Learning from lockdown drills

Lockdown drills can pose health hazards, says Dennis Lewis, president of Edu-Safe, a safety training firm.

Lewis, who spent 17 years as the public safety director for Springfield Public Schools in Missouri, shares the following best practices:

Connect instruction to safety. Rigid, step-by-step drills don’t encourage critical thinking, discussion or variations. Educators can develop lessons that, for example, encourage students to think about wider safety issues and teamwork.

Link to main story: How schools are solving a safety dilemma

Start with a discussion. Educators should first talk through the drill with students and then practice so they feel prepared when the exercise is conducted with a stopwatch.

Create age-appropriate plans. Elementary students may not need a full drill with fake blood, loud noises and dramatic acting. But as students grow older, they should hear messages about bullying, harassment and the need to pitch in during potentially harmful situations.

Offer mental health treatment. Have psychologists and counselors ready. Law enforcement, military and hospital workers train for traumatic situations. Teachers, school staff and students, however, aren’t regularly prepared for the stress that these drills may create.

Use analogies to spur critical thinking. At 30,000 feet in the air, a pilot doesn’t own an airplane and he’s not the president of the airline, but he’s ultimately in charge of the safety of the passengers.

Similarly, Lewis reminds teachers they are the captains of their classrooms and responsible for the safety of their students. So, they must think about the best ways to “Run. Hide. Fight.”

Carolyn Crist is a writer in Athens, Georgia.

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