Govt issues SOPs on how to deal with terror attack on schools

Govt issues SOPs on how to deal with terror attack on schools

A set of comprehensive guidelines on how to deal with any situation arising out of a terrorist attack has been sent to schools across the country in the wake of the Taliban massacre of 148 people, mostly children, in Peshawar.

The Standard Operating Procedures relate to preventive steps, drills for children, teachers and security staff in case of a bid for kidnapping, random firing, armed intrusion for hostage taking and explosives attacks, besides others.

Principals have been requested to read carefully the SOPs, prepared by the Home Ministry and circulated by the Central Board of Secondary Education, and bring it to the notice of all staff and teachers of the schools and develop a comprehensive action plan to implement the guidelines, official sources said.

"Each school should have concrete boundary wall, with three to four gates and each gate should be manned by at least three guards on a 24-hour basis. Details of telephone number of the Police Control Room and local police station should be maintained and updated regularly by the school authorities," the SOPs said.

There should be proper illumination along the perimeter so that nobody can jump over the wall into the school in the night for any nefarious activity. Concertina wire may be fixed on the iron grills above the boundary wall to deter any one from jumping over the wall.

In the SOPs, the schools have been advised to install CCTV systems all along the boundary as well as some additional locations inside the premises, to monitor the movement of any suspicious person, with recording facilities for the last three days, at least.

Schools are advised that if the location of a terrorist is known and there is safe passage available from the other classrooms to any of the gates, the children under the leadership of the respective teachers in a single file without making any noise should be taken out, the SOPs read.

Children may not be asked to gather in any open ground as they can become easy targets. In case of any doubt, there should be no movement and teacher and school authority should wait for the police to arrive, contain the situation, surround the terrorist and provide a secured passage for the children to move out from their respective places to outside the school, it said.

In case of random firing on the road near the school, there should be two guards at the main gate at the time of arrival or departure of children. Guard at the main gate should quickly take in all the children and close the gate.

Another guard should direct the buses and vehicles from which the children have not yet alighted to move on quickly and get out of the area. Guards at main gate will inform the police and also the nodal security officer of the school.

Alarm bells should be rung and intermediate gates be closed to prevent any children from coming outside.

If suspected explosive object is found in the vicinity of school or inside the premises, school staff, teacher and students should be regularly briefed not to touch any
unattended object lying anywhere inside or outside the school.

In case any such object is found, the person who finds it should immediately bring it to the notice of the nodal security officer of the school.

The drill to be taken if there is any attempt for forcible entry when the school is already functional include immediate closure of all the gates on the perimeter wall after the arrival of children.

The guard should open the door only for bona fide reasons. Once the gates are locked, the probability of forcible intrusion considerably reduces, as even the intruder understands that in case he tries to enter forcibly, the school authorities can call the police and they may be intercepted even before they can achieve their objectives.
The CCTV system alarm may also be connected to the identified gates to close them automatically.

In case armed terrorists manage to enter the school and hold teachers/students/others hostage, inform the police immediately, initially all children and teachers should stay back in their respective rooms and those in veranda, etc. rush to the nearest room, and not to indulge in any rash act in panic like running out towards door to escape, etc., it said.

They should close the doors from inside and lie low in the classroom to escape random firing, the SOPs said.

However, in case somebody tries to forcibly enter the school premises by forcing open the gate under threat of life to the guard or crash open the gate by driving the vehicle into the gate or jump over the wall, the following action should be taken:

Guard at the main gate should inform police and the nodal security officer immediately, in case the guards on other gates notice the intrusion or any one being threatened by intruders to open the gate, they should also immediately press the alarm bell. A code can
be defined for ringing the bell in such a situation to convey the type of threat.

If there is an attempt for kidnapping of children, random firing with intention of mass killing of children inside the school and it is presumed that the terrorists having done their act have managed to escape, in such a case inform the police again giving description of terrorists, their number, along with details of escape vehicle, if noted.

It is very likely that the news of such an incident will breakout very fast and parents in panic would rush to the school. In order to ensure that parents do not rush to school and create obstructions in the subsequent operations by the police forces, they need to be informed to come to a pre-identified central place as close to the school as possible for the briefing as well as for handing over of rescued children.

This can be achieved if the school can have a system of having the mobile numbers of all the parents of the children in a centralised database. An SMS can be drafted explaining the situation giving the necessary facts, place of their assembly for briefing, etc. and the message sent to all.

For this purpose, the local police should identify the place of assembly, in advance and provide a list, locality wise to all schools and also to the district headquarters and state headquarters.

A set of general suggestions were also given:

School gates be kept closed immediately after the arrival of children till the dispersal of children begins to prevent any easy intrusion.

The telephone numbers of nearest hospital(s), police stations and assistance desks should be displayed prominently in the school. Guards should be identified for each gate and there should be a list put up to specify who has keys to which gate. All gates should be covered by guards.

A centralised alarm system and also a PA system, through which classes can be addressed collectively as well as individually and selected combination should be installed. All the bus drivers to be briefed to respond quickly and drive away their buses with children if they see any commotion/ attack at the gate and directed by security guards to do so.

A security check can be carried out in school by the staff to check if any object is lying unclaimed at various points such as in the classroom, at any gate, in the field and so on. The antecedents of all the new staff members being employed in the school should be verified properly.

All labourers working in the school should be issued a temporary photo I-Card and they can be generally checked by security guards to prevent anyone of them from bringing anything (like bomb/IED) to be implanted in the school.

School authorities should provide a copy of lay out plan of the school to the local police station in advance.

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