Emergency language in schools

What does it mean?

EAST UTICA, N.Y. - On Monday, Conkling School in East Utica was one of the Utica City Schools under a lock out. But if a parent hear's the term "lock out" do they know what that means?

"I think it is so important that if we're using different protocols in schools that parents know what the protocols are, so we'll let them know what's happening in their schools and also to ease their mind as to what level threat assessment the school district may have made," said Howard Mettelman, district superintendent for Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES.

Three years ago OHM BOCES implemented the "SHELL" method, which stands for shelter in place, hold in place, evacuate, lockout and lockdown. While each could be used in emergencies, they all have different responses.

"We use a shelter in place, we may use it to have students stay in a certain area if there might have been any kind of a reason to keep them undercover," said Mettelman.

The next response would be a hold in place, which keeps students and staff inside classrooms and away from the hallways. The "E" in SHELL, evacuation, would be used to get everyone out of the building. This step is practiced during every fire drill.

"And then we have the two L's. The first one is lock out. Lock out is used when we want to limit anyone coming into the building. We still want to maintain classes, we still want to maintain high levels of supervision," Mettelman explained. "And then the highest level of emergency response is lock down. In that case we may be concerned someone is trying to forcibly enter a building, or there may be a situation where we need to keep students and staff in the most protected area possible."

In order to ensure safety, students previously went through 12 fire drill practices. But now Mettelman said they're also taking other safety precautions.

"With a change in the regulation now, we are required to practice only 8 fire drills but 4 lock down drills," he said.

Mettelman said they'll continue working closely with law enforcement, and making sure schools are always prepared in case of an emergency. 

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