from the January, 2008 issue of Children's Ministry Magazine
Today's children are exposed to ever-increasing rates of
violence. We often associate this violence with schools, but what
about violence in the church setting? Church shootings -- including
recent incidents in Colorado -- have left over 25 dead in recent
years. Federal law requires schools to practice fire and tornado
drills several times a year to develop preparedness, while various
states require facilities with paid, licensed child care to do the
same. (Check with your state government to determine where your
facility falls under the laws.) These drills work to reduce the
disorganization, confusion, fear, panic, and potential injuries
that may occur during a live event. Some states have added an
additional required practice drill -- the lockdown drill.
A lockdown is just as it sounds -- all entrances are locked to
prevent anyone from entering or exiting the building without
permission or authorization. The intent is to isolate kids and
teachers from an active threat. The threat doesn't necessarily need
to be an armed person entering your facility with the intent to
cause harm. It could also be inadvertent, such as someone running
from the police; a vicious, loose animal; or a hazardous material
spill close to the facility.
Create a Plan
It's imperative to prepare a lockdown plan before you need it.
Use these tips to create your plan.
- Create a detailed site map. Diagram your
facility to include all rooms, exits, closets, bathrooms, doors,
and windows. A thorough map is critical; your staff, responding law
enforcement, and paramedics will use it in an emergency. Provide
updated copies annually to law enforcement, the fire department,
and your central administration office. Include a copy in each
classroom along with first aid information.
- Conduct a walk-through. Evaluate all doors and
windows to make sure they function properly and aren't easily
defeated when locked. Make sure interior doors can be locked from
the inside and without a key. It's best to have all lock cores on
the same tumbler system, allowing for one master key to open all
doors. You can still continue your regular level of restricted
access to various parts of the building with different core locks
for different doors. Provide all master keys to your local law
enforcement agency at the same time you distribute your facility
- Evaluate your communication system. Consider
installing a public address system that can be heard inside the
building, the exterior, and any outbuildings. Purchase portable
communication devices such as affordable family service radios for
mobile communication. Install landline phones in all classrooms and
offices. Equip church leaders with cell phones so they can be in
constant contact with outside authorities to give and receive
- Enlist professional help. Invite local law
enforcement to visit and evaluate your church -- they're more than
willing to provide insight and assistance with your plan and often
have a person who specializes in this area.
- Equip your building. Place laminated cards
with emergency procedures in every classroom for reference in case
a lockdown occurs. Consider stocking rooms with other useful items
such as bottled water, flashlights, and first aid kits.
- Keep updated roll lists. Maintain attendance
charts in each classroom so leaders can account for children and
Practice Your Plan
Determine whether you'll practice an external or internal
threat, then proceed according to each threat situation in the
External threats take place outside your facility or campus.
Your goal is to prevent the external threat from entering your
- Communication -- Alert occupants with a
broadcast announcement as to the nature of the threat -- use plain
English (no code words) to avoid misinterpretation or confusion.
You may consider using the fire alarm alerting everyone of an
emergency announcement. (Alternative tones must be used in
jurisdictions that prohibit sounding the fire alarm tone when
there's no actual fire.) Next, you would immediately notify local
authorities of your situation by dialing 9-1-1.
- Lockdown -- Designated personnel should
quickly lock all exterior doors and windows. Consider any kids who
may be outside the building at this time; you may choose to have an
exterior rally point for them to gather with an adult, and retreat
to a secondary location or move them into the building as safely as
possible. Teachers should take roll call of all kids and adults in
their rooms using the maintained lists in each classroom.
- Instructions -- Depending on the threat,
regular activities may be continued without interruption inside the
facility. If there's potential for real violence, teachers should
move kids into classrooms, away from doors and windows, and cover
windows to avoid detection. Ensure no one leaves the building
without authorization or until an all-clear command is given.
An internal threat exists when the cause of danger is inside
your facility or campus. Your goal is to seclude adults and
children in safe, secure areas while the threat is removed.
- Communication -- Make an announcement as you
would for an outside threat, and then immediately notify
- Lockdown -- Designated personnel should
immediately lock all exterior doors and windows and check hallways
and restrooms for kids to get to safety. Lead kids who are outside
the facility away from the building to a safe location. Seclude
leaders and kids inside classrooms, offices, or anywhere available
-- avoiding areas that can't be locked. Take roll. An armed
intruder inside your facility is likely walking the building
looking for victims. It's essential to not be seen or heard --
create obstacles between the threat and potential victims by
locking doors, covering windows, and staying out of sight.
- Instructions -- Remain in place until an
all-clear command sounds over the public address system. Don't open
doors or windows for anyone unless you can easily confirm the
person isn't a threat through identification precautions. Let
rescuers find and come to you.
- Coaching -- Train your staff on the emergency
plan and on techniques to remain calm in a crisis. Talk about
staying level-headed and the importance of keeping the children
calm in a crisis.
Eric Rogers is a retired police officer who served eight
years on the special weapons and tactical team.
This article appears in the January 2008 issue of Children's
Ministry Professional Edition. To learn more about Children's
Ministry Professional Edition or to subscribe to this essential
ministry resource, go to www.childrensministry.com/leader