Perfecting lockdown procedures

Nathan Liewicki
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Safety of staff, students comes first at local schools

Students are more aware than ever about the procedures they must follow if a lockdown occurs at their school.

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic School Division

Within the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division (HTCSD) lockdown practices are generally held four times each school year – twice in the first semester and twice in the second semester.

Prairie South School Division schools also run practice lockdown drills during the school year.

Lois Saunders, principal at Vanier Collegiate, said her school does its first lockdown practice of the school year in September.

“We give teachers time to talk to their classes about what the procedure would be when they’re in a certain classroom, or floor, where they would go.”

In the event of a lockdown at Vanier – practice or real emergency – the first thing that occurs is an announcement, which notes that a lockdown is occurring.

Saunders said there used to be codes to notify students and staff of a lockdown, but they have since made it simpler.

All classroom doors are subsequently locked and students huddle in the corner farthest from the door and any windows that may line a classroom wall.

Even when students are not in classrooms at the time of a lockdown, Saunders told the Times-Herald her students know where to go wherever they are. And of course, more practice increases the likelihood of perfection.

“We know the more you practice it, the more engrained it is when an emergency really does happen,” Saunders said. “So if you don't practice these things sometimes adrenaline takes over and everybody starts doing their own thing.”

Darby Briggs, communications coordinator for PSSD, noted that schools have to be prepared for any safety infringement.

“Pretending something is not going to happen is not a realistic way to operate,” said Briggs.

At least one police liaison is also present at each lockdown practice at HTCSD schools, and they are occasionally at PSSD schools during those procedures.

“He supervises. He comes in and watches how smoothly it goes and makes suggestions that might help,” said HTCSD Superintendent of Education Elaine Oak.

Thus far in the 2013-14 school year, there have been no emergency lockdowns at any HTCSD or PSSD school.

A big reason for this is both the PSSD and HTCSD have policies that make sure the front door is the only one students, staff and visitors can enter to get into a school during school hours.

While this may be an inconvenience for some parents who are coming to visit, volunteer, or drop something off for one of their children, this practice is all about keeping a school’s students and staff as safe as possible. 

“We like to think of schools as being very safe places and we try really hard to keep them that way, but external environments and influences do occur,” said Briggs. “Bad things do happen, so we want to be as prepared as we can and keep our kids safe.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, Prairie South School Division, Times-Herald PSSD school

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