How ACPS Communicates in an Emergency

The start of the school year is a good time to review emergency communications to:

  • remind you of how important it is that we have current and accurate contact information for you
  • ensure you know how we communicate in emergency events and weather situations
  • remind you of the terminology used in emergency situations
  • request that you not call or text your child during an emergency

Can ACPS Reach You in an Emergency?

One of the most important things you can do to ensure that ACPS can reach you in an emergency situation or weather event is to return the Student Information Update Form from your Welcome Packet to your school as soon as possible.

When you do, please make sure it includes, at minimum, a current and accurate cell phone number (if you have one) and an email address where you would like to receive messages from ACPS, usually during the school day. Our ability to contact you is only as good as the information available to us. Without this information, we may not be able to reach you.

You can also update your child’s information online. See instructions at

Make Sure That You Are Set Up to Receive Alerts

Emergency notifications and weather alerts are first posted on the ACPS website. If they pertain to a specific school, an alert is posted on that individual school’s website – sometimes both the school site and the ACPS website.

Depending on the nature and timeliness of the situation, we may also send an email, text message and/or robocall.

Notifications may also be made on or through:

Terminology Used in an Emergency Situation

Last fall we introduced and began implementing new threat responses and language to be used in the event of a threat within a school building or when there is a threat outside.

Lockdown – When a threat is detected INSIDE a building

A lockdown is declared when a violent intruder is known to be inside a building. ACPS has recently expanded the options for action that staff and students may take during a lockdown. The new procedures will empower staff and students to choose other options during a lockdown. These may include evacuating the building, barricading a door or distracting a violent intruder. Previously, a lockdown required doors to be closed, the blinds pulled, lights turned off and students to sit facing a wall away from a window.

Secure the Building  – When a threat is detected OUTSIDE a building

Emergency guidelines regarding the procedure formerly known as “lock-in” — when the risk is outside the building — have also changed slightly. The new procedure is now referred to as “secure the building.” Staff members at the location of an incident are now able to take appropriate action to keep students safe who may be around or near their building when an emergency is called. This may include keeping a building open for a few minutes while students and staff who are in the immediate area enter. The same procedures apply as before regarding leaving a building once it has been secured: once inside a building, those inside may not leave the building until security has deemed it safe to do so.

All other emergency procedures will remain the same.

New Violent Intruder Drills

This school year all students will complete training in new drills related to violent intruder incidents. Families will receive a letters each time a new drill has been taught. There will also be parent sessions at each school where you can have questions about the new procedures answered in person.

Please review the frequently asked questions about these new emergency procedures and weather alerts and emergency notifications.

Please Do Not Call or Text Your Child During an Emergency

In the event of an emergency, we ask that you not call or text your child. The first priority for staff is to address the threat and ensure that all students are safe. Phone calls can distract from this priority and may potentially alert an intruder to the location of a student. The ACPS Office of Communications will communicate with families as soon as possible. Staff, students and parents can sign up for ACPS alerts via the City of Alexandria eNews, as indicated at

Thank you for helping to keep our schools and students as safe as possible.

ACPS, Announcements, Safety and Security