Grounds Security

What Is the Difference Between Shelter in Place and Lockdown?

It is important to determine suitable shelter-in-place locations and lockdown rooms in a facility before an incident. Knowing what characteristics make a room more conducive to shelter in place or secure in place (lockdown) helps to avoid danger during an incident.


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Shelter-in-place and secure-in-place (or lockdown) notifications are based on the pending threat to the community. Most often used in school settings, both instructions are intended to put effective barriers between the population and a threat. The difference is in the type of threat and what kinds of actions are suggested.

Shelter in Place

“Shelter in place” means to take immediate shelter where you are within a facility or structure to provide protection.

Certain situations—such as a weather emergency, environmental hazard (chemical release, air pollution), or local emergency (nearby police activity)—require sheltering in place. A multitude of hazards can require sheltering in place, but in general, shelter in place is appropriate when conditions outside are unsafe and a higher degree of protection is available inside.

When it is necessary to shelter in place, you seek cover in the nearest building. With time permitting, a shelter-in-place situation entails closing and locking all doors and windows and turning off heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.

It is recommended to find an interior room or hallway, and stay away from exterior windows. Lobbies, walkways, atriums, and other large glassed-in areas are not recommended as safe refuge. Additionally, stay away from large, open areas with a long roof span. Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, break rooms, conference rooms, and other rooms without exterior windows may work well as shelter areas.

During a shelter-in-place alert, no one is to leave the area until an “all clear” is received from authorities.

Lockdown (Secure in Place)

Lockdown is a sheltering technique used to limit exposure of occupants within a facility to an imminent hazard or threat outside. When “locking down,” building occupants shelter inside a room to prevent access from the outside intruder.

Lockdown, also known as secure in place, may be instructed during situations such as the presence of a hostile or armed intruder on a campus. A lockdown requires locking doors and windows and barricading or blocking entry to a facility, classroom, or office. The purpose of secure in place is to create a secure physical location where a threat may be physically prevented from entering spaces before and during law enforcement activity.

Like shelter in place, when it is necessary to secure in place, you should find an interior room, and lock all doors and windows. If possible, avoid locking down in rooms with glass windows or panes, as they are easily penetrable. In addition to locking, fortify entranceways with heavy items such as furniture.

In a lockdown, avoid creating indicators that the intruder may see or hear to detect people. Turn off lights, silence phones, and close blinds. Turn off other items that may cause noise, such as TVs, radios, or Web browsers.

Await further instructions, and do not leave until an “all clear” is received from authorities.