I recently attended a school where the head informed me that while showing some prospective parents around their four year old daughter asked if they do that thing where everyone has to get under the table? I guess she had been watching too many American dramas on television. However, it prompted the head to ask my advice on the subject and so I thought I should include this as a blog.
NaCTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) issued guidance to schools on the subject of Dynamic Lockdown in 2015. Let’s start with this first. Dynamic Lockdown is about keeping everyone safe within the school when there is an external threat such as a weapons attack (which I will cover in a future blog). The first recommended option is to run. For those on the on the outside of the school this means getting away completely. For those on the inside it means running into the interior of the school to get as much distance from the attacker as possible. Second, for those entrapped on the inside, the next recommended option is to hide. Yes, this may include getting under the table. At the same time, all doors and windows should be shut and locked. Those hiding should at the least mute their phones. Next we tell which means someone has to call the emergency services especially the police. They will want as much information as is possible such as description, weapons, what they area shouting, location etc. I will go into more detail in a future blog. At most schools I attend they will tell me it will not happen here because of our security fence. I recently attended a secondary school in a multicultural area of London which had a high fence with a guarded entrance. I was there to look at their counter terrorism preparedness. They were surprised at how I got to the reception unchallenged. I am not going to say how I did it but with the right determination and mindset these barriers can be breached.
Let’s compare this with Invacuation or shutdown. This is where life carries on as normal inside the school but no one goes outside. All windows are shut and ventilation is closed down. This would be required if there was a noxious gas outside such as a leak from a nearby chemical works.
Then there is evacuation. This is not as simple as a fire alarm anymore. Yes, the fire alarm has its place where everyone has to get out, without picking up their belongings and assemble at the recognised assembly point. But what if we have to evacuate for a bomb threat? We now have to take our belongings with us in order to allow the designated people to search their area of the school efficiently. What if the bomb is in a bag I have often been asked. This is a game of risk management. To begin with 99.9% of bomb calls are hoax. The object is to search as quickly as possible and get back to normal so as to minimise impact and not encourage further hoaxes. Also putting a bomb in a child’s bag is difficult and is not a recognised tactic. Finally, bags can be quickly checked with the owners once outside. All this advice comes again from NaCTSO, this time from a guidance note issued in 2016. This type of evacuation is different in another way. The recommended distance to evacuate is 100 metres for a small package but 200 metres for a suitcase sized object. Are your fire evacuation points within this distance?
So we have four different types of evacuation or Invacuation. This means you need to consider four types of alarm. Also consider here with a bomb threat or, suspicious package, you must not use any electrical devices near the bomb or package.