Lock Down Drills and Procedures in the Art Room

In light of the events this past school year, many schools are revamping their emergency procedures. I’m sure many of you have been requested to participate in some sort of lock down or emergency drill this school year. Today I’d love to share two great initiatives my school has put in place, as well as two tips for managing these drills in the art room.

School-Wide Initiatives

Throughout the process of conducting a few practice drills, our district has come up with two great protocols that I’d like to share.

1. The rope handle.

This simple device allows doors to stay locked at all times without having students or teachers locked out of rooms. How does it work? Well, the door stays locked and the rope loops around both door handles. The rope blocks the door from shutting completely. In the event of an emergency, the rope is simply slipped off and the door is shut, eliminating any scrambling for keys.

A door that is open with the rope handle.

ropehandlelocked copy

ropehandleopen copy

I love this initiative because whether it’s a sub, parent, or even a student, anyone can lock the door at any time without needing a specific key. Our wonderful custodian made these rope handles for us, but for an even simpler solution, a thick rubber band can be used in much the same way.

A door that is open with the rubber band method.

rubberbandlocked copy

A door that is locked with the rubber band method.

rubberbandopen-1 copy

2. The “Wait for Me”

Before the Newtown incident, our lock down drills always ended with our principal coming on the loudspeaker and saying “Ok, great job everyone, back to business.” Everyone would unlock his or her door and continue teaching. Our police chief brought up a great point: The scary reality is that anyone could make that announcement, or be holding a gun to our principal’s head. Yikes.

Our new protocol is that we must stay in lock down mode until our principal physically comes to unlock our doors. Does it take a little extra time? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.


Art Room Specifics for Lock Down Procedures

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, many specials teachers, myself included, had some great questions. “What would I do in my room if I had to get students to a safe place?” “How would I fit students in my storage area?” “How can I communicate the art room lock down protocol with hundreds of kids?”

Working through the practice drills this year, here is what I’ve learned.

1. In times of crisis, students will naturally look to you.

I was really worried about how the kids would know what to do if we were in the art room during a crisis. What I realized is that any time there is an (unannounced) practice drill, the students automatically snap their eyes to me for directions. In my teaching of the rules, I, of course, mention where we go for tornado drills, fire drills, and crisis drills, but only review it a few times per year.

2. Have a plan, then have a back-up plan.

In my room, the primary plan is for the students and I to shut ourselves into my storage/office space. Last school year, this area was usually pretty packed. This school year, I have been much more careful to keep at least the floor area clean so that I can fit a class of students inside if needed. If, for some reason, my storage room was inaccessible, I have a back-up plan, which includes having kids in a corner of my room away from windows and doors. When the lights are turned out, it is almost impossible to see through the small windows in my door, making this arrangement another safe alternative.


So, we’d love to know, what other great advice do you have from this past school year?

How do you handle lockdowns in your room?

Amanda Heyn

Learning Team

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • nelliemaeii

    We bought some small, round magnets. They are placed at the top of the door jam, and can easily be pulled off the frame, allowing the always-locked door to fully engage in the locking mechanism in case of an emergency.

    • Love the magnet idea. How cool!

    • Nancy

      I will try this idea out. In a middle school even though they know it is a safety measure students might mess with the ropes..

    • Amanda Novak

      We use magnets as well. works great.

  • Jacquelyn Visscher

    Our doors must be locked at all times, we can open them from the inside without unlocking the door. We also cannot come out from lock down mode until the police open our door.

    • Do you have a police officer there for your drills?

      • Jacquelyn Visscher

        Not our small drills, but we will for our big one coming up.

  • Ingrid

    Along with 100 other uses for gym floor tape (delineating line-up area, sink area for two people, etc) I used it to mark an area that is out of the line-of-sight when the door is locked. The tape is not visible from outside, and if students cross that line, they can be seen. It helped students know where they could sit, as I have no storage space my students could reliably fit into. Electrician’s tape is also removable and colorful, but the gym teachers have always given me some gym floor tape. This year I ordered a rainbow of tape just for the art room and marked tables with it too!

    • This is an awesome idea!

    • I really like this idea, the tape line is a great reminder for students and the teacher.

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  • Nancy

    We had a swat team come in and do training last fall for teachers only. We were told to do the huddle in the dark (our district policy) but the ‘intruders’ broke glass in the door, unlocked door by reaching through, then came in and shot several of the teachers in my room with rubber pellets. It was extremely frightening to say the least. On the 2nd run through we were told the ‘intruder’ would be tracked by the cameras in the hallways and loud speaker would give general location and direction. Their research says that the survivors of the shootings at Virginia Tech were in rooms where the doors were blocked or the people got out and ran (moving targets harder to hit). When we heard which hall he was in we all ran in opposite direction out the building. As part of my room plan I’ve devised heavy tables that can be moved to block the doors & have told my student in an extreme situation we will run out the door to outside and meet up at the hospital emergency room which is only a block away.. I hate this reality but want to be prepared.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for including this. We all hate that we have to think of things like this. Given the reality of our world we do. Thanks for sharing some tips and examples that will make a difference to many. Thanks also for sharing your willing attitude to have a true to life practice even if it is difficult. Professional I’m an administrator and PERSONALLY AND professionally I’m an advocate for the arts. I enjoy your site, and look forward to your posts and articles.
    Thanks for all you do ( and btw Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!)

    • Thank you, Jennifer! It’s always nice to hear from administrators who love the arts :)

  • One thing I would like addressed is the problem with being a substitute teacher. I used to be a sub prior to getting an art teaching job, and I was NEVER given a key to lock the door. Its ridiculous. In the mornings, I would pray that a kind teacher would unlock the door for me, trying to flag someone down in busy halls. My option was to leave it unlocked the WHOLE day, putting myself and the room at risk during a lock down, or setting it so it locks automatically, but if I ever had to leave the room I would have to hope I could find another teacher to unlock it. I subbed in numerous schools, and this was always an issue. If key loss is the concern, why don’t offices make the subs’s check out in the afternoons (sign the paper to prove we showed up to the BOE) and ask for the key back. No key, no money. I mentioned this to the secretaries and they would just shrug.

    • Jorena

      Our school began signing sub keys in and out this year. Subs have to come to the office at the start of each day to get their sub id etc. so they sign out a key. At the end of the day, they return to sign out, return the key and ID. Works great.

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