Spotlight on: Campus Safety Conference 2019


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7 Lessons Learned from the Sandy Hook School Shooting

3. Lockdowns must be implemented quickly.

While the incident demonstrates the value of the lockdown concept, it also demonstrates one more deadly instance of the failure of the application of the lockdown concept. While the lockdown procedures taken in the building protected the majority of the other occupants, most of the deaths in the school occurred in/at two classrooms where the doors did not get locked in time. With 20 of the victims being killed in/at two unlocked rooms, this incident demonstrates the need for all school personnel to be properly trained, specifically empowered and practiced in making independent decisions to implement a lockdown, evacuation or sheltering for severe weather without being instructed by anyone to do so.

The report does not offer any findings as to why the lockdown application failure occurred. There could be a variety of reasons for this. For example, one of the teachers who was murdered was a substitute. In some past incidents, substitute teachers have not been issued keys and could not secure their classroom doors. We find this to be true in many of the schools we conduct school security assessments for. In other cases, staff has not been properly prepared to find their key, move to the door and secure it fast enough.

In our school security assessment project crisis simulations, we have found that many school employees have unrealistic beliefs about how much time they will have to lock a door. For example, when we spot check teachers by asking them to show us exactly what they would do if they heard gunfire in the hallway, we see seriously delayed lockdown responses. For example, under the slight stress of a school safety expert asking them to react to this scenario, we often see that it takes the employee between 30 and 40 seconds to find their key and lock the door. In some instances, it takes the employee more than a minute to do so.

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