Up until recently, schools weren’t required by Ofsted to have an official lockdown system installed. A simple document with guidelines was considered just fine for a Lockdown Policy.
However, now, Ofsted require schools to have a specific lockdown alarm that is not the same sound as a fire alarm! Why – you may ask? This is because of the NACTSO which advises against the use of fire alarms to “reduce incorrect response to an incident”.
You’re correct in thinking aren’t Ofsted concerned for a school’s performance and learning? Yes, but they will refer to site security and will expect schools to demonstrate the measures in place for protecting pupils, staff and the school itself.
In the case of an emergency, poor acknowledgement of pupil safety will be detrimental to an Ofsted inspection. Therefore, which lockdown system best suits a school’s needs, and whether it’s inline with their policy, is vital information.
There is little guidance from councils and governments when it comes to choosing a lockdown system, and the NASUWT did recently call on the government to provide schools with nationally recognised lockdown procedures.
Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary said: “responsibility for ensuring security and terrorism preparedness should be the responsibility of the whole governing body. It would not be appropriate for the government simply to require schools to have preparedness plans in place and assume that they are able to do this.”
There are a number of incidents that may instigate a lockdown: postcode wars, an armed intruder, an escalating argument between parents, rogue animals or nearby fires with noxious fumes. So, how does a school alert everyone in a safe manner to find a safe place within the school and stay put?
IP Speakers produce audio announceemnts but no visual alert. These speakers do require wiring, which takes time and money to install. The advantage, of course, is once installed, the system can be used for any alert (wet play, class room changes). So this option really does depend on the school’s budget.
For smaller sites using only one sound as an alert, it is possible to use fire alarms for lockdowns. However, in schools, using the fire alarm for lockdown prompts confusion: do we evacuate, or do we stay put?
Are live voice-based systems the answer? Again, there are pitfalls such as language barriers. And as most lockdowns are prevalent in inner cities, this can be a real problem. A lockdown message with a built-in alert on loop can work. Especially if the school has regular lockdown drills. However, these tannoy announcements rarely cover outside areas such as playing fields due to cabling. Therefore, schools with several outbuildings may not be able to use this option.
Schools will have policies about mobile phones during learning times. Therefore, unless the school looks to providing all staff with a hand held device purely for lockdowns or emergencies, relying on personal phones is a no-go.
The NEXUS system offers battery powered units and is deployable anywhere.
NEXUS offers audible and visual alerts. The alerts are distinguishable from fire alerts, and NEXUS can be quickly installed on site over a weekend or even at the end of the school day. Resulting in minimal disruption to the learning environment.
With a three year battery life, a maximum of 64 units can be installed per site, up to 1km apart. What’s more, when one NEXUS unit activates, it triggers all units in range to sound an audible alert or lockdown message, and a flashing beacon light.
Internal and external variants are available with adjustable decibel levels. There are 32 sounds to choose from, or an annunciator variant can be ordered which has a built-in strobe. Choose the standard lockdown message, or the school may wish to record their own.
The NEXUS PC app also allows one central location (usually the school office) to monitor and control the activated units. From here, the user can reset the system after activation. The PC app also has an email function which advises a specific email group of the severity of the lockdown event.
It is vital schools conduct and review fire and security risk assessments regularly. Staff should be aware of potential risks and the difference between a fire alert (evacuation) and a lockdown alert (stay on the premises and make your way to the nearest place of safety).
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