This is an edited version of an article originally published on: Al Kingsley
There are all sorts of emergencies that could crop up during the school day. And fortunately, while many occurrences are few and far between (e.g. flooding, bomb threat, intruder on the premises, local community disaster affecting the school), schools do need to have procedures in place to help them manage the security of their staff and students according to best practice.
With most schools already being conscious of security with CCTV, fire alarms and tools to monitor visitors or volunteers around the site already in use, some are now also introducing a lockdown procedure to boost their safety measures – especially in areas where the school feels it is at high risk of a scenario where this would be necessary.
What is a lockdown policy?
School lockdown policies have come under the spotlight in the wake of recent terror attacks in the UK and across the world. To date, official guidelines from the Department for Education and Ofsted have suggested that any wider emergency plan should be flexible enough so that it can cover a range of possible situations and ensure all eventualities are covered – and this could include a lockdown policy. Currently, however, there is no absolute requirement for schools to have this in place, but teaching unions are now calling for it to be made mandatory.
Lockdown policies are not suitable for every emergency situation, but when invoked, they involve creating a closed space where all external doors and windows are locked to make sure any situation can be contained, as well as prevent people from moving into areas where the danger is present. Where appropriate, plans should be in place to bring pupils who are outside into the school buildings as quickly as possible – as well as alert staff to the activation of the lockdown. Lockdowns can be full or partial to contain threats in one part of the school, if necessary.
During a lockdown situation, official guidance suggests that staff should keep agreed lines of communication open – but without bombarding the central office for information and instead keeping lines free for critical information to pass through.
Desktop notification and alerting tools such as NetSupport Notify can contribute to a school’s lockdown procedure – and several schools have already told us that it is an official part of their emergency plans. With its ability to send mass notifications (that, critically, take screen focus above everything else) to desktops and large information panels in halls and foyers, it ensures that any alerts are seen instantly – getting the appropriate message out there as quickly as possible.
Mass notification in practice
Cotham School is one such example of where Notify plays an essential part in its emergency plans. Its IT Services Manager explains: “NetSupport Notify is only installed on staff PCs, and it means that it’s quick and easy to issue an alert that everyone can see at the same time – for instance, if there’s a lockdown or an internet failure. If the internet does go down and we’re unable to email out, then we’re still able to get a message to our colleagues. It saves the influx of helpdesk issues we’d otherwise receive and is an important tool in our Emergency Plan!” read more
Across the water
In the USA, although there are no federal laws requiring all school districts to have emergency management plans, 32 states already have implemented an obligation for schools to have these in place as part of best practice. NetSupport Notify is the ideal tool to help schools with these plans, due to the fact that it doesn’t rely on any external services, has no ongoing delivery costs and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t require regular management of contacts.