Best Practices: What To Do With Students & Staff Outside of a School in Lockdown

Many schools practice locking down when they know everyone is in the building. Most schools will even avoid calling a lockdown drill when students are moving between classes. 

On the morning of November 13th, 2014 the Share911 training team was onsite at the Valleyview Elementary School in Denville, NJ for a lockdown drill. The training scenario called for a teacher supervising more than 100 students, who were outside of the building for lunch recess, to see a threat approach the students, in this case, a man running towards the students yelling.

The teacher used her personal mobile device to issue a lockdown drill alert via Share911.com, which immediately alerted the other staff members on the exterior of the building, all of the staff members on the inside of the building, administrators in all district buildings, and the Denville Police Department.

The teachers then began yelling at the students "lockdown, lockdown, lockdown" and did not specify that it was a drill.

This video shows how the students responded. The students at this school have been trained to get to the bus depot across the street if they should be on the exterior of the school. As you can see, that's exactly what they did. 

The plan doesn't end there. Once at the depot, the students are placed on buses and online accountability reports are done via Share911. If it were a real emergency, the buses would have been driven away to remove the students from the scene.

When a threat emerges on the exterior of your building and staff or students are outside, your school has to have a plan to deal with it and quickly. Our hats are off to this school for having a plan and practicing it.

New Jersey Senate Bill 2091

On Governor Chris Christie's desk in Trenton is an important bill intended to improve emergency response to New Jersey public elementary and secondary schools. Senate Bill 2091 requires that each building shall be equipped with at least one panic alarm for use in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation, the alarm shall not be audible within the school building and each building shall be equipped with an emergency light that is linked to the school's panic alarm and which turns on when the panic alarm is activated.

As a volunteer First Responder in my hometown of Ramsey for over 25 years, I know that the every second counts when an emergency is happening in our schools. Schools in Ramsey, as in most communities, are the highest occupancy buildings we have, often with thousands of employees and students on the scene. The faster police and firefighters can be alerted that an emergency is occurring, the faster they can get there. The FBI recently reported that the median response time for law enforcement to an active shooter event is three minutes. For people inside the building, those three minutes will seem like three hours. 

Once on the scene, police and firefighters have to find the threat, rescue the trapped and treat the injured as fast as possible. Unfortunately Senate Bill 2091 doesn't seem to help with that critical component of emergency response to our schools. A single panic button may alert First Responders that something is happening at the school, but it does little to show them where they need to go when they get there.

In February of 2013, we took a vastly different approach to improving emergency response to schools, by creating Share911.com, a social network just for emergencies. It enables every school administrator and employee to use their smart phone, tablet or computer to directly alert police and firefighters, but instead of just one "panic button" every employee has one on their phone. And Share911.com enables every employee to share their exact location in the building and what is happening where they are, identifying where the threat was last seen, where people are in need of rescue and where injured persons are located. This information is displayed in real-time for First Responders and for everyone in the building, to enable them to see what is happening around them.

We urge Governor Chris Christie to sign this bill into law because one panic button is better than no panic buttons, but we encourage New Jersey schools to explore more robust solutions such as Share911.com to give First Responders the tools they need to do their job.

Reality Check(-in)

I have been a volunteer First Responder in my hometown of Ramsey, New Jersey since 1985. I ride with the Ramsey Rescue Squad, which performs what are known as “heavy rescue” services, including extricating people from cars, rescuing people trapped by debris or a fire and virtually any situation involving the need to be rescued.

Last night, I participated in a training scenario during which we practiced searching an empty house during a simulated fire. Once we arrived on the scene, my crew donned our turnout gear, put on our self-contained breathing apparatus, grabbed tools that might be helpful for forcing open doors and in our free hand, carried a very large flashlight. Our assignment: search the basement of this small two story wood-frame house for victims.

To simulate smoke conditions, the face masks of the breathing apparatus were covered in wax paper, which does a very good job of simulating a moderate smoke condition.

We arrived at the front door of the structure and were told that our job was to find and search the basement. And since we were simulating fire conditions, that search is performed on your hands and knees, while carrying the aforementioned equipment, keeping track of your team, remembering which way you came in (so you know how to get out) and, of course, figuring out how to get to the basement in a place you have never been before. As this house was empty, the path from the front door to the basement stairs was fairly clear. In reality, we would make our way through furniture and debris, not to mention the smoke and flames.

Each of us backed our way down the small wooden staircase on our hands and knees into the darkness of the basement, which was divided into several small rooms and spaces. Each team member searched in either direction, following the wall while reaching out with their opposite arm and tool to feel for victims. My job was to stay at the foot of the basement staircase to guide the team back and be ready to assist them. In a real fire situation, conditions can change in an instant and being in the basement means you likely have one means of egress, the staircase you came down. You might also actually find a victim, who you will have to carry or drag up the stairs and back out the front door.

As I watched my crew search, I thought about why were were searching in the first place — we’re looking for victims who need to be rescued, people who were likely conscious when the fire started, became trapped and then overcome by the heat or smoke. Everyday, firefighters and rescue teams arrive at emergencies with the need to search for people in need rescue, but it’s a terribly inefficient process.

As the CEO of a technology company that has built a solution (share911.com) that is dramatically improving this process, I am grateful that I am not just a “start-up founder” but a practitioner who can spend his Thursday night in his turnout gear, carrying tools and searching the basement, to experience the exact problem we set out to solve.

How do we solve it? Simple. We connect the people inside the building with the first responders who show up to rescue them. Share911 is an emergency social network that enables the people who are trapped to use their mobile device to check-in and share their exact location inside the building with the firefighters and rescue personnel who can now see exactly where they need to go, instead of searching blind, reducing the time it will take to get to them while reducing unnecessary risk for the first responders.

If You See Something, Share911 Something

Today, we are proud to introduce a new feature of Share911.com school safety solution which is called "Report". This new feature empowers all of the people in your schools ecosystem, employees, students and even parents, to react by reporting suspicious activity, persons or vehicles or observe hazardous conditions. 

For example, an employee or student arriving at school and observing a suspicious person in the parking lot can easily report that to the school Emergency Response Team, right from their mobile device.

photo (36).PNG

Each member of the School Emergency Response Team (ERT) is alerted electronically via text and email that an incident report has been created and can indicate if they are responding to the incident.

Text alert to lock screen

Text alert to lock screen

Text alert detail with link

Text alert detail with link

The members of the school Emergency Response Team can then determine the course of action which should be followed. If they believe the person is a threat, they can immediately issue a lockdown alert via Share911 to separate as many people as they can from the threat, while simultaneously notifying their local law enforcement personnel via Share911.

The Report feature is part of our Enterprise package. Our existing customers will see it appear on their networks in the next week or so, all new customers will have Report enabled from day one.

How Does This Make Sense?

In most schools, when a lockdown is called due to an active-shooter, teachers and employees are trained to:

  1. Lock their door
  2. Turn off the lights
  3. Get out of the line of sight of the door or windows
  4. Remain quiet
  5. Silence anything that can make noise.

Most active-shooter protocols contain the same advice: implement lockdown procedures, minimize the target profile, and wait for the police to neutralize the threat. Teachers, students and other occupants of the building should hide quietly, lock or barricade doors and turn off lights that make attract the shooter's attention.

But in some schools, there is an additional step that teachers and employees are trained to perform and that is to affix one of these color-coded pieces of paper to the window or slide it under the door.

  1. Use the red card if everything is not okay or help is needed.
  2. Use the green card if everything is okay.


Affixing these cards to classroom and office doors seems to contradict all of the other lockdown techniques which are designed to minimize the target profile. If a shooter can't see if anyone is in the room and the door is locked, perhaps they will not take the time necessary to force entry to find a target.

But if the shooter sees a red or green card, they know one thing: people are in that room because somebody put that card on the window.

We are told that the intention of these cards is to let First Responders quickly access the situation in each room as they search the building, but until the threat is located and neutralized, First Responders aren't going to concern themselves with these cards, they have a single mission and that is to find the shooter.

Teachers and school employees tell us that they share our concern with the red card/green card technique. Teachers believe that placing these cards in windows contradicts the purpose of the lockdown and that they reveal that the room being made to appear unoccupied is actually occupied.

The Share911 Emergency Information System embraces the concept and intention of these cards - that sharing information with First Responders is indeed helpful, but we want it done privately, without revealing information to the threat.

Using Share911, teachers and employees can share real-time information directly with First Responders, right from their own mobile device or a computer (as long as it is out of the line of sight), not just letting First Responders know if everything is "okay" or "not okay" but actually showing them the last known location of the threat, reducing the time it will take for police to find and neutralize it.

What Will You Do With Your Three Minutes?

In a major step forward for emergency preparedness and school safety, NJASA & The SHARE911Network have partnered to bring a school safety tool to schools!  

NJASA Executive Director Dr. Richard Bozza said, "The SHARE911 Network function is extremely beneficial and certainly prepares New Jersey’s learning environments for the unexpected. The ability for teachers and others to use smart phones, computers and iPad tablets to transmit their locations and statuses immediately to school, local and police officials is extremely valuable for all New Jersey residents.”

In The Path: It's Tornado Season for Schools

The Share911 Emergency Information System cannot prevent your school from being in the path of a tornado, but it can provide the ability for school employees and students to be alerted to the threat as quickly as possible and to communicate directives such as an evacuation order or shelter-in-place order.

Share911 also enables every employee to report their exact location in the building, their status, headcount and report if they are missing anyone, in seconds, right from their own mobile device. This information can provide First Responders with valuable information that can be essential to the search and rescue operation after the storm as passed.

Once the storm has passed, Share911 can facilitate the reunification of your students and their parents as quickly and efficiently as possible