Lockdown, A Cry for Change?

Lockdown drill. Two words that strike a feeling of uncertainty into the minds of many students at ASW. Looking across the pond, lockdown drills are performed in about 70 percent of schools in America since the year 2000, according to Vox. With the rise of recent school invasions such as the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and the now more recent Stoneman Douglas shooting, the question is raised, how effective are our current lockdown procedures and how do they compare to public school drills in the US?

On Tuesday, March 20th, the entirety of ASW observed a level three school wide lockdown drill. In the procedures handbook, there are three levels of lockdown the school can go into. The first is an off campus threat that entails students not leaving the school due to an incident taking place within a harmful enough distance to ASW, the second follows a similar manner but in this level the threat is now on campus, but not in the building. The third level is arguably the most dire, this is the level in which there is an active threat in the school. This calls for students and teachers to take shelter in the nearest classroom available to them, draw the blinds on the windows, and take cover away from doors and windows without making a sound. During all of this, no electronic devices are to be used at any time no matter the circumstance.

This system has worked since 1953, as according to school records there has been no circumstance in which a real lockdown has needed to be initiated. If there has never been an emergency to this extremity, should a school housing children from international embassies be taking more precautions with drills such as these? Is there a better way to keep the students of this school safe if there is ever a situation like this?  

According to Dir. Zurfluh, our lockdown drill is extremely well prepared and specialized to handle the situation accordingly. “No drill is perfect, when we call for a lockdown drill to be initiated, people all around the school are monitoring speaker volume, timing how long it takes to complete the drill, observing what is happening within the building etc. The Chief of Security compiles the information taken from the shelter in place drill and sent to the Chief of Procedures to be evaluated and made better in the future.”

ALICE, no, not the girl who fell into Wonderland, but instead a highly optimised form of training to help keep students safe in the face of a threat on campus. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate, and is used in about 50 states as a form of education in lockdown procedures. Rather than a set steps of what one should do in an emergency like this, it is a list options students and staff members can enforce to heighten their chance for safety in a situation that calls for it.  

Steps like this can be described as barricading the doors with desks and whiteboards  if someone tries to break it down, throwing classroom objects at the attacker if they are successful in breaking in, and hiding effectively if there is no direct threat to the lives of the students.  

 Since 2014, public schools in Andover, Massachusetts have been implementing this training program to go along with lockdown procedures already in place at the schools. Back when this training was started, students attending West Middle School were shown a series of videos and lectures given by ALICE representatives and police officers working for the town. They informed them of what the training entailed and how they could use it to make decisions when facing a threat in school. Nina McKone was one of these students in 7th grade at the time of its initiation, now a sophomore at Andover High School who has experienced ALICE training for the past three years.

Andover High School Front Door 

When asked about her take on ALICE training she responded that, “There is no perfect way to handle an emergency in the building, but ALICE has brought an innovative way of assessing the issue that allows for strategy and options for students, rather than the older method of simply hiding and staying quiet. It used to be way too restrictive, and therefore ineffective.”

Today, during the ten minute lock down drill, students in Mr. Merritt’s bio classroom calmly collected in the back corner of the room with the lights off. None of the students moved or talked, it was almost as if the classroom was empty. “I was in the corner, crowded around people. If someone were to break in, they could easily gun me and my classmates down.”

This feeling of frustration was voiced by David O, a student in the 10th grade.

In recent events that have been happening in the States it is reasonable that the students would feel like they needed to have more options to defend themselves, but is there a reason why they would need to even consider having training as extensive as the one in AHS?

“Our risk is not as significant… as some of the places in the United States. We have to be cautious about mixing the media and the backdrop of the United States with our issues here, there is going to be a difference between them and we are trying to make us have a risk response that is consistent with the level of risk that we experience here.” This risk factor that Dir. Zurfluh commented about is a major incentive to continue the way procedures are held here, as there is no major risk that has ever been brought about in this school.

He continued on when asked about if students should adapt a more hands on approach to lockdown situations, “If we were in some other part of Europe that had issues like that surrounding them, we might adapt additional protocols, you’ll find that same thing in the United States, some schools in heavy urban areas would be doing some levels in protocols [such as ALICE] while suburban schools or rural schools won’t be observing those levels of implementation.”

Andover is a suburban town about 25 minutes from Boston, and has never needed to perform a real lockdown drill where a threat was within the school building. For them, the training that they do is an extra level of protection that makes them and the students feel safe and knowledgeable of what to do in situations like a lockdown with the higher risk of living in the States.  It only takes one incident to change the face of the school and its protocols, many would argue it’s better safe than sorry.

“I believe every school should incorporate regular, timely lockdown drills so that the students are prepared if a real emergency were to occur.” Nina feels strongly about this sentiment as AHS students perform this drill twice a year with training compared to ASW which in the past has conducted one drill for students per year.

Some Well Trained ASW Staff

In the end, there is no reason why students at ASW should feel unsafe when attending classes day in and day out. Embassy trained security guards are there to observe the happenings of the school, and respond to anything accordingly to the best of their abilities. Teachers here are well versed in CPR and triage training, and are guaranteed to be able to help the students in any way they can. Finally, security protocols are constantly under review and revision not only from the school, but third party groups that are here to assist with the betterment of plans already in place. Essentially, for what is needed now, ASW has got you covered, and will continue to keep you safe as it adapts and changes to the situation.   


One thought on “Lockdown, A Cry for Change?

  1. Thanks for the wonderful article and I appreciated the opportunity for interview on the matter. Just a couple of points that I feel compelled to share. First, and embarrassingly, I am not a Dr. I want to thank you for thinking of me in that way, and while I have graduate and extended qualifications, I am not a doctor and want to make sure that corrections like this are addressed quickly.

    I loved your take on the level if issue and, actually, I’m now looking into the ALICE training to see if it might be applicable in our environment. My conversations this last weekend at the CEESA conference in Prague included some dialog with executives from Clearpath, Inc., a security and safety advisory company. We discussed their insight into current training and protocols that seem to be effective in the international school setting. I will note only one other small correction, the results of the drill will be presented to the Health and Safety Committee at it’s upcoming meeting and I look forward to their input on this as well.

    Thanks for bring so many voices to the table in this dialog. It’s important that we continue talking about this and glean what ideas we can in order to get better with each iteration.

    Mr. Z


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