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When Seconds Count: Building Your Emergency Lockdown Plan

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January 27, 2023 Posted by in Mass Notification

Seconds count when lives are on the line, and the best time to prepare for an emergency is before a crisis strikes. That’s why it’s vital every organization develop an effective Emergency Lockdown Plan.

Since there are many facets to an Emergency Lockdown Plan, it helps to narrow our definition for clarity:

An emergency lockdown is a procedure in which personnel respond to an immediate threat of violence — such as an active shooter within a facility — by securing themselves in predetermined locations until authorities have issued an “All Clear” alert.

Actions include locking and barricading doors, taking cover and concealing oneself under desks or tables, and remaining silent.

Lockdown procedures differ from evacuation plans in that they are only initiated when evacuating would prove dangerous. The last thing you want is for people to attempt an evacuation that puts them in harm’s way. A lockdown may ultimately include an evacuation, but the immediate objective is to take cover in a secure location and await instructions from first responders or designated authorities. This is one reason emergency communication proves critical in such moments. (See below for more on the vital role mass notification systems play in moments of crisis.)

Here are a few key components to help you build your Emergency Lockdown Plan:

  1. You need to assess your risks.

Begin developing your plan by asking the question, “Where are we vulnerable?” Once you assess your risks, you’ll have a clear framework for how to respond effectively.

  1. You need to plan accordingly.

This stage involves developing protocols to alert local first responders and assigning specific roles to qualified individuals who can help execute an effective lockdown plan. At the end of this phase, your organization should know what to do, where to go, who to follow and how to stay safe in the event of a lockdown.

Don’t’ forget to write it down! Make your plan official and incorporate it into your SOP!

  1. You need to know where your people are.

In the chaos and confusion of any emergency situation, it’s essential to account for every life. Technology like location-based notifications and geo-fencing provide intelligent solutions to help organizations keep track of personnel when it matters most.

  1. You need to communicate effectively.

Responding to a threat begins with alerting those in harm’s way. Immediate notification and clear instructions on what to do can save lives. To meet these needs, many organizations from schools and universities to hospitals, houses of worship and business utilize emergency mass notification systems like RedFlag.

You can also utilize RedFlag to instantly communicate the “All Clear” signal across multiple channels so personnel and their loved ones know when the crisis is over.

Frequent Questions Regarding Emergency Lockdowns

Does my organization really need a lockdown plan? According to the FBI’s analysis of incidents occurring from 2000-2019, the highest number of active shooter incidents occurred among businesses open to pedestrian traffic. Next came open space venues, K-12 schools, then businesses closed to pedestrian traffic. It’s safe to say these locations reflect a large majority of the workforce. For your own safety and that of your personnel, assume caution and develop an effective lockdown plan. (See: “Active Shooter Incidents”)

Does taking cover in a locked room actually prevent casualties? Absolutely. Experts agree that the best obstacle you can put between yourself and an active shooter is a locked door. Perpetrators simply don’t have time to attempt to access secure rooms; they’ll move on to softer targets. (See: “School Security: A Focus on Doors” by Maggie Shein)

Should I utilize the fire alarm? No. Activating a fire alarm during an active shooter scenario risks sending a concentrated mass of people directly into the line of fire. Additionally, shooters have been known to activate manual fire alarms in order to draw victims from safety. Perpetrators employed this tactic at both the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018 and the Westside Middle School shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998. If a fire alarm sounds while a facility is on lockdown, do not immediately evacuate. Stay where you are, unless you smell smoke, can identify the threat of fire or receive instructions via your emergency alert system.

What’s the difference between a partial lockdown versus a full lockdown? Sometimes, a school or business may initiate what’s called a partial lockdown. This takes place when a threat of violence has been identified and contained outside of a facility (e.g., the police are searching for a suspect in the vicinity). In this instance, the objective is to secure all exterior doors and prevent the threat from entering the facility. As with a full lockdown, accurate and up-to-date communication between authorities, administrators, students and employees proves vital to safety.

What’s the best way to communicate during a crisis? The answer is across multiple channels. Whether communication with employees, students, faculty, staff or other personnel, it’s important to relay information wherever they’ll find it. That’s why RedFlag communicates via cell phone texts, push notifications, voice calling, email, a brand-new digital app and platforms such as Microsoft Teams.

Learn More
Discover how RedFlag’s easy-to-use multi-channel mass notification system can help keep your organization safe and informed, during a crisis and beyond.

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