School officials are understandably jumpy these days. School shootings are unspeakably tragic, they get nationwide attention and no school administrator wants to be caught unprepared in the event the unthinkable happens in their school. Consequently most schools have developed a lockdown procedure which secures each classroom and isolates safe zones in the building. Some states have even enacted legislation mandating that schools develop a viable lockdown policy and conduct periodic drills, much the same as the fire drills with which we are all familiar.
Schools activate their lockdown plan for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is when the safety of the students is at stake. Another reason is when the police are conducting a drug search, usually with a specially trained dog and they don’t want several hundred kids milling about. Also if an event is occurring nearby the school, such as some kind of “person with a gun” situation, bank robbery or other incident which could be potentially hazardous to the students, the school will lockdown. Different schools do lockdowns differently. The first step is to secure the students in their classrooms, secure all entrances to the building and block visual access to the rooms. Students are directed to position themselves in an area of the room away from the door. Often the classroom lights are turned off. Students are usually required to remain quiet for the duration of the lockdown.
Lockdowns can last from a few minutes to several hours. Not all classrooms are directly connected to a restroom. Can you see where I’m going with this? Human nature being what it is, there will always be the kid who just finished off a 44 ounce Big Gulp moments before the lockdown was ordered. Other students may have skipped breakfast, then sometime during first period the school building locked down and now it’s two periods after lunch.
To plan for just such a contingency, some schools have purchased lockdown kits. The kit is usually stored in a five-gallon bucket and contains water pouches, food bars, first aid supplies and many other items considered useful to weather such an incident. Some even include a snap-on toilet seat/lid and toilet bags to provide for the sanitary needs that would inevitably arise. (Yes, a roll of tissue is also included.) Ideally each classroom has a kit with enough supplies to meet the needs of several students. One kit I checked out sold for $70.00 and contained 30 water pouches. It also was equipped with a battery powered radio, a flashlight, and several light sticks, among many other items. Newly marketed inventions such as door-jamming tools and other security devices are finding their way to classrooms. Some schools are designing classrooms to make it more difficult for intruders to see into the room.
Disaster preparedness doesn’t always mean stocking your own pantry. It is regrettable that we find ourselves turning schools into fortresses, but with the right amount of planning and supplies on hand, we can make our schools safer for our kids.