Friday, December 14, 2012


I don't think school children in the UK practice 'lockdowns' the way they do over here. Just like we practice evacuating the building in case of a fire, we practice what we would do in case some loony with a gun came into the building. Of course, in the case of a real fire things are never so organized as they are when we drill. And I always imagined that in the case of a loony with a gun, things wouldn't go so smoothly either.

Every time we do a practice lockdown at school I wonder how useful what we're doing might actually be. We have to close the blinds, get the kids to huddle in a corner and pretend no one is in the room. We are to ignore anyone knocking on the door and not to answer the phone in case it's someone trying to find out if there are actually people in the room - as if they couldn't tell! I wonder how we would even know to go into lockdown if the first place the loony with the gun goes is to the office where the public address system is and kills the people who could make that announcement. We do have a backup system of making phone calls to individual classrooms, but I wonder if it would be fast enough.

The events in Newtown, Connecticut, today reminded me that lockdown practice isn't just about making the disaster preparedness committee feel like they've done something. It's not about trying to completely prevent a tragedy because, honestly, there's no way we can do that - it's about minimizing it. I have no doubt that the person in the office who managed to call a lockdown today saved lives. I heard kids describing hiding in closets, huddling in the corner of a room and waiting while they heard gunshots until the police arrived to tell them to evacuate. They did exactly what they had practiced, except this time it was real :-(

I can't even begin to imagine how the children and staff go back to school after a tragedy like this. Despite all the loss it is clear that there were some very brave people there, both adults and children, who helped save lives. I'm not sure if this is a genuine quotation from Mr Rogers, but I like it anyway:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers
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