When to Use a Silent Alarm and When to Lock down
This spring marked one year since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. The shootings at Virginia Tech took place 12 years ago, and it has been 20 years since the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado.
In an effort to prevent similar events from happening in the future, schools and districts across the U.S. are considering the right mix of equipment, technology, training, policies and procedures.
One of the first protocols to be implemented by many schools is lockdown drills. Every school should have a lockdown drill strategy. In fact, since the school shooting at Columbine, 32 states have passed laws requiring schools to conduct lockdown drills to keep students safe from intruders.
Recent emergency situations in schools and on school campuses have led many schools to re-evaluate their lockdown strategies. However, nationally, there is no standardized policy for when a lockdown should be initiated and when a silent alert/alarm would be a better option. Therefore, it’s up to school leaders such as superintendents, administrators, school security personnel and local law enforcement agencies, to determine what to call lockdowns and when to implement them. Not every situation will require a school lockdown. Sometimes, the best way to handle an emergency situation is to send a silent alert/alarm in order to alert the appropriate authorities.
So for each individual school district or school, the question is: how do you decide when to use a silent alert/alarm and when to implement an audible hard lockdown alarm? Below are our recommendations.
A visitor management system enables manned or unmanned visitor screening at schools. Administration can check visitors’ credentials against watchlists, and the national sex offender database, in near-real-time. If the Visitor Management System is integrated with an Incident/Emergency Management System (alerts/alarms) and there is a threat identified at any entrance (e.g., sex offender, person on watch list, etc.), the system allows silent alerts to be sent immediately to designated stakeholders, such as the school’s administrators or security team.
Types of events that could qualify for a silent alarm to be enacted include:
- A missing student
- A medical emergency
- A fight in the hall or an out-of-control student (controllable by staff)
- A dangerous animal on campus
- A non-custodial parent who comes into the school demanding to see their child
- An intoxicated, aggressive or mentally challenged person who comes on campus or wanders into the school
- An attempt by a Sex Offender to enter a campus
- An attempt by a person on the school district’s or school’s Watch List to enter a campus
Hard Lockdown / Audible Alarm
A hard lockdown is a measure in response to a threat directly to the school, individuals at the school, or groups of individuals at the school.
A hard lockdown is an audible alarm which requires a different response than is elicited from a silent alarm, namely school administrators and security personnel would be alerted first. If the school district or school decides to include staff, faculty, students, third parties and/or police, then those alerts would automatically be sent as well. Parents/Guardians should always be alerted separately via the same system and methods. Usually these alerts are sent along with reunification details and other information noted.
Depending on the type of lockdown, interior and exterior doors on campus are locked. No one is allowed to enter or exit the building, including parents.
The types of events that require lockdowns include the following situations:
- Active killer (including shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks, etc.).
- Hostage situation
- A phoned-in threat of violence like a bomb threat or threat of a shooting
- Gunshots or explosions heard nearby the school campus.
- National disasters
Throughout the school year, your school should have practice drills so that students and staff are all familiar with the emergency procedures. By understanding the different types of alert/alarm types, and when each should be used, you can take a meaningful step towards keeping your students and staff safe.
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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