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Security Lockdown Procedures in Schools

Schools and colleges are important institutions for providing education and developing pupils’ social skills, but they should also be places where parents feel confident that their children are safe and secure.

Schools have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of staff and pupils whilst on the premises. The Department for Education (DfE) has a list of the policies and documents that schools are legally required to hold. These encompass the social, criminal and on-line risks children face including evacuation procedures, but procedures or policies covering emergency situations that may require the school to go into lockdown are not included. Lockdown is necessary when children and staff need to be securely locked within buildings for their own safety.

Following the publication of guidelines for lockdown issued by the NASUWT in 2018, the DfE launched a consultation seeking views from head teachers, teachers, school staff and governing boards aimed at creating a comprehensive national plan for school lockdown procedures. However, the arrival of Covid in late 2019 not only changed government priorities but gave the term ‘lockdown’ a completely different connotation.

What is a lockdown situation?

The purpose of a lockdown is to prevent a threat outside the school from causing harm to pupils and staff inside the school. If the danger is inside the school (such as a fire), it evacuates. If the danger is outside the school, it goes into lockdown.

External threats include:

  • An intruder seen (or reported to be) within the school grounds.
  • An abusive or violent parent/carer is causing trouble within the school grounds.
  • A malicious threat has been made against the school.
  • An incident occurring close to the school has the potential to cause harm to pupils, staff and visitors (such as the presence of armed Police responding to criminal activity)
  • The close proximity of a dangerous dog or animal
  • Noxious fumes from a nearby fire or chemical incident.

Lockdown Protocol

Every school is unique from the point of location, layout, accessibility and security, so it is important to establish protocols that are appropriate and practical. Procedures should be robust, proportionate to the risk and regularly tested – at least once a year. It is important to allocate specific people (teachers, managers, caretakers) to key roles to ensure relevant activities are carried out effectively.

Lockdown Protocol

A two-tier protocol may be appropriate to meet different threats. For example, for a relatively minor incident such as air pollutant from a nearby fire or chemical release, simple invacuation procedures may be appropriate. In most cases, pupils will be able to stay in their classroom during an invacuation, and the school day can continue as normal, just with everyone staying indoors.

However, in more serious cases such as a potentially dangerous intruder on site or attempting to gain access, a full lockdown may be required. In that event, everyone on the premises – staff, pupils and visitors – should be moved away from the potential danger to a place where they are safe and can’t be seen from outside the building. This may be within classrooms or a designated area.

It’s also important to communicate with parents/guardians so they are aware of the protocol and their part in lockdown procedures.

Lockdown Action Plan

There are a number of key principles to consider when creating a lockdown plan.

Risk assessment

All vulnerable entry points should be identified and protected by suitable locks. Secure lockdown areas need to be pre-identified areas where staff, pupils and authorised visitors can move away from potential danger and be unseen from outside the building. Ideally, a lockdown area should have a separate means of escape, no windows or doors directly to the outside and a lockable door.


It is critical that as soon as a situation arises, a clear, unique signal is broadcast throughout the site informing everyone that a lockdown has been activated. This can be a verbal or pre-recorded announcement or a unique sound or melody but must be clearly distinguishable from an evacuation alert or a fire alarm.

Communication lines between key personnel via two-way radios or mobile phones should be established to permit co-ordination and overview of the situation. In the event of serious intruder events, links to emergency services should be established.


Where pupils are outside at the time of activation, establish procedures for bringing them into the school buildings quickly. As soon as pupils are within the building, all external doors and vulnerable windows should be locked. Students should also turn mobile devices to silent.

It is also important to institute a process of accountability to ensure that all students, staff and visitors are fully accounted for.

Lockdown drills

The practice of emergency procedures using drills and training can reduce confusion, panic, and even serious injury for both staff and students. Ideally test drills should be undertaken at least annually and should be as realistic as possible. To reduce stress or anxiety, especially for younger children, it can be carried out in a very low key, fun way. For instance, children can all hide under the tables, blinds drawn, doors closed and staying very quiet while the headteacher sneaks around the corridors trying to spot them. This gets students familiar with the process but minimises stress.

Some schools prefer to use the term ‘sheltering in place’ when addressing security lockdown situations and this may be a more suitable term. However, the potential for such reactions is reduced by ensuring that everybody is fully aware of rationales and procedures beforehand.

When the threat has been removed, an ‘all clear’ announcement should be broadcast so normal service can be resumed.

 Harmonys Flash Outdoor
Harmonys Multizone Microphone

Bodet has many years’ experience helping schools establish and implement lockdown procedures. A number of schools have installed an integrated public address, class change and emergency alarm system such as Bodet’s Harmonys. This stores a range of different tones, melodies, pre-recorded voice messages and can be supplied with a microphone for live announcements. Not only can it announce routine class changes, lunch or end of school, but in the event of an emergency situation arising, distinct alarms or messages for evacuation or lockdown can be broadcast immediately across the whole site. Emergency alerts can be triggered from a central control box or remotely using wireless control boxes, PC terminals or smartphones.

In addition to standard internal and external sounders, Harmonys can be supplied with Trio multi-functional sounders. These incorporate visual reinforcement with a flashing light to draw attention to the alert and a 50 character scrolling message displaying the specific message.

Broadcasting clear and distinct emergency alerts ensure staff and pupils immediately understand the situation and know exactly what they should do to maximise their safety.

Contact our friendly team to receive your quote and ensure safety for all of your staff and pupils.


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