The Difference Between Lockdown and Shelter in Place


Lockdown vs. Shelter in Place

Organizations need to be prepared for a wide range of emergency scenarios. A crisis can occur anywhere and at anytime. That means organizations need to have the tools and training in place to help manage these situations and minimize the risks to their people.

Part of this training includes knowing the right terminology to apply to certain scenarios. In serious situations, terms like lockdown and shelter in place may seem like they can be used interchangeably, but these two terms are actually distinct and have very specific situations where they should be applied.

In this blog post, we’ll break down the differences between a lockdown and shelter in place, and under what conditions each term should be used.

Understanding the Difference

According to the U.S. Army website, a lockdown takes place, “… in response to an active shooter.” When an organization calls for people to shelter in place, it is typically “…in response to severe weather, and also a chemical, biological or radiological contamination that may have been released into the environment.”

The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity broadens that distinction, defining a lockdown as, “…appropriate for threats posed from outside or inside the building. These threats could include a violent person attempting to enter the school, a perpetrator already inside, or nearby criminal or terrorist activity.” Shelter in place can include, “…threats posed by atmospheric contamination. These threats could include accidents or attacks involving chemical, biological or radiological hazards.”

To simplify this, calling for a lockdown should only happen when there is an attack either inside or nearby a building. Shelter in place should only be used when asking people to protect themselves from a threat due to severe weather or some kind of contaminant.

Leveraging Emergency Notification Systems

Should an organization experience a threat that calls for a lockdown or for people to shelter in place, it’s important that they have the tools that spread information quickly. An emergency notification system can help deliver messages to a variety of devices and as an array of message types. Organizations can also use these systems to pre-build message templates that use these terms and help effectively share critical safety information.

Learn more about emergency message templates

Training personnel to understand the difference between these two terms and how to use an emergency notification system can help save time and keep people safe should an incident occur. This will help minimize confusion and increase the likelihood that everyone has a clear understanding of what the situation is and what they should do. Whether it’s an active shooter in a school, severe weather approaching a manufacturing facility, or some other threat, understanding the difference between a lockdown and shelter in place helps ensure an effective emergency response.




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