As part of the Ofsted inspection, schools will be asked if they have a Lockdown Policy – this can be a simple document with guidelines – they have not had to have an actual Lockdown system in place. However, we have recently learned that Ofsted now advocate a dedicated lockdown alarm to be in place, distinctive to the sound of the fire alarm. This is in line with advice from NACTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) which states that the ‘use of fire alarms should be avoided to reduce incorrect response to an incident’.
Whilst Ofsted inspectors are primarily concerned with the performance of the school with regards to learning, they will refer to site security and will want the school to demonstrate that they are at the least meeting basic criteria to protect pupils, staff and the premises. Their latest framework document points to ‘the effectiveness of health and safety policies and procedures, including conducting necessary risk assessments as well as regular checks on equipment and premises and the effectiveness of arrangements to provide a safe environment and secure school site.’ A poor showing with regards to the safety of pupils in the case of emergency will impact an Ofsted inspection negatively, therefore schools are looking to implement a lockdown system in accordance with their policy.
It is vital that the school carry out a regular fire and security risk assessment of the premises and review it regularly. Staff should be made aware of potential risks and subsequent mitigating measures that have been put in place and know the differences between a fire alert (meaning evacuation) and a lockdown alert (meaning stay on the premises and make your way to your classroom or nearest place of safety). Regular training and testing of the equipment should be carried out.
The ALERTEX Lockdown system comprises battery operated units which can be quickly installed on the school site over a weekend or even at the end of the school day, thus minimising disruption to the learning environment. Battery life is around three years. A maximum of 64 units can be installed per site, up to 1km apart. When one ALERTEX unit is activated it will trigger all units in range to sound an audible alert or lockdown message, accompanied by a flashing beacon light.
Most lockdown policies will take into account that pupils and staff both inside and outside their classroom at the time of activation require clear instruction. The ALERTEX call points and sounder / beacons are available as both internal and external (weatherproof) variants. Cages are also available for external units which may be prone to balls etc. hitting them, causing a false alarm. Decibel levels can be adjusted so that external units can be louder than internal units.
ALERTEX units can sound a variety of alerts to differentiate them from a fire alarm – there are 32 sounds to choose from. Alternatively an annunciator variant can be ordered which has a built in strobe. There is a standard lockdown message which you can hear via our You Tube channel, or the school may wish to record their own message. In some cases, the school may wish to play a music clip which pupils recognise as danger and must make their way to their nearest classroom.
The PC app also allows one central location, normally the school office, to monitor and control activated units. From here the user can re-set the system after activation, although the original depressed call point will have to be manually re-set. A silent test can be made via the PC app or a short or longer test if needed. We would advise that the system is tested weekly in line with fire alarm procedures.
The Lockdown system may be activated in response to any number of situations, a major fire in the vicinity of the school will not be as grave as an intruder spotted on the school premises with a potential weapon. This is where the ALERTEX PC app email function can be utilised to it’s fullest. The app allows for 3 email addresses to be notified in the event of activation. The school can attach an email group, for example email addresses of the teaching staff, to further clarify the severity of the event. A lesser event may, for example, entail pupils being allowed free movement within the school but not outside. The school lockdown policy should be able to demonstrate an understanding of a proportionate response to these different situations and the unique ALERTEX PC app allows for that.
It is vital that whatever the school’s lockdown policy is, that it is communicated to all members of staff.