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You may know that school lockdown policies are a tough thing to get right. To help wrap your head around the idea, here are some of the most common questions asked when putting one together and examining what your priorities should be.

1. What is a school lockdown, and when is it initiated?

A school lockdown is a way for a school to ensure all pupils and staff are safe in the event of an emergency or threat from outside the school. It should be initiated when being outside of a designated safe area is considered a danger to a person’s wellbeing.

2. How are school lockdown procedures different from other emergency protocols?

School lockdowns differ from other emergencies, particularly fire related emergencies, in that the school’s population are expected to come indoors and remain indoors. Depending on the nature of the emergency, all windows and doors can expect to be covered and locked with students being positioned away from areas visible to the outside to avoid detection. This helps to avoid attention from dangers and shielding from any harm through vulnerable areas. Such as glass in the windows.

3. What types of threats could warrant a school lockdown?

There are several threats that may trigger a lockdown and it would be impossible to document them all. It's also important to note that some threats are very location specific. Such as being close to a main road or maybe near to dangerous wildlife. Here are some examples, though you should always analyse your immediate area and what kind of risks it could pose. The severity of the response should also always be measured against the specific case:

·       Nearby civil disturbance or fires in the area

·       Gas leaks, smokes from chemical fires and other chemical exposure risks

·       An intruder on school grounds

·       A reported threat to the school e.g. terror or bomb threats

An invacuation differs from a lockdown in that the staff want all students to remain indoors but the present threat poses no damage to them, and the day can continue. This may involve:

·       Animals on or near school grounds

·       A nearby incident has happened, and the threat has left, but you don’t want the students to see any aftermath

4. How are parents and guardians notified during a school lockdown?

To avoid parents and guardians from approaching the site when there could be a danger, emergency services should first be contacted. After which, messages can be sent out notifying that a lockdown has occurred on the schools preferred notification platform.

After the situation has been resolved, a more detailed notification should be sent to alleviate any stress or panic.

5. What steps should students and staff take when a lockdown is announced?

Once a threat has been identified, it is pertinent that an alarm be raised, stopping others from coming in contact with the danger. When a lockdown has been announced, students and staff should proceed to the nearest designated safe area and make efforts to secure it. This may involve locking any doors and windows, drawing any blinds/ curtains to avoid vision outside, switching off any devices that produce light or noise and the closing of ventilation in the case of dangerous gases/chemicals. The goal of these basic procedures is to defend the schools population from any harm, obscure your destination from any threats and to buy time for emergency services to arrive.

6. Are there designated safe areas within a school building and how are they identified?

A safe zone is very dependent on the layout of a school. The best case would be a large room that is able to hold a large volume of students and staff, preferably deep within the school both so that there are less windows and so that intruders need to pass through more doors that can be locked to reach the area. In many cases, a safe area is simply a room or building that can be completely shut off from outside with all its windows and doors locking and areas that avoid outside vision.

 

7. How frequently are lockdown drills conducted, and what is their purpose?

A lockdown drill should be conducted just as often as your fire alarm drills. The threats that result in a lockdown are just as serious as fires and should b treated as such. It’s also advised that these drills be performed at different times during the day so that students and staff know how to react from different areas. They're important for educating the population of the school on what needs to be done in the case of an emergency ensuring that the response is quick and effective as opposed to panicked.

8. What communication channels are used to update the school community during a lockdown?

A few different systems can be used to alert the school of a lockdown. The DfE require that a lockdown alarm system have a different sound from the fire alarm and so the fire alarm can't be used in these situations. There are tools designed for this exact purpose however. One such system is LOCAS, the lockdown alert system that has been designed with multiple warnings and alarms for alerting the school to a lockdown situation at the press of a button.

9. How is a school lockdown policy reviewed and updated to ensure its effectiveness?

A school lockdown policy should be reviewed often with reference to governing bodies suggestions for effective procedure. Currently, the DfE have a procedure template that is linked below. This is where the difference between lockdown and invacuation come in. Ultimately they want to minimise panic. Constant reviews of your policy allows you to revisit the perceived dangers involved with each event.

If you're unsure where to start with your own policy, you can email our office for advice and examples at enquiries@elementaryuk.com.

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