Superintendent of Schools
How We Prepare for Emergencies
Allison Brown, Superintendent of Schools
You may have heard about the lockdown that took place in the Herricks school district on Tuesday, April 26. Thankfully, everyone there was safe, as a potential threat turned out not to be serious in the end. It was reassuring to see the rapid and effective response of the Nassau County police, and the professional manner in which our Herricks colleagues followed the procedures that have become part of every school's emergency response.
Coincidentally, we conducted a lockdown drill at East Hills School earlier on the very same day. We had invited Nassau County police to take part in lockdown drills in each of our buildings this spring, and several officers were on hand on Tuesday to provide guidance and immediate feedback on our procedures. I personally observed the drill, along with the school’s safety committee of administrators, teachers, support staff and parents, as well as several of my administrative colleagues as part of our continuing district-wide emphasis on school safety. It went very smoothly, and the input from police officers will make us even better prepared in the event of an actual emergency. These exercises, which are being conducted in each of our schools, are vital learning opportunities for everyone.
Parents have an important part to play in this process, too, and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss various kinds of emergency responses and what you need to know in case of an emergency:
What is the difference between a "lockdown" and a "lockout"? In a lockdown, there is a threat inside the school. In a lockout, the threat is outside the building. While such threats may be serious, more often than not the lockdown or lockout does not involve an immediate danger to students and staff, but is implemented because of a potential threat, or the perception of one. When in doubt as to the seriousness of a threat, schools often respond out of an abundance of caution, as in the Herricks incident.
What happens in a lockdown? A school will go into lockdown when there is an actual threat, or concern about a potential threat, inside the building. The police are called immediately and take command of the building and grounds. Every interior door is locked, and everyone in the building shelters in place, out of view of anyone who may look into a room from the hallway. No one is permitted to enter or leave the building. Staff and students are instructed to remain where they are until a law enforcement officer enters the room and gives the "all clear". This can take some time, as police check every interior space to make sure it is safe. Sometimes, if there's a lockdown in one school, a nearby school may also lock down as a precaution.
What happens in a lockout? A lockout protects students and staff from a threat outside the building. No one is permitted to enter the building. Doors and windows are locked, and everyone who is already inside avoids being visible near outside windows. A lockout is sometimes called in response to an event in the vicinity, not necessarily even on school grounds. Unlike a lockdown, which will bring a rapid and large police response, the police response to a lockout will vary according to the severity and proximity of the threat. Some regular activities may continue inside the building during a lockout, but generally staff and students will shelter in place, similar to a lockdown. A lockout may involve more than one school.
How will parents be notified of a lockdown or lockout? In an actual emergency in which police and/or other first responders are called, parents will be sent a message as quickly as possible through the district's phone/text/email messaging system. Updates will be provided continually as information becomes available. Direct communication with the school may not be possible for a period of time, as staff members must take shelter and/or focus on managing the situation.
Can I pick up my child from school during a lockdown or lockout? Not until the incident is over. During a lockdown, the police will establish a perimeter around the school and no one will be allowed to enter the grounds until the campus is determined to be safe. It is imperative that the police and school staff are able to account for everyone inside the building. During a lockout, no one will be permitted to enter, and staff are trained not to open doors for anyone.
What other kinds of emergency drills do the schools practice? For the first time this year, our elementary schools held evacuation drills, in which the entire student body and staff moved to another building. These drills were very well planned and highly effective. An actual evacuation might take place in the event of a loss of heat or power, or other potentially hazardous but not necessarily life-threatening situation. Numerous fire drills are also conducted every year.
What should I do if I happen to be in school during an emergency or a drill? Follow the instructions of staff and/or the police. In a lockdown or lockout, you should shelter in place along with students and staff. If the building is evacuated, you must leave the building promptly with students and staff.
Each of our schools follows emergency procedures that are much more detailed than those outlined here. Our planning is based on local, state and federal guidelines. My goal is to help you, as parents, to gain a greater understanding of how we prepare to handle emergencies. This way, in an actual emergency situation, you will know what to expect, just as our ongoing training teaches us what to expect. As the saying goes, the way we train is the way we respond. This is why our emergency drills are so important, and why keeping you informed is such an integral part of that process.
I welcome your questions and comments.
Contact the Superintendent of Schools:
Mail: Roslyn Public Schools
Roslyn, NY 11576