Evolving Drills to Match Campus Threats

Drills designed to prepare students for an emergency situation are not new. Many schools have drills to teach students what to do in the event of a fire, tornado or earthquake. For many years, campuses believed these drills encompassed the entire gamut of threats that could endanger students, faculty and staff on their campus. Today, the threats are evolving and so are the drills.

The definition of a lockdown varies by the campus facilitating the procedure. For the most part, if a facility is in lockdown, all exterior doors are locked and those inside are asked to stay there until there is no longer a threat. There are varying degrees of lockdowns, from exterior doors being locked but motion inside the building, to a complete and total lockdown where everyone is silent and still, hiding from potential threats.

Campus lockdowns have evolved since the tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook. Before these school shootings, campuses had a vague plan for staff to carry through if an unauthorized visitor gained access to the area, but the plans were never thought out, practiced or communicated to the entire campus.

Many campuses had the mentality of “not at my school.” They never believed an active assailant would gain access to their campus. The threat of an active shooter has become so prevalent that lockdown procedures have begun to evolve and shape into what we see in schools today.

The cover story of this issue is all about developing an effective lockdown procedure for your campus. The article focuses creating a plan that works best for your facility, taking into account several variables from entry points to paths of travel and even activities happening outside of the building. Schools and universities must think through every possible scenario when it comes to creating a comprehensive lockdown procedure.

One of the most important tips from the article is about communication. Those on campus will not know to initiate a campus lockdown procedure if they don’t know there is a threat to the building. Advanced campus technology has helped schools, universities, colleges and medical facilities integrate communication of emergency incidents into their comprehensive security systems, making it easier to warn administration, teachers and students of threats. Automate messages to your staff and to first responders so that communicating an emergency on campus is a fast and efficient process.

Another important piece of advice from the article is practice, practice, practice. Schools can properly plan lockdowns on paper, but faculty, staff and administration need to rehearse the lockdown procedure for it to be effective.

Don’t just let teachers mindlessly lock their doors and scoot children into the corner of the room during a drill, give them obstacles and problems to solve during drills so their decision making skills are sharp in the event of an emergency situation. All emergency situations are different, so why have cookie cutter drills?

There is a whole generation of students out there who will never know what it was like to only have to stuff themselves under a desk in case of a tornado, or create beelines to evacuate in case of a fire. This generation knows and will anticipate the very real threat of another human coming to their school with the sole intent to harm other people. I don’t know if I, in my formative years, could have handled that kind of fear. Could you have?

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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