What’s the difference between a school lockdown and a ‘hold and secure’?

Police have laid charges against a man after remains of an infant were found on the waterfront in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Global News/File


It’s been a busy school year, as we’ve already seen multiple GTA schools implement a lockdown or a “hold and secure” in response to some sort of a threat. So what does that mean, and what’s the difference?

A hold and secure occurs when there’s a threat in the general vicinity of a school, but not on, or very close to school property. Examples might include a crime in progress, police pursuit or search in the same neighbourhood as the school.

The school’s outer doors are locked during a hold and secure but classes continue as normal inside. Students are safe are generally considered safe so long as they don’t venture outside.

A lockdown is a more extreme procedure, when a threat is near or inside a school.

During a lockdown, efforts are made to minimize access and visibility throughout the school.

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The school’s outer doors are locked and students are kept in classrooms or designated waiting areas. Lights are turned off, curtains or blinds are closed and all windows are covered to obscure visibility into classrooms.  Cellphone use is restricted and school phones are not answered.

Inner doors are locked where possible and only emergency services personnel can enter or exit the building. Staff members are designated to prevent anyone else from leaving the school.

School principals have the discretion to declare a lockdown, but usually do so on the advice of police.

Toronto-area school boards direct schools to conduct a minimum of two lockdown drills in each academic year.

One rarer form of emergency procedure is called a shelter in place. These take place in case of an extreme weather of environmental threat, like a severe storm or a noxious chemical spill. As the name implies, students and staff will remain in the school and take steps to protect from the specific threat, such as by covering windows, doors and air vents.

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