NEW Overview of Emergency Drills for Parents/Guardians

Available in PDF format in English | Spanish

Why do schools do drills?

When an emergency happens in a school, we want students and staff to be prepared by having practiced what to do before an incident occurs.  

Schools in Colorado practice drills routinely to create muscle memory NOT because there is a known threat to the community.


What are the procedures for different types of drills?

Most Colorado schools use the guidelines of the I Love You Guys Foundation. These include:
Evacuation:  Leaving the classroom to go to a safer location. A fire drill is an example of an evacuation drill.
Shelter-in-Place: Students are instructed to move to a safe place within the building.  This procedure may be necessary during a weather emergency like a tornado. 
Lockout/Secure: If there is a hazard or threat outside of the building, students and staff would be instructed to stay inside but continue their educational activities as usual.  This may occur if there is possible criminal activity in the neighboring community.  
Lockdown:  This is called when there is a possible threat within the building. Staff bring students inside the classroom and lock the door. Students are trained to go to a safe space in their classroom and remain quiet until first responders give the “all clear.” 
Hold All Classes: Students are trained to remain in their classrooms while staff and/or first responders attend to an emergency that will not impact the students in their classrooms.  This might be used if an ambulance is called for staff or student illness.  



How can schools prevent or lessen trauma for students when conducting drills?

The Office of School Safety and the National Association of School Psychologists recommend that drills be announced in advance with developmentally appropriate explanations for students. Staff and parents should communicate about any special circumstances that would require a student to have additional support doing or after a drill.  Some studies suggest that students are more prepared for emergencies when their school conducts drills.


How can parents/guardians help?

When you are notified that a drill has occurred:

  • Ask your child if they would like to talk about it and let their comments guide you. Some children would prefer not to talk about it, which is okay, too. Some children may simply want to spend some together with you in a shared activity with few words. 
  • If they share that they felt okay about the drill, reinforce that the purpose of the drill is to keep them safe by knowing what to do. 
  • If they share that they felt scared, sad, or nervous, acknowledge the feeling while directing the student towards ways they can lessen those negative feelings.
  • Some things that may help them feel safer might include knowing their teacher is there with them and knowing they have practiced responding in a way that will keep them safe.
  • You may also share a time when you felt scared and what helped you get through it.  
  • Maintain routines. Following your typical home routines helps everyone feel calm and safe. 
  • Most children will feel better with the passage of time and returning to their familiar activities.

Remember, our children take their cues from us.  If we talk about drills as a routine way to practice safety, they will feel better about them too.


Best Practice Considerations for Armed Assailant Drills In Schools

  • This document provides guidance on factors schools must take into account when conducting armed assailant drills. It reflects unique considerations within the school environment, including protecting both physical and psychological safety. It does not constitute an endorsement of a particular approach to training nor a specific training program.

Possible Trauma with School Safety Drills

Teens Feel Less Safe, Not More, After Lockdown Drills, Study Finds

  • Teens who undergo school shooting training and lockdown drills feel more prepared - and less safe in school - says a new study published in the Journal of School Violence. The focus was on students' perceptions before and after going through the safety training. (Retrieved from: CPR Broadcast | Jan. 2020)

Conducting Crisis Exercises and Drills: Guidelines for Schools

  • While high profile crisis events and instances of violent crimes at school are extremely rare (e.g. the odds of a student being the victim of a school-associated homicide are about 1 in 2.5 million), it is essential that all schools be prepared to respond to emergency situations as part of their school safety and crisis planning and preparation. Members of the National Association of School Psychologists' PREPaRE Workgroup offer the following guidelines to help schools understand what might be.

Creating School Active Shooter/Intruder Drills - National Child Traumatic Stress Network

  • Keeping our school campuses safe from active shooters or intruders is one component of a school emergency plan. Part of being prepared is planning safety drills. The type of drills or exercises your school conducts should map on to your school emergency operations plan. This factsheet provides guidance on steps to consider when performing an active shooter/ intruder drill.

Articles on Possible Trauma With School Safety Drills

  • According to the Connecticut Public Radio, Lockdown drills have become increasingly common in schools across the United States. Though drills differ from school to school, they usually require students to crouch in a corner of their darkened classroom, away from the door, and stay quiet until the teacher says it is okay to start talking again. Students start practicing these drills as early as pre-school, before they can truly understand what threat they are hiding from. The following are articles about possible trauma with school safety drills.
What if someone was shooting?

What if someone was shooting?

  • More than 4 million children endured lockdowns last school year, a groundbreaking Washington Post analysis found. The experience left many traumatized. The Washington Post shared a story "What if someone was shooting" by Steven Rich and John Woodrow Cox. (Retrieved from: The Washington Post | Steven Rich & John Woodrow Cox - Dec. 2018)
Are Lockdown Drills Trauma Informed?

Are Lockdown Drills Trauma Informed?

  • Lockdown drills are our reality. The lights off, huddle and hide routine is now commonplace. However, integrating three Move Mindfully strategies into your lockdown drill will mitigate some of the potentially negative lasting impacts. (Retrieved from: ACES Connection | Stephanie Kennelly - March 2018)
School Lockdowns Could Have Psychological Effects on Children

School Lockdowns Could Have Psychological Effects on Children

  • With each school shooting tragedy, schools have an exceptional reason to increase security measures to protect its students. But, are there ramifications to these measures?
  • According to an analysis from the Washington Post, lockdowns can cause grave psychological damage for children. The Post reviewed20,000 news stories and data from 31 school districts in the country's largest cities and found that more than 4.1 million students experienced at least one school lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year. It also found that more than 25,300 students experienced gunfire incidents on campus last school year. (Retrieve from: Campus Safety | Katie Malafronte - Dec. 2018)
How Are Lockdown Drills Affecting American Kids

How Are Lockdown Drills Affecting American Kids?

  • Lockdown drills have become increasingly common in schools across the United States. Though drills differ from school to school, they usually require students to crouch in a corner of their darkened classroom, away from the door, and stay quiet until the teacher says it is okay to start talking again. Students start practicing these drills as early as pre-school, before they can truly understand what threat they are hiding from. (Source: Connecticut Public Radio | Adhiti Bandlamudi - Feb. 2019)

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center - U.S. Department of Education

  • The REMS TA center provides these downloadable specialized training packages which feature self-paced emergency management training materials to support high-quality emergency management across a range of special topics. School emergency managers may use these materials to train their colleagues or to brush up on their own knowledge regarding special topics in school emergency management. Each package includes training instructions, a Powerpoint presentation, and supplemental resources. Tabletop exercises are also included with some packages.

Trauma-Informed Drills Resources (PDF) 

  • This document contains a list of Trauma-Informed Drills Resources compiled by the Center.


 All Resource Index          |        Scroll-to-Top

Web Link Disclaimer: The Colorado School Safety Resource Center (CSSRC) provides links from this site to external websites because of their potential interest or usefulness to the safe and positive school environment, an education community or the general public. It attempts to monitor such sites on a regular basis. However, the CSSRC cannot be responsible for the content of any site external to its own. Further, by linking to other sites, the CSSRC is not endorsing any particular product, practice, service, provider or institution, nor does it necessarily endorse views expressed or facts presented on these sites. In addition, neither the CSSRC nor any of its employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information linked to from this site.