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Dealing with a terrorist attack at your school

I was recently asked by one of my customers to review their school plans in the light of the Manchester attack.  Also NASUWT have concerns as to how schools will cope with a terrorist attack.  Therefore, I thought I should share some of the current information in a blog.

Others have asked if schools could be a target.  As we saw at Manchester fanaticals are more than happy to attack somewhere which they consider is where decadent western female youth are displaying themselves inappropriately.  This can make a school a target. 

Cordoned crime scene featuring British police vehicles

NaCTSO advice

Have we any tools?  Yes we do.  In both 2015 and 2016 The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) issued guidance notes to schools and colleges.  These advice sheets have links to other areas which are updated regularly, in light of changing information, so are a good source of advice.  These advice sheets are no coincidence, they are to address the increasing possibility of an attack on a school.  It does not have to be similar to Manchester.  You could have a lone wolf attack where an ex-pupil has become radicalised and returns to their old school with a weapon as they believe all their woes are the fault of an old teacher they now want to attack.  In my last blog, I explained how a security fence can be breached.

Weapons attack

What is the advice?  First you need to realise it is about damage limitation.  If you have an attacker coming towards your premises some staff and pupils will probably get hurt at the very least.  The first bit of advice is to go into dynamic lockdown.  I covered this in my last blog.  The object is to stay safe until the police can get to the scene.    When calling the police give them as much information as possible.  This will include

  • How many attackers there are?
  • What are they armed with?
  • Descriptions
  • Their temperament
  • What are they shouting?
  • Any reasons known as to why the school is a target
  • Where are they?
  • Where do they appear to be trying to get to?
  • How many injured?
  • How many fatalities?

Once they arrive the police will take charge but cannot always distinguish between terrorists and victims, especially in the confusion and panic that is bound to be present.  Therefore, the advice when the police get to you, bearing in mind they will be armed is –

  • Follow officer’s instructions
  • Remain calm
  • Can you move to a safer area?
  • Avoid sudden movements that may be considered a threat
  • Keep your hands in view

Officers May

  • Point guns at you
  • Treat you firmly
  • Question you
  • Be unable to distinguish you from the attacker
  • Officers will evacuate you when it is safe to do so

This can all be very frightening to school children and teachers will have to issue strong guidance.

If there has been a suicide bombing you will need to initially tend to the victims until the emergency services are not only on the scene but in sufficient numbers to take full charge.  However, be aware of a secondary attack nearby which was the tactics in Paris.

Threat level

Of course, some schools are more vulnerable than others depending on location, whether a primary or a secondary and pupils ethnic backgrounds, to name a few.  If you feel your threat level is high then consider holding dynamic lockdown drills as well as fire drills.  Keep an eye on the social media sites that comment on your school as clues can often be picked up here.  Don’t discount any suspicions given to you by parents but pass them on the correct authority and they will decide on its value, it may just compliment something they were beginning to pick up intelligence on.

Plan for the worst and everything else is easier to deal with.