A terrorist incident, a traffic accident, an intruder, air pollution, a nearby fire, or even a dangerous dog roaming around outside – just a few of the situations that could require a school or other public building to go into lockdown. With such events becoming more frequent, Malcolm Crummey, sales manager UK & Ireland at TOA Corporation UK, explains why an integrated alarm and communication system can help keep people safe.
Even though a school or working environment should always be considered a safe place, regardless of whatever is going on outside, unfortunately this is not always the case. Although major incidents or threats of violence at these types of premises are still rare, they are growing in frequency and, when they occur, it is vital to have a lockdown procedure in place.
The word lockdown used to be an ‘Americanism’ typically associated with riots in US prisons, but it is now being used globally to refer to situations where invacuation is more appropriate than evacuation as a means of keeping people safe. Reports of incidents that have led to this taking place have featured in the news and in September this year schools in Clevedon had to go into lockdown as police searched for a man with a firearm. Avon and Somerset Constabulary advised schools in the area to keep staff and pupils inside to allow officers to carry out a full search. Meanwhile, in October two Blantyre schools went on lockdown following reports of an incident where a man was seen nearby with a crossbow.
Although they would hope never to have to implement one, schools and other organisations should have a coherent strategy for lockdown procedures. Surprisingly, there is no statutory requirement to have a lockdown policy or procedure – organisations can simply choose to have one if they feel that it would help them to manage risks.
Although some general advice from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) regarding the development of lockdown procedures exists, it is advisory. This is despite calls from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) for more specific government guidance instead of expecting schools have preparedness plans in place and assuming that they are able to do this.
It might soon be the case that a mandatory strategy is required. A good example to follow would be the German DIN VDE V 0827 standard for emergency and danger response systems. Implemented in July 2016 with the aim of providing technical assistance for emergencies and dangerous situations, it outlines requirements for governing the technical systems that trigger alarms in dangerous situations. It means that the organisational concept can be supported by technology appropriate to the lockdown objective.
The use of an integrated alarm and communication system plays a key role in this regard, as it significantly accelerates both comprehension and crisis management procedures. It means announcements and instructions can be communicated directly to the persons concerned, with adequate volume and good speech intelligibility. Furthermore, emergencies can be immediately reported to a central location, the nature and extent of the danger verified, and measures to assist people taken immediately. In order to get maximum value from any investment, such a system can also be used for internal everyday communication.
Although the reasons behind the growing number of lockdowns are certainly cause for concern, by having clear and effective communication systems installed alongside well-rehearsed and understood procedures, schools and public buildings can be sure they are doing all they can to protect occupants.