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How To Improve Safety and Security During a Lockdown in Schools

Written By: Brad CampbellJanuary 23, 2023

Although most schools have lockdown procedures in place, they’re not required in all districts. All schools should have lockdown plans ready to implement on a moment's notice.

Not all school lockdown procedures are equally effective, and many do not do enough to protect the physical safety of students and teachers.

School administrators and security professionals should familiarize themselves with school lockdown best practices to better understand and implement the tools available to them in the event of an emergency that potentially puts the lives of all school occupants at risk.

school lockdown security

What Can Cause a Lockdown in School?

School lockdowns can occur for a variety of reasons, but they most commonly happen when there is an active threat (a violent attacker) on the premises or nearby.

While an active threat is the most immediate threat to the safety of students and staff, school lockdowns can also happen for the following reasons:

  • Reported incident nearby (such as a bank robbery or civil unrest)
  • Nearby natural disaster (like a fire or flood)
  • Wild and/or dangerous animal seen nearby (such as a cougar, bear, or dog)

Although children and teachers may not be in immediate danger because of any of these threats, a school lockdown is still one of the best ways to ensure no harm comes to them while on school grounds.

students walking through hall with teacher

Lockdowns in schools and active threat protection

In order to ensure the most effective school lockdown, every school should prepare itself for the worst case scenario: an active threat.

An immediate active threat is a violent attacker on or near school property, either attempting to gain access or already inside and looking to do harm to staff and students.

If a school is prepared for this worst case, people inside will also be more safe and secure during other, less immediate lockdown scenarios, such as those discussed above.

5 Ways To Improve Lockdowns in Schools To Protect Against Active Threats

1. Create access denial barriers

The number one way to protect the lives of building occupants during an active threat scenario is to prevent intruders from getting inside in the first place.

In the majority of attacks, the intruders gain access to their targeted facility through a vulnerable door or window.

Even with all doors and windows closed and locked, it’s incredibly easy to break a window and reach in to open a door from the inside or climb right in.

To prevent this, you have to add physical barriers to forced entry over vulnerable windows and doors.

For school lockdown security, we highly recommend using containment-grade (non-ballistic) polycarbonate glazing shields, or even ballistic-grade (bullet-resistant) security glazing.

This type of polycarbonate security glazing is thin and light enough that it can be retrofitted over doors and windows using the existing framing, yet has the virtually unbreakable strength of polycarbonate.

Even non-ballistic polycarbonate won’t noticeably diminish in strength when riddled with bullets, and remains a barrier to entry by preventing an armed intruder from passing any part of their body through the glazing.

Access denial barriers aren’t the only solution schools should look at for improving lockdown practices, but they’re definitely the most effective way to keep bad guys out of a building and specific areas within a school, such as classrooms.

tempered glass for schools

2. Limit and monitor access points

Another way to improve lockdown safety is to strictly limit where people can access your school and monitor the flow of people in and out.

Ideally, you should have one main entrance, and all secondary entrances should remain closed and locked at all times. If you need multiple access points, keep the number to as few as possible, and ensure they’re all monitored.

There are a few different ways to monitor the access points, including manning them with school staff, security personnel, and resource officers during the times when people come and go most, as well as keeping an eye on them through a surveillance system.

For even better access control, consider access controlled doors that can only be opened using a key card or key fob, which only students and staff have. Access key cards can even be integrated with student identification cards.

3. Reinforce classrooms

You don’t just need to create access denial barriers over exterior doors and windows — make sure classrooms are equally as secure as the rest of the building.

If classrooms have windows that look out onto the building’s hallways, as many do, reinforce these with polycarbonate security glazing as well. 

Additionally, ensure that all classroom doors close and lock properly. You may want to consider automatic locking systems, so there’s no possibility of a teacher or student forgetting to lock the door or not doing it correctly.

Lastly, classroom doors and windows should have some type of covering that can be lowered at will to prevent intruders from seeing who’s inside during a lockdown.

classroom window upgrade

4. Implement an efficient communication system

During a school lockdown, it’s vital for all school staff to be able to communicate quickly and reliably.

Classrooms should have an intercom system connecting them to the main office and preferably a security office within. They should also have phone lines that can be used to make calls to law enforcement and other authorities in the event that cell phone use is not possible.

Train all school staff on how to use the communication system and instruct them on emergency procedures for doing so. 

It’s also a good idea to inform local law enforcement about how your school’s communication system works, in the event they ever need to enter the building and communicate with people in classrooms via the system.

5. Practice your lockdown procedures regularly

Lockdown drills ensure that students and teachers know what to do in the event of an active threat or another scenario that forces a lockdown.

It’s recommended to conduct a lockdown drill during the first month of every school quarter, so at least four times a year. If you update procedures between drills, practice them additional times.

At Riot Glass, LLC we are experts in school perimeter and classroom glazing security. Contact us today for a free consultation or to schedule a threat assessment.

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