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Do You Know What to Do When Your School Locks Down?

Last Thursday, three Prince William County schools moved to lockdown mode for five hours while police searched for a suspect believed to have been involved in a fatal shooting.

According to a news release, Prince William school officials sent autodialer messages to parents and encouraged them to check the county school Web site and various television stations for information on the dismissal of students. Still, making sure parents know when their school is in lockdown and what to do isn't easy:

"The lockdowns led to a chaotic scene last night as parents arrived to pick up their children at Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Woodbridge, where the students were bused after the lockdown. Dozens of parents stood in front of the school, with their cars illegally parked and on the grass. Some were frustrated and said the school system failed to notify them about the possible emergency," wrote The Washington Post.

In Montgomery County, one of the Washington area's two largest school districts, lockdown mode is called Code Red. The county's school Web site says parents will be notified by an automated telephone message, e-mail alerts, the county's television station and its Web site. And it guides parents to get information from the county's call center, and local radio and television news stations.

The other of the area's large school districts, Fairfax County, has lockdown mode, which goes under different names depending on the situation. Parents are notified via e-mail. Emergencies are announced on the county's Web site, its television station and its phone hot line, along with area radio and television stations.

It's a good idea to know your school's emergency procedures and make sure you are signed up for telephone announcements, or e-mail from your school using an account you check regularly. And, every year, you should make sure the school has your current contact information for emergencies.

Do you feel prepared should your child's school go into lockdown mode? Do you know what types of situations would result in your children being locked inside? Do you have similar emergency situations set up for your household?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  September 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers , Policy
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Comments


I sure don't know what to do. I'm going to find out today, though.

I remember my high school had a bomb threat when I was in 11th grade. They closed off the section of the school where the caller had said the bomb was and stuck the kids who couldn't attend classes in the gym for a couple of hours. I don't think it even made the news. Times change.

A few years ago, there was a sudden ice storm in Wake County and there were a number (in the hundreds, maybe) of children across the county who ended up spending the night in schools with their teachers/principals. We have discussed that scenario with our kindergartener, just in case.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 22, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

My daughter's school is located quite near an urban area (not that you would know it while on campus). Last year a man attempted to rob an auto dealership up the road from our back gate. To evade the police, he ran on our campus a half hour before carpool (which is why the gate was open). Campus immediately locked down and all students were accounted for while the security patrol captured the man and turned him over to police. The event happened so quickly (over within minutes) that the school didn't have time to contact parents until after the fact.
As a small school we rely heavily on phone trees. When the school closed early two years ago due to loss of heat in the winter, the school contacted all room parents who, in turn, called all parents to pick up their kids. We also received blast emails with the same information.

Posted by: 21117 | September 22, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

What did the DC area schools do on 9/11?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

hmmm. I really doubt that the schools want parents to rush to pick up their kids during a lockdown. I don't get why you need to "know what to do" here. You do what you are asked to do by the schools. And I doubt you need to "prepare" your kids either.

Or I suppose we could blow things entirely out of proportion as usual as we seek more ways to completely shelter our precious children.

Posted by: jj | September 22, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

Or I suppose we could blow things entirely out of proportion as usual as we seek more ways to completely shelter our precious children.

Posted by: jj | September 22, 2008 8:15 AM

LOL!!!

Posted by: Ha, ha | September 22, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Or I suppose we could blow things entirely out of proportion as usual as we seek more ways to completely shelter our precious children.

Posted by: jj | September 22, 2008 8:15 AM


I don't see this as sheltering children. I see it as parents being informed so they don't add to the mess if something happens.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 22, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I don't get why you need to "know what to do" here. You do what you are asked to do by the schools.
Posted by: jj | September 22, 2008 8:15 AM

Um, if you know what the schools ask you to do, then you "know what to do." If you don't "know what to do," then you can't "do what you are asked to do" since you don't even know what that might be. See?

Posted by: Specious | September 22, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

When the school locks down, I do the same thing that Whacky does...

Posted by: Chill out with a 6 pack | September 22, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

On 9/11, at least Montgomery County schools did nothing for a while (classes as usual) and then changed their minds around lunchtime (possibly due to the flood of phone calls -- I worked in the guidance office and got a fair number of them) and then they let us go 2 hours early. Schools were closed 9/12/01.

Posted by: For the person who asked. | September 22, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Hahaha! 8:44.

Around here in NOVA, a few snowflakes will send the entire area into a panick. The shelves on the grocery store will quickly empty of dairy products for fear that the milk trucks won't be able to deliver because of the snow.

Funny how the beer trucks never have a problem with that!

Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Well, I would assume that lockdown means that the building is "locked down." So while I might not known the precise nature of the emergency, I can figure out that the building is locked in order to keep someone out. Therefore there may be someone in the vicinity who presents a potential danger not just to the students, but also to anyone who may be outside in the area. My kids really need a mom who is alive, so I should stay away until I have been notified that it is safe to be there.

In addition, if the school begins unlocking the doors to let people in, that opens a chance for the potentially dangerous person to enter the building. It is impossible to let people in or out and maintain the security of the building. I don't want to endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the students and staff, so I should stay away.

And while I share a desire to know what is going on, I am an adult and theoretically know how to delay gratification of that desire for the greater good of keeping people safe. Presumably even if parents are notified, some will not have heard the news and will unknowingly attempt to come to the school for regular pickup--so there would have to be some sort of blockade or notice warning parents as they come. That seems the only real problem to me--parents who come unknowingly. Anyone who knows there is a lockdown and comes anyway might not have their thinking cap on.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"So while I might not known the precise nature of the emergency, I can figure out that the building is locked in order to keep someone out."

You had a 50/50 shot at backing up your 'tude with logic and blew it. The building is locked in order to keep someone in, not in order to keep someone out. Duh.

Posted by: Carlucci | September 22, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

"Do you have similar emergency situations set up for your household?"

Why would my home ever be in lockdown? We have a fire and exit plan, but there's no practical connection here between a large facility emergency lockdown plan and the sort of plans people need to address emergency situations at their residences.

Posted by: HUH? | September 22, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

On 9/11, I went to the elementary school to pick up my boys in late morning. There was a line of about 50 parents doing the same thing. You put your child's name on a list and then someone went a got your child from the classroom. Nice, calm approach to what could have been mayhem.

The only thing that bugged me was the PTA mom who was walking up and down the line of parents telling us how to talk to our kids about what had happened.

Posted by: jen | September 22, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

No - the Giant DUH goes to you! Anytime there is a real or perceived threat in the vicinity (gunman seen, robbery, etc) schools go into lockdown mode to KEEP THE BAD GUY OUT in addition to keeping students and staff inside.

Posted by: to Carlucci | September 22, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The only thing that bugged me was the PTA mom who was walking up and down the line of parents telling us how to talk to our kids about what had happened.

Posted by: jen | September 22, 2008 9:31 AM

LOL!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Lock this down! | September 22, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"The only thing that bugged me was the PTA mom who was walking up and down the line of parents telling us how to talk to our kids about what had happened.

Posted by: jen | September 22, 2008 9:31 AM"

Better than our kids' middle school principal, whose reaction was to make an announcement over the PA system that "we are experiencing a national emergency" and then provide no further details.

The kids' reaction was mostly "huh?" The teachers' reaction was "whoops, looks like somebody just launched the nukes. Time to put your head between your legs and kiss you @ss goodbye!"

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Hm, since when did locking a door keep someone on the inside from going out? A lockdown keeps the students safe by making sure no potentially dangerous person comes in. Sometimes teachers are told "no outdoor recess," as in the sniper situation, or other situation in which someone has deemed that it might not be safe for kids to be outside. This is not a lockdown situation, in which no one is allowed in or out. The lockdown is used because every time a door is opened, the chance exists for the bad guy to get in. This is used when the potential for danger appears to be immediate, acute, and of a time limited duration (i.e., not the sniper situation).

Duh to you.

Posted by: to Carlucci | September 22, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I guess I would start by checking the website. But I found with the last heavy rain storm, the emails and website were only updated after every thing was all over. Like Wacky said, " rain causes all kinds of panic around here."

Posted by: foamgnome | September 22, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

This is a hilarious topic.

If my kid's school is locked down, they will let us know by phone and email. Why would I go then? It's in LOCK DOWN. They will let us know when the situation is taken care of, and we can get our child then.

As far as our house, I go into borderline lock down when the power goes out. People seem to think that means there are no longer any rules. I just don't want to get in some ugly car accident because my neighbor has been infected with the loss-of-power bug and wants to pass all the traffic via the wrong lane and make a tire-squealing right from the left line. I obviously don't want to be crossing the road on foot at that time either.

Our family does have a real disaster plan, though. We live in DC, so it's a smart thing to think through.

Hi, trolls! Sorry if I bored you with the on-topic post!

Posted by: atb | September 22, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Hi ATB. Sorry for prying, but how is your slightly rounded tummy coming along?

Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

oHi ATB. Sorry for prying, but how is your slightly rounded tummy coming along?

Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 10:47 AM

What does this have to do with today's topic?

Posted by: Eeew | September 22, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"What does this have to do with today's topic?"

Absolutely nothing! Why do you ask?

Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"What does this have to do with today's topic?"

Absolutely nothing! Why do you ask?


Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 11:06 AM


It's stomach turning.....

Posted by: Eeew | September 22, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

ba dump bump, crash. We have a 2 drink minimum for all joinging today.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

What does this have to do with today's topic?

Posted by: Eeew | September 22, 2008 10:53 AM

It has more to do with it than a discussion of Palin breastfeeding.

Posted by: to Eeew | September 22, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

What does this have to do with today's topic?

Posted by: Eeew | September 22, 2008 10:53 AM

It has more to do with it than a discussion of Palin breastfeeding.

Posted by: to Eeew | September 22, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

What does this have to do with today's topic?

Posted by: Eeew | September 22, 2008 10:53 AM

It has more to do with it than a discussion of Palin breastfeeding.

Posted by: to Eeew | September 22, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

first, shut up ewww and mind your own business. Unless your name is ATB, then feel free to post away.

Second, what do you expect from a bored PTA mom? They have nothing better to do, then tell you, the working mom what to do with your children. They are really pathetic.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Um, if you know what the schools ask you to do, then you "know what to do." If you don't "know what to do," then you can't "do what you are asked to do" since you don't even know what that might be. See?

Posted by: Specious | September 22, 2008 8:32 AM

LOL

Posted by: specious being facetious | September 22, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

first, shut up ewww and mind your own business. Unless your name is ATB, then feel free to post away.

Second, what do you expect from a bored PTA mom? They have nothing better to do, then tell you, the working mom what to do with your children. They are really pathetic.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

first, shut up ewww and mind your own business. Unless your name is ATB, then feel free to post away.

Second, what do you expect from a bored PTA mom? They have nothing better to do, then tell you, the working mom what to do with your children. They are really pathetic.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 12:01 PM

Pot meet kettle. Big time! LOL!

Posted by: MYOB | September 22, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Ah, shucks, Weasel. I'm flattered you asked. My belly is now round enough that people ask about it without worrying that they may be offending an unpregnant person. The fetus inside is kicking away and healthy and of intentionally unknown gender.

Bring on the trolls! Weeeeeeee.

Posted by: atb | September 22, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Time to put your head between your legs and kiss you @ss goodbye!"


Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 9:52 AM

I want to know, is anyone this flexible? I insist such a practice is a physical impossibility!

Posted by: anonymoose | September 22, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Ah, shucks, Weasel. I'm flattered you asked. My belly is now round enough that people ask about it without worrying that they may be offending an unpregnant person. The fetus inside is kicking away and healthy and of intentionally unknown gender.

Bring on the trolls! Weeeeeeee.

Posted by: atb | September 22, 2008 12:14 PM


Paging Rosemary Woodhouse!!!!

Posted by: Yuck!!!! | September 22, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks a lot, Whacky!!!

Posted by: Sheesh | September 22, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Now playing on a WaPo.com chat:

"South of the Beltway: It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly rude bloggers are, especially on blogs at the Washington Post. Two major examples -- 'On Balance' and 'On Parenting.' It scares me to think what horrible children are being produced by those posters. "

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/09/19/DI2008091902516.html

Posted by: LOL!!!! | September 22, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Sheesh, I couldn't help myself. Pregnant girls are just so gosh darn cute, not to mention that they get wackier the more pregnant they become.

And face it, most people, especially the older moms, love to watch a skinny chick as she gets fat, or "more well-rounded" for the PC term.

Posted by: Whacky Weasel | September 22, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I do not know exactly what to do when my kid's school locks down. But I do know what happens when I get home. See Writing Frontier's recent piece "Child's Play" at http://writingfrontier.com/2008/09/08/childs-play/

Posted by: Writing Frontier | September 22, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I thought the purpose of a lock down was to keep them inside and safe. It defeats the purpose if parents go to pick them up, getting into cars and being outside. DUH! Suppose a sniper is on a roof? Hitting kids getting into cars --- like shooting ducks in a barrel! So there, all you Einsteins out there.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Living in earthquake country, we don't worry about lock-downs so much.

If the "big one" hits while the boys are at school, they'll be there (with their earthquake supplies) for as much as 24 hours, because DH will be at home on the opposite side of the Hayward fault, and it will take a bit of time and effort to *walk* to each school and walk them home again.

The standard school preparations out here - besides the earthquake kit with non-perishable food and water - is contact info for an in-area friend or relative besides the parent(s) in case the parent(s) can't be reached and the kid needs to be picked up, and an out-of-state contact number in case local phone systems are down, so family can let each other know that everyone is okay (or not!).

Our in-area contact is younger son's best friend's parents. We're their in-area contact for their kids, too. Our out-of-state contact is SIL. She lives in up-state NY.

Posted by: Sue | September 22, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

DOes anyone know who's raising Sarah Palin's kids since she and the first dude are always on the road? The WP article today says that he says Bristol was "low maintenance." Hmmmmm

I really do want to know who's with the kids. ANd I'm an ardent feminist.

Posted by: curious | September 22, 2008 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Curious: Probably the same person who watches them during Sarah's normal work day. You don't think she's without some kind of domestic/housekeeper help, do you?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 23, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

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