Imagine, you’re in your school, the day is going as every other day, and then it happens. An alarm, a message, a warning, and then a lockdown. What do you do? Where do you go? Imagine if you were a young student, how would you feel? Would you know what to do? Preparing for the unimaginable is never easy, but as difficult as it is to plan for a lockdown event at your school, preparation is everything.
In this article we’ll give you information on how to plan for various lockdown scenarios, and some tips on ensuring the highest chance for maintaining safety should a lockdown occur.
Don’t Let Fear Stand In Your Way
Whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of creating concerned parents or students, or fear of creating the wrong plan, you can’t let those fears stop you from preparing your students, faculty, and other staff for a lockdown scenario. We believe any company that develops school safety systems should offer training and preparation courses to bolster the effectiveness of their systems, which is why we offer training to our customers, both as part of the implementation process, and as stand-alone refreshers. Tackling preparation head on through training and mock lockdown drills helps keep students and staff focused and creates a sort of muscle-memory so if a lockdown does occur, they are ready. Think of it like a fire-drill. No one wants a fire at their school, and we do everything possible to avoid a fire occurring, but if one does occur, we want our students and faculty safe. Training and preparation are part of this process. If you’re concerned that simply discussing lockdown preparation and installing a system may cause concerns among parents, we hope you reconsider that position. Through our time working in schools, we’ve found parents are very receptive to implementing safety procedures of all kinds. "The LockOut system will have an added security effect to our lockdown plans. Parents are very appreciative of the new system and the security of our buildings", states Vaughn White, Superintendent of Hesperia Community Schools. Parents are just as uncomfortable discussing worst case scenarios as everyone else, but just like us, and our school administrators, they have the safety of our children at heart, so they most often appreciate having those challenging conversations.
Remember, Not Every Lockdown Is an Active Shooter Scenario
This is an important concept to understand early in your planning process. There are several types of school lockdowns that could include, but are certainly not limited to:
- An extremely disruptive student
- A non-gun weapon being found at the school or in the possession of a student
- A disturbance directly outside the school
- A nearby event such as a shooting or robbery
- A direct order from the police
It’s important to plan for each of these scenarios and any others that may occur, and to separate their lockdown procedures accordingly. A disruptive student may be challenging and potentially dangerous, but that situation may not require a full school lockdown, and certainly may fall short of police involvement. These different levels of lockdown require different levels of warning within your system as well. As an example, the LockOut Company Mobile Application has various lockdown levels that are triggered in different ways. A soft lockdown triggered by a disruptive student may only send a message to staff members that an incident is occurring, and they should stay alert, while a second level lockdown may require visual and audio alert, and for security to check exterior doors if the disturbance is outside the school, but interior physical deterrent deployment may not be required. Finally, if an emergency lockdown is required, that information must be transmitted immediately to everyone on school property, as well as to law enforcement, so all measures can be taken to increase the safety of everyone that could be in harm’s way.
Plan, Plan, Then Plan Some More
In our recent article which discussed building plans and why they are so important for a lockdown scenario we went into detail regarding one element of the planning process, but there are many others that are equally important. We discussed the importance of identifying the type of lockdown earlier in this article, which creates the need for type specific procedures. Determining the procedures themselves is an entire separate process that requires an energy all it’s own. To create an effective plan, you need to ask yourself questions like:
- What level of school lockdown will this scenario trigger?
- Who needs to be informed during different levels of a lockdown?
- Do we need to use visual and audio warning indicators for this scenario?
- Is this a school-wide lockdown or an isolated incident?
- Do we need to deploy barricading devices for this scenario?
- Do the police need to be involved?
An effective plan is one that holds up to rigorous testing. As part of our training process, we test our systems along with yours to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Our time working with law enforcement has taught us that even the best plans can have flaws. By questioning the process thoroughly, testing rigorously, and redesigning where needed, we can work together to ensure our plans are as rock-solid as possible.
Find a System That Fits, and Helps, Your Plan
Planning for a school lockdown doesn’t happen in a bubble. There are several factors that are involved. One of these factors, which is obviously close to our hearts, is finding a system that not only fits into your plans, but helps you plan as well. Superintendent White gives excellent insight into how a system should fit into your plan, and build on it as well, "We certainly had a school safety plan and practiced lockdown procedures on a regular basis. However the boot added an additional security level to the buildings. The addition of the integrated system (The SmartBoot) will have an extended safety effect on the buildings that we are eager to have for our kids and staff." By implementing a system that works with your plans, and gives you capabilities to build upon them, you give yourself the tools you need to create the most effective lockdown plan possible. "We take each specific school’s needs very seriously", says Rob Couturier, founder of the Lockdown Co., our primary partner and developer of the Boot™, "Without first developing a plan for each school, you’re really just throwing darts. Some schools have a plan, some don’t, some plans need revision, some are great, but we’ll never know that unless we take the time to learn what the plan is, and help them build it if they need it."
Continue to Put Safety First
Whatever you decide, however you implement your procedures, as long as you are putting the safety of your students, faculty, employees, staff, and others at the forefront of your decision making, you are doing the right thing. We applaud your effort, and hope to help in any way we can as you work to create the safest facility possible.