Our nation continues to witness senseless violence in our schools. It’s more important than ever for administrators, faculty, law enforcement, parents, and guardians to work together to ensure the safety and security of their community’s students.
In an earlier article, our team at Eastern DataComm explored what teachers can do in an emergency lockdown. This piece examined the critical role educators play in the lockdown process. Its key takeaways hold true today: Teachers play an integral role in the success of lockdown responses. And their insight can help everyone responsible for emergency procedures and policy formation to prevent tragedies.
As we continue to work with schools and districts across the country on securing their learning communities during emergencies, we’ve recognized a unique opportunity. Collaboration between educators and administrators working together opens the door to strengthen their emergency response.
Teachers and administrators can create the safest environments possible by following policies, implementing effective procedures, and leveraging robust technology solutions to facilitate seamless communication in emergency events.
This united effort can also leave educators and administrators free of that “If only this had been in place sooner” experience we know all too well in the wake of recent school shootings.
Today, we’re bringing you a set of action steps teachers and administrators can take together to ensure that their learning communities are connected and protected.
Know How and When to Initiate a Lockdown
When a member of your faculty, a staff member, or an administrator identifies an intruder or dangerous circumstance, fast action is imperative.
It’s essential that everyone knows how to properly communicate the emergency situation and who is responsible for initiating a lockdown.
While some schools may require administrative approval to initiate a lockdown, others allow faculty members to do so. In either case, the goal is a swift response with as little human error as possible.
Making it possible to initiate lockdown from a variety of places and devices can facilitate this efficient response. But clarity is key. Leveraging drills and in-service informational sessions focusing on process, protocol and supporting technology lends to having everyone on the same page when a real-life emergency occurs.
Initiate Lockdown Procedures Swiftly
Once an alarm or notification regarding a lockdown is initiated, faculty and staff must act rapidly. They must follow their school’s policies and procedures. (This includes locking external doors and classroom doors, shutting blinds or shades, and turning off classroom lights.)
If your school has an integrated emergency notification system like Eastern DataComm’s Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS + OPTICS), once a lockdown is activated, a call to emergency services will be automatically initiated.
If not, administrators must reach out to emergency services as fast as possible. This introduces the potential for human error, messages being lost in translation, and the possibility of reduced response time as a result. For this reason, we cannot stress enough the importance of leveraging technology to improve rapidity of emergency response.
Respond to a Lockdown When Class Is Held Outside
While responding to the initiated lockdown may be second nature for students, faculty, staff, and administrators after rehearsal drills, there are certain considerations that many schools face when designing their policies and procedures.
Let’s explore this example: Classes that are held outdoors or on a sprawling campus. From a poetry lesson in the fresh air to an art lesson on landscapes and of course physical education classes, there are a variety of reasons teachers might bring their students outside. In the event of an emergency, it is imperative that everyone understands how to return to the nearest safety zone – be that within a school building or a designated off-campus location to which these classes can evacuate.
Plan for Other Unique Lockdown Circumstances
Part of the administration’s role is to provide teachers and staff with a thorough understanding of policy and procedures, especially those for unique or unforeseen situations.
For example: What is your procedure if a student is outside of the classroom, in an unsecured area like a hallway or bathroom, when a lockdown commences?
When a teacher finds a student outside of a classroom, most school policies indicate they cannot let them into one since windows and doors must stay locked. Instead, they instruct the student to another safe location away from potential threats or intruders.
Planning for these incidents as a faculty and administration team will improve your response should such an event occur on your campus.
Establish Order within the Classroom Setting During a Lockdown
Once a teacher’s classroom is locked down, student headcounts and roll can be taken. Should students be missing during this process, notification using your school’s technology solutions is essential. Be sure you understand your school’s procedure for dealing with missing students during a lockdown.
While it can be a source of worry for you as an educator, you’re doing all you can to protect that child when you make a notification of the fact that they are missing. And the technology that supports that process can help set your mind at ease once the child is accounted for.
Maintain Calm in a Secured Classroom throughout a Lockdown
Once students are counted and in their secured lockdown locations, it can also be helpful to remind students throughout the year that they are not to open the door for anyone during a lockdown.
It can also be helpful to get students familiar with an acceptable quiet activity (that does not involve technology) such as reading to ease tension and nerves. It bears mentioning that some lockdowns can last hours and, depending on the school’s policy, having access to water, snacks, and other essentials may be helpful as well.
This can support students by giving them something to focus on while they can still be attentive to announcements relating to the emergency notification.
End a Lockdown Properly
When a lockdown concludes, principals and emergency responders will provide an official notification. This prevents all involved from moving out of lockdown positions too soon and jeopardizing the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Official notification is also a signal to teachers to have students return to their classrooms. Doors can be unlocked and lights turned back on. The process of settling into a classroom may take a few moments and talking students through the event and what’s next can help to quell nervousness and anxiety. If the event took place during the school day, teachers can help students get moving to their next class or begin the next lesson as a way to reset for the remainder of the school day. And of course, If the school day is done, teachers can instruct students to prepare for dismissal.
Share in the Process of Post-Lockdown Notification
Each member of the faculty, staff, and administration plays an integral role in the dissemination of post-lockdown notifications. Whether the event was a drill or a true emergency, school leaders and teachers are tasked with letting parents and guardians know of the end of said lockdown. (This is especially important in the event that a lockdown exceeds the length of the school day, delaying buses and pick-up lines in the process.)
And don’t be surprised if concerned parents and guardians reach out for more information on how you navigate lockdowns and how their child handled the experience.
This is part of helping a child to understand and properly process the experience. Because drill or not, the bodily reactions and emotions that arise are often challenging for children regardless of their age. Sensitivity, concern, and understanding expressed by the adults they look to for guidance can help students navigate what can be an emotionally charged and often fear-inducing situation.
Understand Your School’s Policies and Procedures for Lockdowns and How They Contribute to an Effective School Safety Ecosystem
Each year, faculty gather on a regular basis for in-service days, meetings, and other development opportunities. At these times, often discussions center around issues related to student success, well-being, and safety.
When your school faculty gathers with administrators to discuss lockdowns and emergency response, this becomes an opportunity for collaboration and solitude. Encourage questions to be asked that when answered, there is a clear understanding of the policies and procedures you’ll follow, and the technology that supports those procedures.
At Eastern DataComm, we know that you value your safety and the safety of those entrusted to your care. We highlight this point to emphasize how important it is to continue to clarify and enhance your understanding of how your school leaders do the same.
Utilize Your School’s Emergency Notification And Response Technology to Stay Safe
When your school integrates its technology solutions, your school safety ecosystem is more comprehensive, robust, and secure. This often includes using apps for emergency notification aligned with digital signage, bells, LED beacons, and automated PA announcements. It may also include the ability to initiate lockdowns from a variety of devices from panic buttons to classroom phones to phone apps.
When you understand how your school’s technology solutions keep you connected and protected, you further empower your community to remain safe even in the presence of a threat like an active shooter.
Share Your Feedback with Administrators and School Officials
Whether it’s identifying a cafeteria surveillance camera blind spot or a gym door that’s often left open, you, as a teacher, have a unique vantage point into the habits of and paths traversed by your students.
Sharing your feedback after practice drills or actual emergencies is immensely impactful. As an educator, you are the boots on the ground during these events. Your insight can help in refining school emergency policies, procedures, and even potentially vital technology improvements that will support those procedures.
And a collaborative administration will welcome that feedback as it helps them secure their buildings and grounds!
How to Help Make Your School Safer
If you’re a teacher looking to make your school a safer place, we encourage you to share this resource with your administration.
And if you’re an administrator, we’d love to connect with you to explore technology solutions that augment your emergency operations plans.
Reach out to Eastern DataComm today to schedule a customized School Safety Consultation to keep your community connected and protected.