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In light of the events this past school year, many schools are revamping their emergency procedures. I’m sure many of you have been requested to participate in some sort of lock down or emergency drill this school year. Today I’d love to share two great initiatives my school has put in place, as well as two tips for managing these drills in the art room.
Throughout the process of conducting a few practice drills, our district has come up with two great protocols that I’d like to share.
1. The rope handle.
This simple device allows doors to stay locked at all times without having students or teachers locked out of rooms. How does it work? Well, the door stays locked and the rope loops around both door handles. The rope blocks the door from shutting completely. In the event of an emergency, the rope is simply slipped off and the door is shut, eliminating any scrambling for keys.
A door that is open with the rope handle.
I love this initiative because whether it’s a sub, parent, or even a student, anyone can lock the door at any time without needing a specific key. Our wonderful custodian made these rope handles for us, but for an even simpler solution, a thick rubber band can be used in much the same way.
A door that is open with the rubber band method.
A door that is locked with the rubber band method.
2. The “Wait for Me”
Before the Newtown incident, our lock down drills always ended with our principal coming on the loudspeaker and saying “Ok, great job everyone, back to business.” Everyone would unlock his or her door and continue teaching. Our police chief brought up a great point: The scary reality is that anyone could make that announcement, or be holding a gun to our principal’s head. Yikes.
Our new protocol is that we must stay in lock down mode until our principal physically comes to unlock our doors. Does it take a little extra time? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.
Art Room Specifics for Lock Down Procedures
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, many specials teachers, myself included, had some great questions. “What would I do in my room if I had to get students to a safe place?” “How would I fit students in my storage area?” “How can I communicate the art room lock down protocol with hundreds of kids?”
Working through the practice drills this year, here is what I’ve learned.
1. In times of crisis, students will naturally look to you.
I was really worried about how the kids would know what to do if we were in the art room during a crisis. What I realized is that any time there is an (unannounced) practice drill, the students automatically snap their eyes to me for directions. In my teaching of the rules, I, of course, mention where we go for tornado drills, fire drills, and crisis drills, but only review it a few times per year.
2. Have a plan, then have a back-up plan.
In my room, the primary plan is for the students and I to shut ourselves into my storage/office space. Last school year, this area was usually pretty packed. This school year, I have been much more careful to keep at least the floor area clean so that I can fit a class of students inside if needed. If, for some reason, my storage room was inaccessible, I have a back-up plan, which includes having kids in a corner of my room away from windows and doors. When the lights are turned out, it is almost impossible to see through the small windows in my door, making this arrangement another safe alternative.
If there was just one single piece of advice I would have, it would be this: Do unannounced school-wide drills. I know it’s inconvenient. I know it’s difficult not to know when the drills are coming, especially if you’re teaching a class with students with special needs or in the middle of a really messy project. But, if you don’t practice a lockdown in a true-to-life way, you’re not really practicing. Know what I mean?
So, we’d love to know, what other great advice do you have from this past school year?
How do you handle lockdowns in your room?