The purpose of school lock down procedures is to isolate the threat and protect as many students and staff from harm. This might mean locking down to keep a threat outside the campus, or locking down to minimize damage within the campus. Let’s look at the basic school lock down procedures and principles that schools can adapt to their situations.
School Lock Down Procedures
External threat. Lock down during an external threat prevents that threat from entering the school. The lock down entails:
- Clearing the outside school grounds of students and staff. In a lock down situation, the safest place for everyone is inside the school walls.
- Managing access to the school. No one except students and staff should be allowed into the school buildings in this situation. If you don’t know the cause of the threat, this is the best course of action.
- Accounting for the students and staff present. When the situation cools down, every person on school grounds should be accounted for, especially to law enforcement and parents and guardians.
- Communicating with outside organizations to know the situation. It is best not to call for an all-clear based only on what can be seen from the school. An outside organization, such as law enforcement, should clear the school to come out of lock down.
Internal threat. Lock down during an internal threat isolates the threat and prevents as much harm to students and staff as it can. The lock down entails:
- Keeping students and staff where they are, unless they are actively escaping the threat. If there are students and staff outside the school building, they should stay outside, and evacuate if possible. Only those actually inside the building should lock down.
- Managing access to the school. Only those authorized to enter the school grounds should be allowed inside. Anyone else should provide identification.
- Containing the area. Any place that is hard to hide in or defend, such as hallways and stairways, should be cleared. Rooms are much safer. Doors and windows should be locked and covered, and all students and staff should stay away from those entrances.
- Avoiding attention. Every locked down room should avoid drawing attention to itself, and do as much as it can to turn away a potential threat. Lights, appliances, and devices should be off or placed on silent mode. All students and staff should stay quiet.
- Accounting for everyone present.
- Waiting for law enforcement to announce the all clear. If the threat is already inside, it might limit the possibility of connecting with an outside organization to know what is happening. Besides calling 911, no one should declare an all clear unless backed by law enforcement.
How You Can Maintain Order
Once a threat enters people’s minds, their first priority will be survival. A brain in survival mode will only process what it thinks it needs to survive. If it’s thrown a complicated problem, the brain might ignore it in favor of something simpler. So how can you maintain order in a lock down situation?
Don’t use codes. It might seem simpler and neater to have codes for each threat level facing your school. But in the middle of a threat, students and staff might not remember that Code Yellow means an external threat while Code Red means the intruder is inside. Instead, just say “An intruder has entered the school, please lock down.” Or “There is a threat outside the school, please enter the building and lock down.”
Use repetition. It’s better not to explain or elaborate on your instructions. Keep them as short as possible, and repeat them so there’s a better chance of people hearing and understanding what is being said.
Discourage moving around in large groups. Until the all clear is sounded, no large group should take the initiative to evacuate or move around. The movement can create more confusion and even hide any intruder.
Unless there is a confirmed threat of fire, ignore the fire alarm. The fire alarm can act as a panic button for some students and staff, or as a way for the intruder to cause chaos. When people are already locked down, it’s important that they don’t break cover or evacuate at the sound of a fire alarm, until the presence of fire is confirmed.
If students and staff go through regular drills, the initial panic factor might be removed and more order remain, should the school ever need to act upon those procedures.