors are not fitted with locks for Lockdowns.

    Most classroom doors are outward-swinging doors to comply with the accessibility design standards set by the American Disability Act. To lock these doors, one must step outside into the hallway. This means a student or a teacher must expose themselves to a shooter’s line of sight to secure the classroom door.

    During high-tense situations, going out into the hallway to lock the door is extremely unsafe. Students or teachers could freeze when they can see the shooter in the hallway. Or worse, the shooter may see them first and choose them as a target.

    In most cases, classroom door locks need the keys for the teachers or students to activate the lock. Aside from going out of the room and exposing yourself to an active shooter’s path, one must use precise actions to complete the task. When panicked, simple tasks like turning a key or pushing a turning a latch could be difficult. Also, at any given time there are usually substitute teachers in the building. Most schools do not provide these subs with keys to the classroom. This means the doors cannot be locked even if an attempt is possible.

    Twitter post screenshot
  3. Students and Teachers barricade classroom doors by piling tables and chairs against it. It is NOT safe to do this.

    Once the classroom door is locked, the next step is to barricade the room. Barricading the room prevents the shooter to forcefully enter the room.

    In traditional lockdown drills, students and teachers are taught to stack up chairs and tables against the door. This is NOT safe.

    First, the commotion and noise from the dragging and stacking of chairs and tables can alert the gunman and attract them to your room. As much as possible, noise should be kept to a minimum so as not to turn the shooter’s attention to your direction.

    Next, lifting and pushing tables and chairs is a strenuous activity. If you have a classroom full of toddlers, it’ll be difficult for them to help in barricading the door this way.

    Lastly, stacking tables and chairs take time. Securing the classroom is only the first step in the lockdown protocol. Students and teachers need to secure the classroom within seconds. After the classroom is secured, the next step is to hide and keep away from doors and windows. You also need to get to a phone and inform an authority about the situation.

  4. Lockdown devices can aid students and teachers when a lockdown is needed.

    During emergencies, every second counts. This is why we need lockdown devices for classroom doors. A lockdown device such as The Sleeve can help secure classroom doors within seconds.

    How can The Sleeve help classroom door lockdowns?

    1. The Sleeve can be installed in seconds. The Sleeve’s design is intuitive and can easily be installed. There’s no need for small, precise actions to lock the classroom door.
    2. The Sleeve does not require you to go out of the room to secure the classroom door. Even without activating the door’s original lock, the classroom will be secured.
    3. The Sleeve can withstand 500 lbs. of force. Even if the shooter uses their weapon to force their way in, they wouldn’t be able to force the door open when the Sleeve is activated.
    4. The Sleeve is small and lightweight. It can be stored near the door without getting in the way of anyone. Teachers and students can easily access and use them in times of emergencies.

Using The Sleeve saves time and secures classroom doors effectively. The Sleeve lessens opportunities for active shooters to do any damage to students and teachers. It can save the lives of everyone in the room.

How Can Parents Help Improve Classroom Door Lockdowns?

Parents have a crucial part in improving classroom door lockdown drills. Just because these drills happen in school and handled by the school administrators, doesn’t mean parents do not have a say in it.

Similar to your child’s educational progress, parents’ involvement is important. Especially, when it comes to your child’s safety. Parents are highly encouraged to understand the protocols and give support to your child and school.

Here are some actions that parents can do to help with classroom door lockdown drills:

  1. Support your school district’s initiatives on lockdown drills.

    Schools are highly encouraged to involve parents in the emergency planning process. In 2013, the White House released the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. It details how the school and members of the community (i.e. students, teachers, and parents) should work together in creating emergency plans.

    Although not everyone can be part of the planning team, as a parent, you can provide support by attending and participating in school meetings. Reach out and share information you have learned about active shooter situations. Whether it’s a question or a suggestion, your input can help in developing improvements on your school’s initiatives.

    Aside from participating in dialogues related to school safety, make sure to review your school’s emergency plans indicated in the handbook. If some information is not available, raise your concern and get information straight from the school. Misinformation can spread quickly; especially during a crisis situation. Support your school by not spreading the wrong information.

    twitter post

    Image Source: Antenna | Unsplash

  2. Campaign to get lockdown devices for each classroom.

    Another way to help improve your school’s lockdown drills is by campaigning to requiring lockdown devices for each classroom. There are many advantages to using lockdown devices, especially The Sleeve, to help strengthen your classroom door’s security.

    School districts have a limited budget and may not consider lockdown devices as a priority. Talk to key professionals that can help allocate budget for these life-saving devices. Increasing your school door security is a proactive initiative to improve lockdown drills.

  3. Initiate to buy lockdown devices for your school.

    If there’s really no budget for additional lockdown devices for each classroom, initiate to buy and donate them for your school. Buy one for your child’s use. If you have some more budget to spare, donate The Sleeve to a couple of classrooms.

    The Sleeve

    As it is, purchasing The Sleeve is far more cost-saving than replacing all classroom door locks to fit it for lockdowns. Cost of changing the locks of the doors averages to $875 to $1075 per door. Comparing it to The Sleeve at $83 per door, you can get the security at a fraction of the cost.

    Even better would be to talk to other parents and spearhead a fundraising activity to purchase enough lockdown devices for the entire school. A fundraising activity allows other people, whether parents or friends, to contribute to improving the school’s lockdown drills.

    Who knows, maybe if your community can be successful in providing each classroom its lockdown devices, then other communities and schools can follow.

  4. Talk to your child about classroom door lockdowns.

    The best action a parent can do is to talk to their child. Find out how classroom door lockdowns were explained to your child. In fact, find out how your child understood the drills. You can have the opportunity to explain and improve your child’s understanding of the situation.

    Aside from that, you can also learn about updates to school safety and policies before the next parent-teacher meetings. Getting all the perspectives: from your child, their teacher, and the school administrators can help you get a full picture of your child’s safety during active shooter situations.

    Talking to your child can also help lessen any anxieties, stress, or trauma from emergency drills conducted by the school. Remind your child when a scheduled emergency drill is set. You can reassure your child how the classroom door lockdown drills can help them. You can also observe and watch out for any adverse reactions from your child.

Classroom Door Lockdown Helps Students and Teachers Handle Active Shooter Events

Ultimately, classroom door lockdowns save students and teachers’ lives. Lockdown drills

  • elicit an automatic response when a high-tense situation happens.
  • help prepare students and teachers.
  • allows organizations and key personnel to identify improvements in school safety.

For more than two decades, lockdown drills have increased awareness and improved responsiveness during active shooter events. It also generated dialogues between the school and the community. All of which helped in improving the overall safety in schools.

What’s the next step? The next step is improving the current protocols and processes. Improve classroom door security by putting The Sleeve in each outward-swinging door at school. Petition school districts to allocate budget for a more cost-efficient option that’ll help save your child’s life.

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