Lockout vs. Lockdown: Responses for Westside Schools
From the office of Alan Bone, Director of Student Services
What’s the Difference Between a Lockout and a Lockdown?
In December, a high school in a nearby district received a 911 report that someone with a gun was inside the school. Administrators evacuated the school as police moved in; no gunman was discovered, and within days, police arrested those allegedly behind what was found to be a hoax.
You may have noticed signs in our buildings like the one shown below. The signs remind students, staff, and visitors of the Standard Response Protocol (SRP)—a set of procedures for use in the event of an emergency. Students and staff practice these responses several times each year. The four conditions are Lockout, Lockdown, Evacuation and Shelter.
The first two—Lockout and Lockdown—sometimes cause confusion due to the similarity of their names. Because parents are notified immediately any time there is a Lockout or a Lockdown, it is important to understand the difference between the two terms, as they indicate very different situations.
- Lockout, occurs when there is something going on outside the school building that could pose a threat to those inside. For the most part, when there’s a Lockout, the school routine continues without interruption. Exterior doors are double-checked to be sure they are locked, students who are outside are brought indoors, and no one is allowed in or out of the building. Otherwise, it’s business-as-usual in the classroom. The Lockout ends when police notify us that the threat has passed. A Lockout typically occurs when there has been a robbery at a bank or business near the school and police advise us that the suspect(s) may be in the area. A Lockout might also be initiated if there is potentially harmful activity or a dangerous animal nearby.
- Lockdown is declared when there is a threat inside the school building. During Lockdown, staff turn off the lights, verify that inside doors are locked, and move students—including those who may be just outside their rooms—to an area where they can’t be seen by someone looking in from the hallway. Once out of sight, students and staff maintain complete silence to avoid signaling their whereabouts. The goal is to remain hidden safely behind a locked door until law enforcement can arrive to neutralize the threat and secure the building.
So, why don’t we just change the names to make them less similar? The answer is that the SRP has been adopted by schools statewide, as well as by all area first-responder agencies, including the Omaha Police and Fire Departments. One of the primary aims of SRP is to establish a common vocabulary that clarifies communication between schools and first responders during emergencies.
None of this is pleasant to think about; however, our hope is that through planning and prevention, we can avoid the need to employ what we practice. By clarifying the definitions of Lockout and Lockdown, I hope to avoid unnecessarily alarming parents who might not otherwise know what we mean by these two terms.