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School Emergencies & Security Concerns

Instructor: Kristilynn Turney

Kristilynn has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management. She has taught high school English, Public Speaking and Theater; served as instructional coach; consultant, assistant principal, principal, asst. director and college professor.

School emergencies happen. Some emergencies happen because there are existing security concerns; others just happen. The response to emergencies makes a difference in the outcome. Continue reading to learn about school emergencies and strategies to ensure safety.

Armed Intruder

It's 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, and it's business as usual at the local high school. The student population of 1,700 is in class; the hallways are clear. Teachers are teaching, secretaries are making daily attendance calls, and the administrators are attending to their emails in their offices. Suddenly, breaking the silence, what sounds like fireworks are heard on the second floor. There are quick, short screams, and the initial thought is that someone has dropped something and the screams are from a startled group of students and staff. What once was a quick, sharp, firework sound is now repeated, and quickly everyone realizes there is an armed intruder in the building.

Unfortunately, this scenario has become more and more common. There are not enough crisis drills to prepare for something so devastating. In this lesson, we will discuss common school emergencies, such as an armed intruder, and safety concerns. Additionally, strategies will be provided for ensuring the safety of students and personnel and for addressing emergencies and security concerns. These strategies are designed to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a school emergency.

Common Emergencies

The most common school emergencies and security concerns are:

  • Armed intruder
  • Fire
  • Natural disaster
  • Bomb threat

Explanation of Common Emergencies

Armed intruder. Previous school shootings have demonstrated that armed intruders can be students, relatives of staff, or random people off the street. They can act alone or with a partner or small group. Despite who they are and who they bring with them, their goal is to kill as many people as they can in a short period of time. Oftentimes, the massacre ends in a self-inflicted gunshot wound from the shooter. Several security concerns, such as unlocked doors or lack of police presence, can give an armed intruder an easy opportunity to carry out his crime.

Fire. Mass school fires are very rare these days; however, smaller kitchen or lab fires happen frequently in schools. In the state of Ohio, all schools are required to practice fire drills at least six times a year. The practice focuses on getting the students out of the building as quickly as possible. This is also known as ''rapid release.''

Natural disaster. Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes are another common school emergency. In September 2017, an earthquake in Mexico City killed 25 students who were in the school building. Natural disasters can happen quickly with little notice.

Bomb threats. Another school emergency is bomb threats. The threat of a bomb being in the building can be challenging. If there is a bomb in the building, should you evacuate? But what if the threat is actually outside or there's no threat at all and people are playing a prank to get out of class? Unfortunately, a bomb threat can disrupt the school environment, and there is little evidence to prove whether there is a bomb in the building without evacuating and conducting a thorough search.

A student holds up a sign to show his class is accounted for during a fire drill at school.
a student holds up a sign to show his class is accounted for

Safety Strategies

The strategies to ensure the safety of students and personnel for the emergencies listed are prevent, prepare, respond and recover.

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