Group of happy kids learning together at school

How To Ensure Lockdown Drills Are Safe, Effective, and Healthy

The LockOut Company Team

March 24 - 2019

We are often asked how we feel about lockdown drills, and in particular if we believe that these drills can be safe and effective at the same time.

The answer, for us, is yes. We believe that when performed correctly, and with the safety and well-being of students and staff in mind, lockdown drills are both and effective way to train for a potentially real lockdown scenario, and that these drills can be performed in a way that is healthy for the psychology of everyone involved.

There are several steps that need to be taken to ensure that lockdown drills are safe, healthy, and effective, and we will go through some of them in this article. As is often the case, one article on a blog is not a complete guide, but this will give you an idea of how to ensure your staff, or those who you’ve hired to train with you, are ensuring your drills are both effective, and are taking into account the mental health of everyone involved.

Work With Professionals

Whether it’s a lockdown system provider like the LockOut Company taking your through every step of the process, or a third party training group, you should always work with professionals.

From deploying door barricades, to understanding and managing the movement of people through your school, to conducting the drills themselves, us, and companies like ours, have spent years working with schools and understand how to assist you through every step of the process.

We also know how to work with law enforcement to ensure that you are asking the right questions, and directing the police, who will ultimately play a vital role in your drills, on how best to stress test the current system you have in place, without going overboard.

Involve Law Enforcement Early and Often

We say it often; law enforcement officers are one of your best resources when implementing and testing your lockdown system. We work with police and first-responders every day, and can tell you that they have your best interests in mind when they are involved in the implementation, training, and testing of your lockdown system.

That being said, they may not know exactly what you have implemented unless they are involved early and often in the process. This is one reason we work alongside law enforcement while designing and implementing the LockOut System. Eventually, these officers may have to respond to a lockdown at your school, so ensuring they have as much information and training themselves, is vital to their effective response.

Train First

Before jumping into a lockdown drill, it’s important to train everyone in your building to not only use your system (door barricades, apps, visual and audio indicators, etc…) but also to train them through sections of a lockdown individually. Classroom training with teachers, training students how to exit hallways, what to do if they are nearer an exit than a safe lockdown room, school policies, lunchroom lockdown, and other scenarios are all variations that will likely cause students to freeze if they are not trained in these scenarios individually.

Taking the time to train in system usage and individual scenarios is very important for the success of any lockdown drill, or lockdown scenario. The goal of training is partly to take the fear out of the situation so everyone involved can move and act in a way that gives them the highest possibility of staying safe should a real lockdown occur.

We start by breaking training down to the micro-level. We train on each individual aspect of our system before moving on to larger components and finally to very controlled lockdown drills before running live drills in which the entire facility is involved.

Prepare Everyone Who Will Be Involved (Tell Them It’s Happening)

A lockdown can be an extremely stressful scenario for everyone involved. We believe there is no reason to expose students, especially young students, and staff to that kind of stress. This is why we conduct our drills after thoroughly explaining both that the drill will occur, and what will happen during the drill.

In a previous article, we discussed The Psychological Effects of Lockdowns on Students and received tremendous feedback on social media discussing how parents felt about the lockdown drills that had been performed at their school.

One of the key elements to the feedback was that parents believed their students didn’t know that the lockdowns were drills, and experienced high levels of stress because they thought they were in a real lockdown scenario.

By informing everyone that the lockdown situation they are going to be experiencing is a drill, and that they are not in danger, students receive two major benefits. First, they can focus on the repetitive movement aspect of the drill, training through the motions of deploying their door barricades (The Boot™), exiting hallways, and moving to safe spaces, without the added fear of not knowing if they are safe. Second, if a real lockdown does occur, students will not be confused as to whether it is a live situation or a drill.

Don’t Go Over-The-Top

This recommendation is sometimes overlooked, but is absolutely vital. We’ve been informed by parents in the past of scenarios in which they felt the lockdown drills their students experienced may have been extreme, and designed to truly simulate a live lockdown, or even an active shooter, and at times these drills were run without the clear explanation that it was a drill.

We’ve heard stories of lockdown drills where people were stalking hallways with fake guns, simulated attacks, and bomb drills where students believed a bomb was actually in the building. We recently came across a Buzzfeed article discussing the mock “execution" of teachers using Airsoft guns. From a professional perspective, we do not condone these types of actions, and while some will say these are ALICE safety approved methods, these are not situations we feel are necessary to train people in lockdown safety. In fact, we’ve found quite the opposite. We find that students and staff who are trained, rather than scared, perform much better in all drill scenarios, and we hope that translates to a live situation should one ever occur at a school we have worked with.

Keep Mental Health In Mind

While physical safety is so important, and ensuring everyone is trained to effectively use a lockdown system and react appropriately in the event a lockdown should occur, the mental health of everyone involved is also important.

As long as your lockdown drills are measured to both effectively train everyone involved for a live scenario, and not terrify everyone in the process, you are on the right track.