School lockdown procedures are increasingly being implemented in educational facilities across the UK. And while the risk of attacks on schools may be rare, it is essential to have these procedures in place to protect children from harm - particularly in urban areas where the risk may be heightened.
In this article, we will address what a school lockdown is, outline the best practices for school lockdown procedures, and discuss how to create effective school lockdown protocols.
What Is A School Lockdown?
Lockdowns are enforced when children and staff need to be locked inside school buildings for their own safety. This may occur during emergency situations, such as hostile intruders, terrorist attacks, environmental hazards, chemical spillages, gas leaks, or a dangerous animal becoming loose on school property.
Whereas a school may be evacuated if there is a risk inside the school - like for example, a fire - if there is a risk outside the school, the school should instigate lockdown procedures to keep staff and students safe.
The Types Of School Lockdown
There are two types of lockdown that your school may need to enforce:
Partial Lockdown - If a threat has been identified outside the school, the school should go into a partial lockdown. This involves ensuring that all staff and students are inside the building, while locking the external gates and doors to prevent an intruder from entering and any staff or students from leaving.
A register should be carried out to ensure that all students are accounted for, and nobody should leave until it is confirmed that it is safe to do so. The emergency services should be called as soon as possible, and informed if any students or staff remain missing.
Full Lockdown - If an intruder or other threat gains entry to the school buildings, the school should instigate a full lockdown.
In the event of a full lockdown, you must leave the external gates and doors open. This is so that no members of staff need to risk their safety to lock the doors. Instead, staff and students should remain in the classrooms and offices and lock the doors from the inside. Students should remain out of sight by - for example - hiding under the desks or in supply cupboards. Teachers should close the blinds to obscure visibility.
As with a partial lockdown, teachers should take a register of all students present, and inform the emergency services if any students or staff are missing. Nobody should leave their classrooms during a full lockdown for any reason.
The Best Practices For Lockdowns
School lockdown procedures vary greatly, according to many factors. These can include the layout of the school, its geographical location, and the age and support needs of students.
However, the basic principles of a school lockdown procedure usually include:
Alerting staff to a school lockdown through an established signal, which should be audible throughout the school. This may be in the form of an announcement or coded signal through a voice intercom, a recognisable alarm system, or an alert via staff pagers.
Students and staff who are outside the school buildings should be collected and escorted inside without delay.
Students and staff who are inside the school should stay in the classrooms and not leave under any circumstances.
External doors and windows should be kept locked, and internal classroom doors may also need to be locked depending on the nature of the emergency.
Take a register of all pupils, and alert members of staff if any pupils or staff are missing. Immediately search for any missing persons.
Keep students calm to prevent behavioural escalation.
Contact the emergency services as soon as it is safe to do so.
Notify parents/guardians of the lockdown as soon as possible, using the school communications system.
Do not allow pupils to leave the building for any reason, even if requested by a parent or guardian.
If an evacuation is required, use the fire alarm system to alert staff and students.
How To Write A School Lockdown Procedure
You can obtain advice regarding how to create a school lockdown procedure from your local authority. However, your individual lockdown procedure should be tailored to the needs of your school.
It should consider the size and layout of your school grounds, student ages and support needs, level of risk as identified by risk assessments, perimeter security, and methods of internal communication.
When you formulate your school lockdown procedure, you should be clear regarding the roles and responsibilities that your staff are expected to perform. This may require issuing extra training.
All members of staff must be fully informed of the school’s lockdown procedure in order to carry out their roles safely and effectively.
Factors To Consider When Writing Your Lockdown Procedure
There are 3 main factors you should consider when writing your lockdown procedure:
Your Alarm System - You should ensure that your lockdown alarm cannot be confused with any other alarm.
For example, if your lockdown procedure alarm is mistaken for the fire alarm, you could risk pupils being unsafely evacuated into a dangerous area. Using a code word over a voice intercom can help you to alert members of staff without risking it being misidentified as a fire alarm. This can also help to prevent students from panicking.
Alternatively, consider using a separate lockdown alarm system that uses a distinctly different alert to your other alarms.
Internal Communications - Consider how you will communicate with staff during a lockdown.
This may include using code words over the voice intercom, emails, and messages via pagers. But be sure to bear in mind that staff may not always carry their mobile phones on them.
Safe Places - Identify any areas that can be designated 'safe places' for staff and pupils to assemble if they are not in their allocated classroom; these areas should be suitable for locking from the inside.
You should also identify any unsafe areas to prevent students and staff from entering high-risk locations during a lockdown.
Practise Makes Perfect
Just as with a fire alarm, you should carry out lockdown drills regularly to ensure that all staff and students know how to respond during an emergency. In fact, Department for Education (DFE) guidance recommends that schools carry out a lockdown practise at least once annually.
In advance of the drill, you should issue training to staff and education to students to ensure they know the purpose of the procedures.
Want to make sure your school is kept safe during a lockdown and other emergencies? Contact our expert team!