Monday, April 20, 2015

What you need to know about lockdowns

School hallway The safety and security of children on our school campuses is the district’s number one priority. It’s unfortunate that schools across San Diego County are experiencing an increase in threats that are forcing schools into lockdown or to take other safety precautions.

The district has emergency plans and procedures in place for various situations, including lockdowns, and schools routinely conduct emergency drills to make sure that everyone is prepared in the event of an actual emergency situation.

It is important for parents to be knowledgeable of these procedures and to know what occurs during lockdown situations. To get a general overview, we have created a list of frequently asked questions relating to lockdowns. Contact your child’s school principal to learn more about specific safety procedures at their school.

What is a lockdown?
Lockdowns are defined as the act of confining students and personnel in a secured location until the emergency or threat, such as police activity, is over. Faculty and staff are instructed to lock all doors and windows leading into the classroom or office, including interior doors that connect with other rooms, and close all window coverings. Students and staff are directed to hunker in a corner or safe area, away from doors and windows, and maintain silence. Instruction is halted. Doors are to remain closed and locked, and nobody is allowed on or off campus until the lockdown is lifted.

A modified lockdown may also be ordered in which all of the above are adhered to with the exception of hunkering in a safe area and halting instruction.

Who decides if a campus should go into lockdown?
A principal, site administrator or any public safety official may order a lockdown. These individuals may also deactivate a lockdown after consultation with all agencies involved if it is a multi-agency event.

Under what circumstances are lockdowns put in place?
The following events may be grounds for a lockdown or modified lockdown: nearby police activity, threats to the campus or any individuals on the campus, natural disaster or environmental hazard.

What occurs during a lockdown?
Once a lockdown has been ordered, the administration will notify staff and students through whatever mechanism the school site has pre-selected to use for notification. This could be an intercom, email to staff, group text to staff or bells that ring a specific way for lockdowns. Once issued, the custodial staff will help comb the campus for students who may be walking outside the classroom, and either return them to class or bring them to a safe area.
The principal or designee serves as incident commander and works with School Police and/or San Diego Police during the lockdown. Site administrators have instant communication with school police dispatch via police radio. Information is quickly relayed from officers on scene to Dispatch. Mobile staff members are equipped with site based radios and officers on scene have the capability to communicate with mobile staff equipped with site based radios.
Staff hunker down in a safe room. Teachers take attendance, secure the classroom and then hunker down. The principal or principal designee will keep staff updated on the situation as it progresses, which teachers will share with students, as appropriate. Students are advised not to be texting at this time, however, if they do, the preferred message is the message that is coming from the teacher with factual information.

While students and staff are safe, the lead police agency monitors the situation. Once officials determine the campus or surrounding area is safe, the lockdown will be lifted and all staff and students are notified. Parents will be notified as soon as possible that the lockdown is lifted, especially if action by them is needed.

Can anyone enter or leave campus during a lockdown?
No, nobody is allowed on or off campus during a lockdown.

How long is a typical lockdown?
A school can be on lockdown for anywhere between 15 minutes and five hours. On average, they last approximately 3 hours.

What is the difference between a lockdown and shelter-in-place?
A shelter-in-place is most often used during an environmental hazard when it’s necessary to keep students indoors. In this situation, schools are advised to seal all air vents, doors, windows and HVAC vents with duct tape, in addition to following all lockdown procedures.

When will parents/guardians be notified about a lockdown on their student’s campus?

The school site makes every effort to communicate with families within the first 30 minutes of a lockdown, either by phone, email or text message (if available). Please keep in mind that the school’s first priority is to keep students and staff safe during this time. If communication is not forthcoming from the school, please do not come to the school site or call School Police. Know that your student is safe and that as soon as time permits, school staff will communicate the necessary information to parents and if/when action may be needed on your part.

In addition, follow San Diego Unified on Twitter and Facebook, as the district is making every effort to post updates about lockdowns that occur throughout the district. If your school has a Twitter feed, follow that, too.

If you have not yet opted-in to receiving text messages via SchoolMessenger, please make that effort so that principals have the option to communicate with parents via text message. Click here for more information.

What should parents do when they hear there is a lockdown at their child’s school?
Please remain calm and do not come to school. If there is police activity at or near the school, you may be putting yourself in danger by coming to the school. Refer to the district’s or school’s Twitter feed and await direction from the school site.

Can parents pick their child up after a lockdown is lifted?
Yes, parents may pick-up their child after the lockdown is lifted. If the lockdown lasts past dismissal time, the school may use a modified dismissal in which teachers escort students to the front of the school and oversee the dismissal process. If a traumatic event has occurred, the school will initiate a formal Reunification Process.

When is the formal Reunification Process initiated?
If there is a traumatic event after which it’s decided that no more instruction will occur that day, a formal reunification process will be initiated. The school will make a call to parents asking that they come pick-up their student. Two areas will be setup: one for the parent to request their student, the other for them to pick-up their student. Staff and police officials will identify the child, get him/her from their classroom and release them to parents/guardians. Parent identification is required to pick-up your child.

How can parents learn more about the safety procedures setup at their student’s school?
Each school site has a Site Emergency Response Plan that outlines all safety procedures. The Ed Code requires this plan be updated every year. Around October, schools should hold a meeting for staff and parents to review the plan, provide input, establish expectations for both staff and parents in the event of an emergency and discuss any safety concerns.