Many schools are reluctant to share their safety and security procedures with parents or leave them in classrooms for fear that a school attacker may use that information against the school. On one hand you don't want to help someone to hurt your kids but you also don't want to hinder the people who need to know by making your plans inaccessible.
It's a very real and credible concern and one that many principals agonize over. Luckily, there is an easy way to figure out how much to share. Just ask yourself this question.
If an attacker knew our plan what would I change?
Let's go through the all the possible things a teacher could do during a lockdown and see if we need to change anything even though they know what we're going to do.
1. Act fast and immediately close and lock door...no change
2. Cover the window...no change
3. Turn off lights...no change
4. Barricade if unable to deny entry into the classroom...no change
5. Move kids to a position that offers cover (bullets can't penetrate)...no change
6. Cover outside windows...no change
7. Silence phones and others...no change
8. Call 911...no change
9. Listen and determine location as well as scope of crisis...no change
10. Re-evaluate and plan for next best possible action (run, hide, fight)...no change
So in the case of a lockdown, there's nothing that we'd change therefore there's no issue with sharing your plans.
As far as other crisis plans, the same rule applies. If you wouldn't change anything, then there's little problem with sharing it. That is not to say, of course, that I would make it extremely easy for someone to get all of our plans, but I also wouldn't create unnecessary anxiety for myself by overly protecting plans that I wouldn't change even if the bad guy knew or had a copy.
Parent staging areas and student release points can be protected or shared. It kind of depends on you and your procedures. If your plans do not include law enforcement or other select individuals screening, controlling, and sweeping your staging and release points prior to parents and students arriving, then don't share it. If you have already shared those locations, then add the additional task of ensuring that designated personnel first sweep the area for explosives and potential dangers (additional attackers, media, strangers, environmental issues, etc.) prior to the parents' and students' arrival.
Code words are often protected, but unless you have a significant and compelling reason to use code words and phrases, I'd use plain English. Make it easy on you, your staff, visitors, vendors, subs and others who may be inside your building but do not know the code words. If not thoroughly practiced and remembered by the entire school community, code words and phrases will only increase confusion and hesitation which is our enemy because it delays immediate actions. We must act fast!
Every second matters so don't add or do anything that may slow you down.
You may be thinking…We have a million drills. How in the world will I ever know what to change or not to change with so many plans?
If you are, try to not get discouraged. Keep in mind that every drill you have is a plan to do one of two things – leave or stay. That's it and there's many more 'staying' in the building drills and those drills are pretty much the same, especially for the teachers whose tasks remain very similar. So, if you focus on the lockdown drill, you're going to, by default, cover most of the other drills.
What does vary a great deal in your drills will be the leadership tasks.
Consider separating these from your teachers' tasks. You'll notice that when you remove the leadership tasks from the public plan, there's not a lot left over and what is will remain unchanged. Teachers should be made aware of what the school leadership will do during a crisis, but they don't need to know every detail. Parents, students, school community—they don't need to know either.
Keep your leadership tasks private and you'll save yourself lots of heartache.
Our current drills are very good and very effective. If there is anything that we really need to change, it's not our procedures, it's that we need to get faster at implementing our drills. If there's one drill in particular that we need to perfect, it's the lockdown. Teachers must be able to do a 21 second lockdown because every second matters.
The better and faster we can get at locking down our classrooms, the less and less we'll have to worry about an attacker knowing our plans.
If you find yourself agonizing over it, don't fret too much. Call and we'll go over it together and sort it out in minutes.
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