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Are Lockdowns Drills Really Necessary?

Are Lockdowns Drills Really Necessary?

“This is a lockdown,” our principal’s voice comes over the PA system. “Everyone get out of the halls and into a safe space immediately.”

My first few years of teaching, this message scared me no matter if I knew it was a drill or not. Now, seven years in, I don’t even think twice. I just lock the doors, turn off the lights, close the blinds, and make sure the students are sitting out of sight and below desk level. The whole process takes less than a minute, and we practice it so often that my nerves don’t even kick in anymore; I just respond quickly to secure my room.

With several lockdown drills required by law each year, it’s no surprise that the process has become routine. It’s a good thing, too, because if and when a real crisis were to take place, I want to be ready.

It may sound pessimistic to assume that a crisis might happen in school, but the fact of the matter is that we live in a post-Columbine world. I remember the Columbine High School shooting like it was yesterday; I was a freshman in high school, and I watched the whole event unfold on my television once I got home from school. Before that, no one had ever thought to run lockdown drills or have an emergency management plan in place for a school shooter. Tornado and fire drills, yes, but not a malicious intruder. Columbine changed all of that. Now we run lockdown drills several times a year and during different situations; some are during class, others during lunch, and still others during passing periods.

The fact of the matter is that lockdowns are scary and do take away from instructional time — an average lockdown lasts about 15-20 minutes – but they can be used to control a variety of situations. When we think of lockdowns, our first thought is a school shooter, and locking down the school can do a great deal to stop someone with a weapon. With everyone else out of sight, the intruder is easier to spot, and students and staff are safe. However, lockdowns can be used for other reasons as well. If there are drugs on campus, drug dogs can be brought in to sniff them out while students and staff are safely in their classrooms. Sometimes, a lockdown is used to find and identify an estranged parent who entered the building to try to find his or her child. In the case of one school recently, a lockdown was called because a girl was allegedly attacked in a bathroom.

Because lockdown drills take away from instructional time and sometimes scare students unnecessarily, many question whether or not they are actually worth it. Staff could just explain the procedure to the students and frequently remind them of what to do in an emergency situation rather than actually practicing the lockdown itself. However, the old adage is true: Practice makes perfect. In a real emergency situation, chaos ensues. We want students and staff to know what to do and practice it so, if an emergency did ever occur, the school would be secure without anyone having to think twice or be told what to do.

While we never want to think that an emergency will happen, but the reality is that it could at any time. Being prepared is our best defense, even if that means a few minutes out of class.


Related Stories:

Schools Locking Down

Schools Unprepared to Save the Children

The Lessons of Columbine High School 11 Years On


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Photo Credit: Jose Kevo

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5:45AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

Thank you Ashley, for Sharing this!

3:39PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

Thank you Ashley, for Sharing this!

5:08AM PST on Dec 17, 2012

It's sad that they are necessary but they do help. While I was in high school we did these drills and they only needed to be put into action twice. Once was during school when a man robbed the bank down the street and it was thought he might try to hide in the school. Most of the students, myself included, didn't even know about it because the teachers knew what to do and kept their calm. Another time was after school when someone robbed a liquor store not too far away. I was at play practice and our director came in and told us what to do and kept calm the whole time. I never once felt unsafe at school because of these drills and because I knew my teachers and staff would do anything to keep us safe.

9:40AM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

yes they are needed. we had a real lock down when I was in 10th grade. it was scary.. police at the door. a gun. ect. but we were all prepared.

8:33AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

It's a scary thought that they're needed. We can hope that violence won't come to our schools, but unfortunately it comes too often and too many bright minds are lost. The only way of teaching the kids what to do is through routine drills, the last thing you want them doing is running in the halls out in the open or not knowing what to do if there is a real problem. It's hard for me to imagine why some people really believe we don't need stricter gun control?

2:18AM PDT on Oct 19, 2012

I think they should be practiced and hopefully NEVER needed!

3:00AM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

To bad though that it has to be this way. But don`t forget to show kindness everywhere at the same time. Much can changes if we do so..............

10:34PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Unfortunately in this day and age it is necessary. My daughter graduated high school the year before the shootings at Santana High School, when a student who had been repeatedly bullied took revenge and opened fire and killed a number of students and wounded many more. This was a few years before Columbine. I teach adult ed, we have also had to have several lockdowns. One for a man walking around the neighborhood with a rifle in plain sight, another for a wild mountain lion that decided to "visit" our campus, and a third for a bomb threat with suspicious paraphenalia on the roof of the school. There are reports of pedophiles stalking and attempting to abduct our children on the way to and from school on almost a daily baisis as well. We live in dangerous and unpredictible times. It is better to be safe than sorry.

10:28AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Lock downs wouldn't be necessary if kids were taught to report on fellow students. The crazies, or the ones you just don't like. Check out the janitor's religion too...he may be a muslim waiting to plant bombs while emptying the waste baskets.
Fire drills that's real stuff.
Why not have drills in shopping malls, churches, grocery stores, traffic jams where lots of people could be easily snuffed out. Death is waiting for all of us. It's the end result of being born.

9:03AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012


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