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The Washington Post reports that over 4 million children across the United States endured lockdowns during the 2017-18 school year.

Washington Post School Lockdown Report

According to the FBI, active shooter attacks continue to increase, and schools are the second most targeted category. Following the events of the Parkland, FL school shooting on February 14th, 2018, schools across the U.S. have responded by taking aggressive action – improving school security, drafting new legislation, applying for grant money, and re-evaluating emergency operations.

While this focused intention to improve school safety is noble; many schools throughout the U.S. have become focused on one aspect of preparedness – one that, when implemented improperly or too often, could have a detrimental impact on students – the school lockdown.

A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that more than 4 million children experienced a lockdown in 2018 – at a rate of at least 16 campuses per day.

 

Notable Statistics from the Washington Post Article:  

  • In 2018, there were +6,200 lockdowns at schools in the U.S. 
  • Lockdowns occurred on campuses with numbers of students ranging from 4 – +5,000. 
  • Lockdowns occurred at a rate of at least one per school day between Labor Day 2017 and Memorial Day 2018. 
  • More than 1 million elementary-age students experienced a lockdown, during the 2017-2018 school year. 
  • Of the 1 million elementary students, ~220,000 were Pre-K or kindergarten students 

Clearly Defining Lockdowns with AlerT 

SafePlans developed AlerT (Assess, lockdown, evade, resist, Tell) as an all-hazards preparedness system for schools. Founded upon the concepts of situational awareness, AlerT improves upon outdated lockdown protocols by empowering administrators, staff, and students to assess their situation in order to determine the best option.  

AlerT teaches staff and students that a lockdown is used to protect them from an active shooter by providing access control – locking the classroom door and moving to an area of the classroom that provides protection from gunshots. 

However, in AlerT training, the lockdown option is only deployed when certain variables are met – and are exercised at a local level (i.e. on a classroom basis vs. campus-wide). 

 For example, if an active assailant were to enter a school on the west wing – limiting your classrooms ability to evade, your best option is likely to lockdown, cover, and conceal.  

On the other hand, your classroom may be located in the wing opposite of the attacker, or on another floor – allowing you to evade the assailant 

Locking down the entire school once the shooter had entered the building is counterintuitive. 

Lockdown vs. Heightened Security 

Obviously, not every human-based threat or intrusion requires lockdown-evade-resist decisions.  Under these far more common non-active shooter events; using the word “lockdown” will cause a high percentage of occupants to falsely assume there is an active shooter; creating unnecessary panic and anxiety.  

These instances require  Heightened Security  procedures

Under Heightened Security procedures, the focus of the school shifts from learning to security. This may be a total focus on security, or some instruction may continue, but with security-based restrictions; such as restricting hallway access. 

When to Use Heightened Security and Factors to Consider 

Any number of situations or threats can create the need for Heightened Security. These may range from a threat of school violence, a bomb threat, or even civil unrest.   What measures are taken to increase security depend upon several factors. These factors can include: 

  • The Nature of the Threat 
  • The Architecture of the School 
  • Law Enforcement Presence and/or Response Time 

Based on the above factors, leaders can determine which measures are most prudent and should be prepared to communicate guidance to teachers and students.

Potential Heightened Security measures include: 

  • Request Law Enforcement Presence 
  • Secure Entrances 
  • Review Emergency Plans
  • Increase Security Patrols/Staffing 
  • Cancel Outdoor Activities 
  • Close for the Day 
  • Monitor Entrances 
  • Restrict Interior Movement/Hallway Access 
  • Secure Classrooms 
  • Alter Arrival/Departure Times 

How to Communicate Heightened Security 

Any communication should utilize plain language such as “Attention, we have a situation that requires heightened security. Students, report to your scheduled class.  Teachers, allow students into classrooms and restrict hallway access.” Additional information may be shared as appropriate. This will get everyone’s attention for compliance purposes but minimize false reporting of an active shooter.   

Heightened security procedures take advantage of advanced warning time, enable school leaders to provide guidance to occupants, and lessens the anxiety associated with “lockdown.” If the threat creating the need for heightened security escalates, the school will be better prepared to respond. 

Redefine Lockdown – Get AlerT Training for Your School

Contact us today to learn about our best-in-class active shooter defense training – AlerT. With several training options available, we are confident our team can meet the needs of your organization.

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