Critical Lockdown Procedures


from the January, 2008 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine
Professional Edition

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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
    essential information.
  • 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

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Determine whether you’ll practice an external or internal
threat, then proceed according to each threat situation in the
following manner.

External Threat

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.

Internal Threat

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


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