School Evacuation and Lockdown: Make a Plan

Severe weather, medical emergencies, unauthorized intruders, and more can require your school to be evacuated or locked down at a moment’s notice. Do your staff and students know what to do? Having a plan in place can help everyone respond should there be a need. Here are some things to consider when drafting a plan:

Equipment and Systems. Be sure your building is equipped with functioning smoke alarms, detectors, weather radios, warning systems, communication tools, and flashlights.

Leadership Roles. Each staff member—including teachers, school administrators, office personnel, and child care aides—should have specific roles during an emergency. Assess the risks at your school to determine what role each individual will fill if and when an evacuation or lockdown is required.

As these roles are developed, administrators should determine the following:

  • Who has the authority to order the evacuation or lockdown and give the all clear? Consider assigning primary authority to decide on such action, and a secondary authority in the event that the primary authority is unavailable.
  • How will leaders know who is in the building at any given time so that everyone is accounted for?
  • Who will operate or activate the necessary warning signals?

Warning Signals. Be sure that your plan identifies what signals will be used for specific emergencies and how they will be used, and then train designated staff how to use them.

Maps, Emergency Exits & Routes. Include maps of the building and evacuation routes in your plan. This will help leaders and staff become familiar with each route, and makes it easier to know where children and staff will be during an emergency. Be sure to post copies in each classroom and other areas, such as the gymnasium and lunch room.

Areas for Evacuation and Lockdown. Work through the logistics of your school’s evacuation and lockdown plan. Be sure to determine:

  • Where children will be taken during a lockdown.
  • Where children will be reunited with their parents or administrators after an evacuation procedure.
  • Procedures for children who are outside for recess or another activity.

Special Needs. Be aware of any individuals who may have special needs. This can create unique challenges in situations where the school is locked down for an extended period of time. Ensure that these special needs are addressed when planning your procedures.

Be sure to practice evacuation and lockdown procedures at your school periodically. This will help minimize confusion and panic in the event of an actual threat. Review your procedures annually and revise them as needed.

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