By: Shelley Mackey, Charles County Public Schools

La Plata, MD- Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) has revised how it responds to certain incidents in schools, making it clearer what students and teachers should do during an emergency.

Called a standard response, CCPS will use five actions developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation and adopted by the school system this year. Action items are a lockout, lockdown, evacuate, shelter and hold. The protocols extend the actions principals can take when an incident occurs in or near a school.

During a “lockout,” teachers and students stay inside and lock all outside doors. A principal might place a school in lockout if there is a threat or hazard — such as a police search — outside of the school building. For students, this means if they are outside, they return to the inside of a building and instruction continues as usual. No one is allowed in or out of the building during a lockout.  

“Lockdown” means doors are locked, lights are out and students and staff are out of sight in a locked room. A principal would lock down a school if there is a threat or hazard inside the school building. Examples could include an angry person who runs past the office staff or a wild animal that gets into a building. During a lockdown, students and staff will stay out of sight and silent until police or other emergency responders clear the school of the threat.

“Evacuate” means moving students and staff from one place to another. Relocation could be to another area in the school or a predetermined outside site. Schools might evacuate if there is a fire, flooding or similar emergency that creates a potential hazard.

If there is a tornado warning, hazmat or other threat to personal protection, the school will ask students and teachers to “shelter.” The shelter requires students to evacuate to a shelter area and seal the rooms. Students practice for different shelter events, including earthquakes, as part of their annual drills.

Sometimes it is necessary to clear a school hallway or outside area. In this instance, a principal might place the school on “hold,” meaning students stay in their classrooms, but business continues as usual. A principal can “hold” if a medical helicopter is landing on the school site due to a nearby accident or someone in the school needs medical attention and privacy while emergency services render aid.

Standard protocol posters are on display in classrooms for easy reference. Jason Stoddard, director of school safety and security, said the new terminology provides more accurate descriptions of the procedures CCPS uses to keep schools and buildings safe while reducing confusion. Stoddard is presenting staff training on the new protocol at all schools, centers, and offices.

State and county rules require schools to conduct 27 drills throughout the year including fire, reverse evacuation, lockdown, lockout, and shelter.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...