Lockdowns: Different Types for Different Purposes
There is a confirmed security threat on your school campus that needs immediate attention. How you and your team react within the next critical seconds or minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Will you notify staff and students, should students be brought inside from the school playground or other outside areas, and will you inform parents and guardians?
Different school security threats call for different responses, and it is important to use the correct one. For example, at a high school in New York City last year, school officials locked down the school after learning that a gun was on the campus in the boy’s bathroom. The school was placed on lockdown for several hours. Concerned parents swarmed to the school, and police searched the building. The report was unfounded, as no gun was found, and questions quickly arose regarding how the situation was handled.
There are school security threats that will require a “soft lockdown or lockout” of your school and some that will require a “hard lockdown.” What is the difference between these lockdown protocols, and why does it matter?
A stressful emergency situation can alter one’s ability to process complex information or accomplish straightforward tasks. It becomes very difficult to think clearly, make rational decisions, and communicate effectively. Having simple and easy-to-understand lockdown terms and procedures can reduce confusion and empower security teams, students, and staff to better respond to a stressful situation.
Soft Lockdowns/Lockouts versus Hard Lockdowns
A soft lockdown / lockout is issued when there is no specific, confirmed, or imminent threat at a facility, but there is a need to increase the security threat level. Examples of a soft lockdown / lockout include a police manhunt that is near the school, an unconfirmed report of visitors or parents who are not authorized to be there, an unconfirmed weapon at the school, a report of a robbery or other crime that took place near the school, or even a vicious animal on the campus.
During a soft lockdown / lockout, the perimeter is secured, and exterior doors and windows are closed and locked. Yet, students may be free to move throughout the school. Classes may resume as normal. However, all outside activities, including recess, are often canceled. Access to buildings is restricted until the alert is lifted.
A hard lockdown is issued when there is a specific and imminent threat of violence to students, teachers or staff. Examples of a hard lockdown include a confirmed active shooter; a hostage situation; hostile, unauthorized visitors that are physically on the campus; an individual who is on a Watch List who is on campus; or gunfire that is heard, on or near the campus.
During a hard lockdown, all doors and windows, including interior classroom doors, are locked and secured, and there is no outside access. Any students who are outside are immediately brought inside, and any students in hallways or other common areas are taken to a locked area or are sheltered in place inside locked classrooms. In this instance, parents and visitors are not allowed physical access into the school.
During a soft lockdown / lockout or a hard lockdown– it is important that staff and teachers know exactly which type of alert is being sent, what to do and are able to communicate with each other. This is where an incident and emergency management system can be helpful; as such a system can instantly alert administrators, guards, teachers, students, staff, parents, and even visitors to any threats on your campus.
At your school entrance, the system can silently alert designated stakeholders whenever there is a threat at any entrance, including a watch list or sex offender registry match.
An incident and emergency management system can alert the necessary staff and local police department to both non-emergency and emergency threats, including a soft lockdown / lockout or hard lockdown. The system can send emergency notifications so that you and your team can begin security protocol procedures, even before any loud sirens or physical alerts begin. Both non-emergency and emergency notifications can be sent via email, text (SMS), and push notifications (web and mobile), so all stakeholders can receive a notification.
Schools across the U.S. encounter many security threats each day, and each one requires a different response. Understanding the difference between a soft lockdown / lockout and a hard lockdown when they are used, in addition to having a lockdown/security plan in place, can help you to provide a timely, cohesive and coordinated response to any safety, security or emergency threat.
Learn more about the SILVERSHIELD Visitor Management System.
Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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