With the changes to the crisis drill requirements in the country the addition of intruder response drills and lockdown drills have been an overall positive thing. Most school administrators had already added these types of drills to the preparedness training by staff. At SafeDefend we encourage schools to regularly discuss response options and consider scenarios for notification in the event of hostile intruders. The manner in which these drills are conducted, however, can greatly impact the way the information is conveyed and maintained. The idea should always be to prepare not to scare.
Fire drills and tornado drills have consistent response protocols. Regardless of where the fire starts the goal is to exit the building. A tornado warning clearly indicates the need to take shelter in designated areas. Very little deviation from these protocols is required. Practicing these responses and having students be familiar with expectations is necessary to achieve the goal of keeping everyone safe.
Hostile intruder drills cannot be so easily handled. There is no one response option that keeps everyone safe. Real attacks have demonstrated that the events are fluid and require various responses. Simply instructing staff to lockdown and wait is an option but it shouldn’t be the only option. Teachers and staff need to understand that until help arrives their actions can have important consequences. If you can get out safely then that should be an option as well. If the intruder is trying to get into the classroom be prepared to drive them back out. In order to accomplish this the drills should revolve around mental exercises and discussions about options. Having kids hide in a corner while the teacher locks the door and turns out the lights does not prepare them to adapt when the situation changes.
Staff should spend more time learning how to communicate a threat over the intercom with simple commands like ‘Lockdown, Lockdown, Cafeteria Intruder!’ Staff that are informed can make immediate critical decisions that will reduce casualties and save lives. Simply hoping that police will arrive in time and locate the intruder has shown to fail time and again. Empowering staff and faculty has had measurable results in numerous unreported low casualty events around the country.