Be Aware of Changes to Emergency Procedures this School Year

ACPS is changing procedures and communication used during major emergencies this fall. We will begin to use the new emergency language from the first day of school to help familiarize our students and families early on in the process.

We are also planning to implement a new opt-in emergency text notification service for middle- and high-school students that is expected to roll out this fall.

Letters detailing the changes will be sent home in backpacks in the next two weeks in English, Spanish, Arabic and Amharic. But we are giving you a heads up in ACPS Express today.


ACPS will be expanding the options for action that staff and students may take during a lockdown. A lockdown is declared when a violent intruder is known to be INSIDE the building.

Previously, a lockdown required that doors be closed, the blinds pulled, lights turned off and that students sit facing a wall away from windows. The new procedures will empower staff and students to choose other options during a lockdown. These may include evacuating the building, barricading doors or distracting a violent intruder.


Emergency guidelines regarding the procedure formerly known as “lock-in” — when the risk is OUTSIDE the building — will also change slightly. Beginning this week, a “lock-in” will be called “secure the building.”

Staff members are now able to take appropriate action to keep students safe who may be around or near their building at the time an emergency is called. This may include keeping a building open for a few minutes while students who are in the immediate vicinity enter.

Both “secure the building” and “lock-in” will be used until June 2018, when the new processes have been fully integrated.

All other emergency procedures will remain the same.

Why are we making these changes?

Research into violent encounters has shown that when those at the scene are empowered to take actions appropriate to the situation, fewer lives are lost. Research shows that following a single instruction and sitting still in a dark room in the event of a violent encounter can decrease the odds of survival. In these types of incidents, police may arrive after the incident is over. These new procedures empower staff and students to take actions appropriate to each individual situation and act as they think best.

The language change is being made because the word “lock-in” is too similar to the word “lockdown” and often causes confusion. The two words mean very different things. “Lock-in,” which will now be called “secure the building,” refers to a threat outside the building. “Lockdown” refers to a threat inside the building. The Federal Government response to a threat outside the building is to secure the building. To keep things simple and ensure ACPS is in line with federal emergency guidelines, we will now use “secure the building.”

New Student Text-Alert System

ACPS will be implementing a new opt-in emergency text notification service for middle- and high-school students to be implemented in the coming months. Staff will also receive these alerts. ACPS will only send alerts to these numbers during a major emergency. The new system will enable us to alert staff and older students about the exact location of an incident so that those who are able to may evacuate to safety. This system will not be used for weather alerts or minor emergencies.

All other notification procedures that are currently in use at schools, including the PA system, will continue. Elementary students will continue to receive notifications through staff or parents in the usual way.

For more detailed information regarding these changes, please see the Frequently Asked Questions for Families: Changes to Lockdown Procedures on the ACPS website.

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