General Response Protocol: Security Guards’ Role During Evacuations, Lockdowns, Shelter-In Place and Hold Situations
By Mike Miller MS, CPP, General Manager, JC Protection LLC | September 25, 2023
School should be a place for learning and parents should be able to feel that their children are safe every day in school.
However, the reality is that the current threat environment is such that schools have become targets and parents have had reason to become increasingly concerned in recent years. Preparing for an active-shooter incident has become an absolute necessity.
JC Protection Security Guards are trained on the “General Response Protocol,” as many NYC Charter School clients opt to utilize the NYC Department of Education’s GRP (or slight variation of) as a tool for emergency readiness.
The GRP is the New York City Department of Education’s set of guidelines and procedures established to ensure the safety and well-being of all occupants in a School. The primary purpose of the Protocol is to provide a structured approach for Schools to deal with incidents, emergencies, and threats.
During the time of emergency, there’s no time to think and it often becomes more difficult to think clearly and make best decisions. Rapid action is necessary, and this is when training kicks in. The GRP directs School Administration to first call 911 and then make a decision whether to lock the school down, to shelter in-place, or to evacuate building occupants.
Different types of lockdowns in schools
A Soft Lockdown requires most building occupants to stay in place but there is no imminent danger. Security Guards report to designated area(s) for further instruction.
In a Hard Lockdown, it is deemed that there is imminent danger and that necessitates all building occupants, including Guards, to take appropriate lockdown actions. These actions consist of the now well-known run/hide/fight protocol often discussed in conjunction with active shooter emergency preparedness.
In any kind of lockdown, guards are trained to guide students and teachers to lock classroom doors and turn off the lights, to move out of sight and keep silent until the lockdown is lifted or until first responders open the door.
Evacuations occur often when the fire alarm is triggered but can also occur upon announcement over the School’s Public Address system by school administration. Evacuations pose a unique set of challenges for security guards. It’s a situation where many occupants in a building must exit rapidly, they have to exit at the same time, and they have to stay calm.
JC Protection Security Guards are trained ahead of time to pay extra attention to PA announcements, to tell occupants to leave their belongings behind, to form single-file lines, to guide them to evacuation location(s), and to look out for and report any injuries or other issues immediately to School administrators.
A directive to Shelter-in is often due to a possible or emerging threat situation outside of the building. Guards in these situations know to make sure that all exit doors are secure, to remain inside the building, and alert all occupants to stay inside until the shelter-in has been lifted.
Lastly, an announcement over the PA system directing occupants to Hold is used when there is a need to keep everyone in place and minimize movement inside the building until the “all-clear” is announced.
Security Guards perform a security sweep of the building, and anyone found in the hallway, bathroom, stairwells, lobby are taken to a designated waiting area until the all-clear announcement is made. In addition, anyone entering the building is also advised of the hold condition and any students entering the building are escorted to a designated waiting area with proper supervision.
During an incident there is often confusion, fear, anxiety, shock, etc. and students and teachers are under stress.
Trained Security Guards make the difference in those situations because they already know the steps they need to take. Have peace of mind knowing that the security team, such as that at JC Protection, LLC, knows what to do ahead of time and trains to take action in these exact moments.