Is it Safe to Identify Hide Locations?

20 September 2022



You suggested that we place a symbol in our classrooms to speed up lockdowns. We were told not to do that because it gives the attacker the exact location where the students will be hiding. We’re not sure what to do.

What do you think?


Background first...

This question is in response to the suggestions I posted in an article recommending that schools place a symbol inside each classroom indicating where the absolute best place is to hide during a lockdown. This will help new students, new teachers, subs, and those in the district who bounce between schools providing services to students to immediately know where the best place is to hide therefore speeding up lockdowns.

Here’s the link to that article School Safety Tools: Speeding Up Lockdowns

My reply...

Thanks for the question!

I’m a firm believer that when it comes to school safety that we should be willing to have a healthy debate about our policies and procedures. Honestly, it’s too important not to. My lifelong motto has and will always be…test everything, keep what is good, and do no harm.

In that spirit, here are my reasons why I would still mark each classroom. They’re listed from most to least compelling.

  1. It benefits us the most.

    I’m often asked by schools if they should share what they do during a lockdown in fear that an attacker will get the info and then use it against the school. My reply is always the same…if an attacker knew the details of your plan which details would you change?

    After a few minutes of discussion, we always reach the same conclusion—nothing. We wouldn’t change anything because we have the best plan and to choose something less beneficial in order to keep it from the school attacker would be counterproductive.

    The same is true for marking hide locations.

    Even if school attackers knew each hide location, we would never then select a new or inferior hide location in order to keep it from them. Basically, an attacker knowing doesn’t change anything. However, if we mark the best locations it will help to reduce confusion and therefore speed up our lockdowns as well as give new students, new teachers, subs, and district personnel who visit multiple schools the ability to immediately identify the best place to hide in each space.

    I don’t like attackers knowing anything about our plans or where we would hide but I think the benefits of marking the best hide locations far outweighs any potential disadvantages.

  2. Past lessons learned.

    A long time ago we used color and code words to indicate certain drills. We did this so the attacker wouldn’t know what we were doing. We stopped doing it and instead chose to use plain English because the code words and colors were confusing and therefore it slowed our response making us less safe.

    Confusion benefits the attacker.

    I remember when we switched. I remember the discussions, arguments, and debates. There was a real concern that by going to plain English that we would be telling the attacker exactly what we were doing. We weighed it very carefully and concluded that switching would in fact raise the risk level some but at the same time lower our vulnerability more.

    In the beginning, the code words and colors were needed but it was smart to switch.

    Marking the hide locations is very similar to this past situation. We’re revealing more of what we’re doing which can increase the risk but anything we do to speed up our response, like getting rid of code words and colors, is to our benefit. This past lesson learned really helps to persuade me that marking hide locations is also the right course of action because when we simplify our response we increase our chances for success.

  3. They probably know already.

    70% of all school attackers are current or previous students. Chances are they already know our hide locations so it’s not that guarded of a secret.

  4. The door is the critical factor.

    During a lockdown, if the teacher immediately 1) runs to the door, 2) closes the door (must already be locked), and 3) gets away from the door…there is an astronomical chance (95% or greater) that the attacker will never enter the classroom. It’s not that hide locations are not important but closing and locking the door is critical.

    Focus on the door!

    If the door is closed before the attacker can enter the classroom then the attacker knowing the location of the hide is immaterial. This isn’t meant to diminish the value of a hide location but instead to emphasize that in a lockdown the door is the critical factor—above all else.

    The attacker knowing the hiding spots doesn’t matter if the door is locked. Focus on the door!

  5. Everything is about time.

    Every second saved is a life saved. If marking the hide locations speeds up lockdowns by even a few seconds—that’s a win. Absolutely do it.

  6. Realistic outcomes.

    No one ever became a teacher to do school safety. Anything that we can do to make it easier for them to be more successful—we should do it. Marking the hide locations will make it a little bit easier.

Every violence prevention technique, method, strategy, or principle comes with negative and positive consequences. We often forget this inescapable fact—that sometimes doing something positive may come with an inherent negative. Marking the hide locations will raise the risk level but only slightly while the positives gained from this action overwhelm any potential negative.

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions or would like me to clarify a point, just let me know how I can help!


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