Western Europe Joins America on Lockdown Drills

Claire Killian

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In American schools, active shooter drills are second nature. When the alarm goes off, and voices come over the loud speaker, announcing the presence of a hypothetical shooter, everyone falls right into line, be it high school students, or the youngest of elementary school kids. It’s become such a casual occurrence, that we all take the opportunity to play games on our phones, or maybe chat. Generally we take it as a nice break from class. Anyone who has spoken to someone not from the United States, or any foreign student who now attends school here, knows the look of shock on their faces at the mention of a lockdown drill. For many people, the idea that children rehearse hiding from armed assailants is a dystopian nightmare. As outlandish as these drills are, a similar type is becoming increasingly common in Europe.

Terrorist drills are the sister to American active shooter drills, and are becoming a mainstay in European schools. France and the U.K., two countries hit the hardest by terror attacks in Europe, have begun to implement programs similar to American lockdown drills. Given the frightening reality of their country, teachers unions have advocated, and installed, emergency plans in their schools.

The U.K. in particular has dealt with a string of terror incidents over the past five years. Whether it was a car ramming into people, or the infamous Manchester bombing, Britain has unfortunately borne the brunt of terrorist actions in Europe. These attacks are largely led by ISIS or other Islamic extremist groups, and because many of the attackers are immigrants, a strong xenophobic sentiment has taken the country, prompting Brexit. While politics grind on, many London schools have taken it into their own hands to protect their students from a previously unthinkable reality.  While these drills are typically much less frequent than their American equivalent, usually one per semester, they are a strange, new experience for a country that really hasn’t dealt with this kind of repeated, deadly violence before.

France has also endured its own series of terror attacks. In 2016 they issued a new order, one that would prepare school students in the event that a terrorist were to enter their school. The comprehensive French approach is different from the American style in that it adapts based on age group, and take a more multifaceted approach. Thrice a year, each school will conduct an active terrorist drill, and for one of those a mock assailant will actually enter the building. Children ages 2-6 are taught to be silent and hide through a series of games and activities. Older children, ages 13-14, are taught life-saving measures and first aid, so that in the case of an emergency they can provide some immediate assistance. The government allocated €50m (£42.5m) to French schools to encourage them to buy, install, and improve security cameras and entryways.

All three nations took different approaches, in America lockdown procedures are regulated on a local level, usually by state or lower governments, whereas in France it was the national government which came forward with a plan, and in the U.K. it’s largely school by school. We don’t think of either France or the U.K. as violent countries, but they are becoming so as global terrorist threats continue to harm their people. While both countries have taken anti-terrorist measures, which have contributed in part to a violent anti-immigrant culture, there are still attacks, like recently at London Bridge. Some may argue that in America it’s different, the attacks are not inspired by distant extremist groups, but rather by loose gun laws, successful predecessors, and the current political climate. Regardless of the differences in perpetrator and cause, that does not change the fact that both types of terrorism, domestic or foreign, result in death and trauma.

Unfortunately, it is a defining feature of our current age to train kids on how to avoid being killed in their schools. Regardless of the politics surrounding immigration, gun reform, or legal punishment, it should be unanimously agreeable that children should be allowed to get an education without fearing for their lives. However, we would, of course, rather be safe than sorry, and that is why these government have taken such measures.