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The Lockdown

The Lockdown

This is just going to be a bad day, on lock down day. Anytime, in any location or job, you have to lock yourself in to a place with the stark reality of your life being extinguished by someone is a bad day. But you have to deal with it, you have to deal with the fact it might not only be you, but a room full of students or colleagues from kindergarten to college. What do you do?

There are several things we need to think about. We need to think about ourselves and our abilities and what we can do, physically and mentally, to stay alive. What can ‘I’ do to live to see the sunset one more time?

Here is something we don’t often hear. There is no requirement we save anyone. Shock huh? Even the police are not ‘required’ to lay their life on the line for you or for me. But they do. We cannot ask our teachers or staff to do the same. But we do and we would. That is who we are, but we need to know what we can do, then practice it and rehearse it. We don’t want to try to figure it out when our pulse is at 180 beats a minute and we can’t come up with our own name.

A lock down means there is someone, a student, a former employee, a current employee, someone who has no connection to the school, on campus and in the process of killing people and here is the fun part—your next. What are you going to do? In this topic, you will be asked questions that you have probably never been asked before and they can apply as a thread throughout some of the other topics as well.

First thing we do is stop teaching or working and secure yourself in your room. Once you lock your door, no one gets in unless they have a key or force their way in. Students in the restroom are on their own. Train them to stay there, crawl up on the toilet, lock the stall door if they can and get real quiet.

If you have students, you secure them against a wall, low on the floor, away as best you can from ‘sight lines.’ Those are lines a shooter might be able to see in to your room and see if anyone is there. If you have curtains, close them, turn out the lights, computers, and ‘get small and get quiet.’ Under NO circumstances do you put a colored card out under the door to indicate your status used years ago and unfortunately still used in some locations— Green means ‘all good’ and Red means ‘we have a problem.’ There will be no one there to see it or do anything about it, except the shooter. They will see the card from a room they thought was empty—you got small and quiet, remember? And now they have people they can attack.

The whole goal is to disappear.

With our changing communities, you might have students from other countries who know this is a bad thing because they lived it. They truly could be suffering from some form of post-traumatic shock, PTSD, and begin to panic. If they see calm in you, that will help. It will be help for everyone. Your insides will be screaming, but your demeanor will calm the room. All of a sudden, you are the person they look to for assurance. If you can’t find it in you, fake it. There is no other way. You need to buy time, about fifteen to twenty minutes, until the cavalry—the police, get there. Your day, your life, comes down to that window of time.

No cell phones and no texting. If you have yours, have it with you. DON’T call the office and ask ‘Hey, is this real? I got a lab going here and I —.” We need to practice and unfortunately, it’s during your lab or meeting. In Arizona, for example, it is possible to have a lockdown as a quick response to some weather event. In your area, it might mean getting under a desk or some kind of barricades an administrator will come on the PA and clarify. For this writing, however, it means someone wants to do us harm.

No one except those that need to know, should realize which event is practice and what isn’t, so, for a teacher or staff member, they are ALL real. We will play like we practice and if we do it well, that sunset view might just happen.

Have a plan for your students’ personal needs. Is there a way you can set up a toilet facility, have snacks for those who might be diabetic or have sugar needs, toilet paper, and NO WATER or drinks. Is there some place you can have as a facility set up—remembering to ‘be small and be quiet? A lock down could take a while, but if you have a shelter in place or some step down security level, it should be shorter, but start to think about where you can set up things, but only if you don’t make noise or expose you and your students to an outside threat.

What does your business location have as far as a plan? Is there one printed you can have with some of these steps listed? Is there a list in an emergency folder you can leave for your substitute? Your trash can becomes a toilet. This is especially true if you are locked down for hours, a key reason for a shelter in place condition. Do we have a secondary escape route in case we need to leave? In Columbine, students were throwing themselves out of second story windows to escape. Can you do that? What are you to do? Like I said, it’s a bad day.

You can ask how many people have died in a school related fire in the last twenty or thirty years and the answer might surprise you, none.

What about weather or a shooter? The numbers go way up to well over a hundred killed and thousands injured from school related violence every year.

From the years of 2007- 2012, four events alone had 84 people killed—in just four events.

The lockdown is your Alamo. You need to hold on for a while, alone. Help is coming but since the shooting at Columbine High School in April, 1999, police have changed their tactics and instead of coming to rescue you, they are going to the threat. They can’t get to you without first making the shooter or attacker stop the attack.

You have to survive until they do.


Mark Williams retired from law enforcement in Arizona with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Organized Crime Division, after over twenty-one years of service and has been teaching English in an inner city high school since 2001. He has frequently traveled around the United States to speak about adult education and law enforcement training. Mark was an ALEETA national instructor, an instructor at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy as a defense tactics instructor, as well as a certifying instructor for his own department.

When Mark made the transition to his second retirement job, he was quickly sought out by school and district administrators as they put together formal protocols for employees with regards to school violence and evacuation. Since his school employment, he has been the crisis coordinator for his campus.

Along with teaching, Mark has written five novels since 2007.  Keeping with his belief that a good book and comfortable bed equal the perfect end to any day, Mark has authored several fictional pieces, including screenplays, short stories, magazine stories, and novels. His fifth novel, Labrelotte Bay was published last year.   He has been married for over thirty-seven years, has three grown children, and eight grandchildren. He currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

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