School Safety Tools: Recess Procedures

14 November 2022

“If I’m outside and the school goes into a lockdown, do I come back inside or stay outside?”

This is one of the most common questions I get from elementary teachers. The quick answer is that when it’s a lockdown – stay out. When it’s a lockout – come in.

Because teachers are planners and it’s in their nature to want things listed out in a simple and easy to follow format, I’ve created a 1-page set of recess procedures that that you can adopt and share with your staff.

Feel free to modify it as needed.

Last point, there is a hard and fast rule when preparing people to be successful in preventing or surviving violence. The simpler the procedures the better. The more organic, the more successful.

Organic means you take what a person would naturally do and then you show them how to do it a little bit better. You can certainly train a person to ignore their natural tendencies but it takes lots of time, training, and effort.

None of which is necessary in this particular situation.

The procedures are very simple and very organic. When I’ve asked teachers what they would do if they were outside and the school went into a lockdown or a lockout, nearly every teacher has reached the same conclusions. Therefore, I don’t think you need to spend any more than a few minutes discussing these procedures

You could probably simply email a copy to your teachers and encourage them to reach out if they need any clarification.


  1. Inform the main office that you’re going outside.

    Should a crisis occur, it is helpful for school leadership to know which classes are outside.

  2. Bring a radio.

    Cell phones are good but not as immediate as radios. With a radio, a person can simply push a button and talk. This will expedite help coming should you need assistance.

  3. Do a quick scan.

    Before leaving the school, stop at the exit and quickly scan the playground, parking lot, and any area close to the playground. Do you see any animals, dogs, people near the playground, or people lingering in the parking lot. If what you see concerns you, don’t go outside. Call for assistance.

  4. Leave the building.

    If everything looks fine on the playground, exit the building. Do not prop open the door. 90% of all school attackers enter through an open/unlocked door.

  5. Share your radio.

    When returning to the school, share your radio with the next class coming out if they don’t have one.

  6. Inform the office.

    Make sure to tell the main office that you’re back inside the building.

  7. If a drill is called when you’re outside.


    A lockout is ordered when there is a potential threat in the community, therefore quickly return to the protection of the building through the nearest doors.


    A lockdown is ordered when there is imminent danger inside the building, therefore do NOT reenter the building but follow these principles.

  1. Get away from the school!

  2. Go to your predetermined rally point.

  3. If you hear violence—go in the opposite direction.

  4. If moving towards your predetermined rally point will inadvertently cause you to move closer to the violence—go in the opposite direction.

  5. Once in your rally point or a safe place, take roll and call the district office. Alert them of your situation and location.

  6. Above all, follow number #1.


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