In order to create a safe school environment, schools are encouraged to have in place "lockdown" procedures. This section aims to explain what a lockdown procedure is and when it might be used.
What is a lockdown procedure?
Although most people use the term ‘lockdown’ to refer to getting everyone into a safe place and sealing the exits, it’s actually one element of a wider practice known as ‘invacuation’.
Invacuation is the process of getting everybody inside and safe, and securing the building.
In most cases, pupils will be able to stay in their classroom during an invacuation, and the school day can continue as normal, just with everyone staying indoors.
Lockdown goes a step further, in that everyone on the premises – staff, pupils and visitors – are moved away from the potential danger to a place where they can’t be seen from outside the building.
Lockdown would only be used in more extreme circumstances where there is a serious and current threat to the safety of those in the building.
When might invacuation or lockdown be necessary?
Most of us automatically picture terror incidents or unprompted attacks when we think about lockdown.
It’s true that this sort of incident would necessitate invacuation or lockdown, but there are other situations in which it might also be implemented.
Invacuation might be required if:
- There is local air pollution due to a nearby fire or chemical release.
- There is a dangerous animal (usually a dog) in the grounds.
- There is an incident or civil disturbance in the area that might affect the school.
Lockdown might be implemented if:
- There is an aggrieved, disturbed or intoxicated person trying to gain access to the school (this could be a parent or a stranger).
- There is an intruder on the site.
- There is an internal threat from a student.
Invacuation or lockdown could be triggered if there is an urgent imminent threat, or as a precaution because of a threat in the vicinity
What happens during invacuation?
In most schools, an invacuation will take the following shape:
1. A clear signal should be given that pupils, staff and visitors can identify as an invacuation signal.
2. If pupils are outside, staff should immediately take them to the nearest safe area inside the building.
3. All external doors and windows should be shut and locked as necessary.
4. The register is taken to ensure all children are accounted for.
5. The staff member in charge of taking the register must notify the office if any children are unaccounted for.
6. Everyone should remain where they are until the all-clear is given.
What happens during a lockdown?
Schools should identify suitable lockdown areas to be used in serious incidents. A lockdown area should be large enough to accommodate the likely number of people who would need to use it.
Ideally, a lockdown area should also have a lockable door.
The steps taken will be the same as during an invacuation, but there should be an additional signal that lets people know the school is in lockdown.
The doors and windows must be shut and locked, and blinds or curtains should be drawn. Depending on the nature of the threat, children may be told to hide under their tables.
Practising invacuation and lockdown
Schools should practise invacuation procedures with pupils, in the same way that they hold fire drills.
It’s natural to worry that your child will be unduly alarmed by practising invacuation, but we take care not to frighten pupils.
Practises will initially be undertaken by explaining to the children in advance, so they learn the actions rather than worrying about the event. As children become more familiar with this, they are likely to be more calm (just like when we carry out a fire drill).
What should you do in the event of a genuine invacuation or lockdown?
Try not to panic if you hear that an incident is taking place at school.
Generally, the advice given to parents is:
- Don’t contact the school as this could tie up the phone lines and interfere with calling the emergency services.
- Don’t go to the school in person, as you might get in the way of the emergency services and even put yourself in danger.
- Wait for the school to contact you about when it’s safe to collect your child, and where from.