By Jason McGuire
I’m the chief with the Eatonville Police Department. In this capacity I also work with the Eatonville School District. The subject of school lockdowns is very serious because it’s all about safeguarding the lives of our kids, staff and visitors we have on campus. Our kids plan and drill for lockdown situations, and parents need to be aware of what a lockdown is and how to respond the event of a lockdown.
So what is a lockdown? A lockdown is an event involving students, staff and visitors taking actions in which they position themselves behind secured openings and isolate from threats. Lockdown scenarios may vary depending on the circumstances but here are two examples of how we prepare in the early stages of lockdown:
• Full lockdown. School occupants remain out of sight and as quiet as possible, with only limited and authorized entry, exit or movement within the building. Occupants in corridors, common areas or unsecured areas move quickly to the nearest secured location. Oftentimes when a potential outside threat is identified, we will go into a “full lockdown” until more information is gathered and we can determine with some certainty that a “modified lockdown” is more appropriate. This information typically comes from local police.
• Modified lockdown. School occupants are isolated from potential outside threats by remaining inside a building with exterior doors and other exits secured. Entry and exit from the building is limited to those who are authorized. Interior movement and other activities within the building may be allowed or restricted in accordance to the lockdown plan.
Reasons for a school lockdown may vary. One example may involve off-campus police activity that poses a potential threat to a nearby school campus. If there has been a serious crime (weapons involved, etc.) near the area of your school, there is almost always a lockdown initiated by the police.
Students involved in a lockdown are expected to keep their cell phones put away and silenced. Unnecessary texting and calling to friends and family off-site usually creates more problems for first-responders.
During a lockdown, parents and visitors already on campus will be assisted in locking down with staff and students. Arriving visitors will notice signs posted on doors advising of a lockdown with instructions to leave campus immediately. The Eatonville Police Department and Pierce County Sheriff Department expect your full cooperation by complying with these instructions.
During a police response, every second counts. Oftentimes parents hear news of a lockdown at their child’s school and respond to see what’s happening. This response moves the police focus from identifying the threat(s) and keeping our kids safe to identifying parents who are responding to the news of a lockdown. Phone messages will be sent home with updates to the school’s lockdown status. If an evacuation of the school is necessary the district has a plan for this, as well as a reunification plan to get your children back to you safely.
School lockdown is done for the safety of everyone in the school. The key to a successful lockdown is to have everyone work together. Lockdown situations are serious and deserve a responsible response by everyone involved. Thank you for taking the time to review this information with your kids.
This article was originally in the form of a letter from Jason McGuire distributed by the Eatonville School District to its schools and to the news media.