Have You Developed An Annual School Safety Drill Schedule?
We all are aware of the national mandate for schools to conduct one fire drill per month or a certain number of drills to be conducted within one school year. Many states further require schools to add natural disaster drills or bomb threat drills to their safety drill schedule.
But safety professionals, school administrators and other involved parties have not seemed to come to an agreement on the frequency of drilling for lockdowns and hostile intruders.
Many states do not mandate any further drilling for such critical incidents. We at Guardian Defense believe in the importance of training for all types of emergencies. This is why I have composed a basic recommended safety drill schedule for the school year that takes into consideration all types of trainings and all parties that should be involved in the drills.
It is important to prepare and train for all serious incidents that could affect your school. The United States has not had a student death caused by a fire since 1958. We need to revisit drilling and training for our schools and allow a variety of drills to take place throughout the year. The drills should be geared to specific areas of concern such as practicing in different locations on campus, preparing for natural disasters common in that region, and evolving to more serious violent encounters.
Guardian Defense recommends that schools include local police and fire departments to ensure a good working relationship. This idea can be as simple as contacting your local police department before you conduct a lockdown drill to let them know that the school will be on lockdown for training purposes. Administration can also contact the local fire department and ask for assistance with a natural disaster drill to show what first responders may do in the event of a tornado, earthquake, and other severe weather storm.
Annual School Safety Drill Schedule
Taking into consideration what types of drills need to be practiced and who should be in attendance, please review this recommended schedule for ways to organize your school’s annual drill schedule. This model is to be viewed as a template and recommendation based on our experience working with emergency management and schools.
Please note Guardian Defense recommends conducting approximately two drills per month, for a total of 19 drills per academic year. We also highly recommend that each school conducts a “Challenge Scenario” towards the end of the school year where a combination of incidents practiced throughout the year is presented to teachers and staff. This will encourage staff to make independent decisions based on the training they have experienced throughout the year. The overall goal for a Challenge Scenario is to empower staff to become more independent thinkers and planners for critical incidents. By practicing a variety of drills throughout the school year, staff will build confidence and improve response to more advanced-level drills as suggested through these challenges.
What Is A Challenge Scenario? Is Our School Ready For One?
In order to add a Challenge Scenario to your safety drill schedule, contact local law enforcement and fire rescue and request a volunteer to act as an intruder on campus. (Please note that the actor does not need to reveal a weapon, or act in a hostile manner. The intruder should act as someone who obtained unapproved access to the campus). Allow the actor to walk around campus and see how long it takes teachers and staff to confront or report this person who does not display the necessary credentials. Staff should be able to challenge them (by asking who they are or discreetly reporting them) and perform the correct response (issue an emergency lockdown). Once the emergency lockdown is in place, the actor may pull the fire alarm to simulate that the threat on campus is trying to lure them out of the classroom. This will cause teachers and staff to recognize an atypical combination of procedures (Lockdown + Evacuation) that is not usually practiced. In this scenario, each teacher will be challenged to follow through with the best plan for their individual classroom: to remain in lockdown and barricade the room, or to evacuate. All decisions will be based on each teacher’s and staff’s knowledge of the situation during the challenge. The final process would be for all classrooms to digress to a lockout, and then finally back to normal operations.
The Challenge Scenario is just one recommended challenge amongst many possibilities. The challenge will help evaluate how the school progressed throughout the year, and in turn help decipher how to create the training calendar for the next school year. Throughout the year please make sure each drill is logged and then followed by a debrief.
In the event of an actual incident, please use an After-Action Report (AAR) to log the information and also follow with a debrief. Debriefs, drill logs and AAR are crucial in evaluating the overall strengths and weaknesses of the safety plan, as they allow honest dialogue between administration and staff.
Recognize that a debrief with all staff may not be possible after each drill. To combat time restraints, a short form can be emailed to each staff in some instances, or the debrief can take place between administration and law enforcement. No matter how the debrief takes place, it is vital that it is recorded on the drill logs and AAR.
Guardian Defense knows that administrators and teachers work incredibly hard to not only educate our youth, but to keep them safe. Just like education techniques, security measures and practices are constantly evolving; having a plan, and then practicing it is the best way to be prepared for the unknown. To learn more about how we can transform the way your school responds to active threats on campus, click here.
We wish each school a safe and successful academic year!
Stay safe, stay prepared,
-Steven S. Smith
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