Schools are supposed to be safe places. When parents send their students to school they expect to hear about good things happening there. That’s why when events like this past week’s hold and secure and lockdown at three of our school take place, people are rightfully anxious and alarmed. “These sorts of things never happened before!” people say and then they want to know what is being done by the district to keep students safe.
The world has changed. Times were when emergency preparedness amounted to fire drill bells clanging out their jarring warnings a few times a year and everyone shuffling out of buildings and reporting a message of all accounted for to the secretary at the flag pole before jostling back to class. Sadly, today’s students face many new and different threats, and school authorities are charged with being prepared against all of them.
Balancing security needs against positive learning environments can be a tricky thing. Students learn best in open, bright naturally lit environments. New schools feature open spaces, big windows and multiple access points. Great for learning, not as well suited to security procedures designed to keep students hidden from intruders harbouring ill intentions.
The BC Government provides guidance in its Emergency Management Guide. In its introduction it states:
“Emergencies are unpredictable. We usually have little warning that an event or series of events may cause a massive disruption in our lives and our communities. As one of the major areas in which people gather, schools are places where emergency preparedness is critically important to the well-being of students and employees and to the confidence that parents feel in entrusting their children to the care of educators in BC schools.”.
To this end the guide lays out processes and procedures BC School Districts are to follow to prepare against and in the event of a variety of emergencies. Lockdowns and Hold Secures event are two such emergencies with procedures designed to protect persons in our schools from real or perceived threats from outside the building. BC Schools are required to have at least two practice lockdown drills each year in order to familiarize staff and students around what to do if they ever face a real threat situation.
Last week three school did just that, and while the situation caused some anxiety for all of us, in the end the procedures worked as they are designed to. The authorities dealt with the threat and everyone got home safely. These events are rare. Let’s hope that continues to be the case. But when we are called upon to follow the emergency guidelines, its good to know that our schools are prepared and know what to do.