School Safety

The Standard Response Protocol

A critical ingredient in the safe school recipe is the uniform  classroom response to an incident at school. Weather  events, fires, accidents, intruders and other threats to student safety are scenarios that are planned and trained for  by school and district administration and staff.
Historically, schools have taken this scenario-based approach to respond to hazards and threats. It’s not uncommon to find a stapled sheaf of papers or even a tabbed  binder in a teacher’s desk that describes a variety of things  that might happen and the specific response to each  event.

SRP is action Based

The Standard Response Protocol is based not on individual scenarios but on the response to any given scenario.  Like the Incident Command System (ICS), SRP demands  a specific vocabulary but also allows for great flexibility. The  premise is simple – there are four specific actions that can  be performed during an incident. When communicating  these actions, the action is labeled with a “Term of Art” and  is then followed by a “Directive”. Execution of the action is  performed by active participants, including students, staff,  teachers and first responders.

  1. Lockout is followed by: “Get Inside. Lock  outside doors” and is the protocol used to  safeguard students and staff within the building.
  2. Lockdown is followed by “Locks, Lights, Out of  Sight” and is the protocol used to secure  individual rooms and keep students quiet and in  place.
  3. Evacuate is always followed by a location, and  is used to move students and staff from one  location to a different location in or out of the  building.
  4. Shelter is always followed by the hazard and a  safety strategy and is the protocol for group and  self protection.
  5. Hold is always followed by “In your Classroom”  and is the protocol used to clear the hallways.

These specific actions can act as both a verb and a noun.  If the action is Lockdown, it would be announced on public  address as “Lockdown! Locks, Lights, Out of Sight.” Com-  munication to local Law Enforcement Agency would then  be “We are under Lockdown.”

Each response has specific student and staff action. The  Evacuate response is always followed by a location: “Evacuate to the Bus Zone.” Responses can also be chained.  For instance, “Evacuate to Hallway. Shelter for Tornado.  Drop, Cover and Hold.”

Standard Response Protocols - English

Standard Response Protocols - Spanish


The benefits of SRP become quickly  apparent. By standardizing the vocabulary, all stakeholders can under-  stand the response and status of the  event. For students, this provides  continuity of expectations and actions  throughout their  educational  career. For
teachers, this becomes a simpler process to
train and drill. For first responders, the common vocabulary  and protocols establish a greater predictability that persists  through the duration of an incident. Parents can easily understand the practices and can reinforce the protocol. Additionally, this protocol enables rapid response  determination when an unforeseen event occurs.
The protocol also allows for a more predictable series of  actions as an event unfolds. An intruder event may start  as a Lockdown, but as the intruder is isolated, first responders would assist as parts of the school go to an “Evacuate  to the Gym and Lockdown,” and later “Evacuate to the  Bus Zone.”

Lockout vs Lockdown

The differentiation between Lockout and Lockdown is a  critical element in SRP. A Lockout recovers all students  from outside the building, secures the building perimeter  and locks all outside doors. This would be implemented  when there is a threat or hazard outside of the building.  Criminal activity, dangerous events in the community, or  even a vicious dog on the playground would be examples  of a Lockout response. While the Lockout response en-  courages greater staff situational awareness, it allows for  educational practices to continue with little classroom interruption or distraction.

Lockdown is a classroom-based protocol that requires  locking the classroom door, turning off the lights and placing students out of sight of any corridor windows. Student  action during Lockdown is to remain quiet. It does not  mandate locking outside doors. There are several reasons  for not locking perimeter doors during a Lockdown. Risk  is increased to students or staff in exposed areas attempt-  ing to lock outside doors. Locking outside doors inhibits  entry of first responders and increases risk as responders  attempt to breach doors.

There may be situations where both Lockdown and Lockout  need to be performed, but in this case they are identified individually. “Lockout! Get Inside. Lock outside doors. Lock-  down! Locks, Lights, out of Sight.” would be announced on  public address. We are in “Lockdown and Lockout” would  be conveyed to emergency services or 911.