Make school lockdown drills compulsory - expert

There are calls for schools to be required by law to have lockdown procedures in place.

There was chaos in classrooms on the afternoon a gunman opened fire in Christchurch three weeks ago, with reports of parents trying to break into classrooms and others having to urinate in buckets.

And west Auckland's Glen Eden Primary School went into lockdown on Wednesday afternoon after reports of gunshots in the area.

Both the principal and deputy were out of town for a powhiri when the school locked down around 10:45am.

Julia Harrison, co-founder of emergency planning specialists Harrison Tew, told The AM Show on Thursday the school representative she spoke to was "so calm" when she called.

"She'd received a phone call from the police that there was a person who may have been armed potentially near the school. They went into lockdown. The students were already doing the procedures that we implement."

Glen Eden Primary is one of several schools that work with Harrison Tew on emergency response plans. It took about 40 minutes for the all-clear to be given.

"Glen Eden Primary School regularly practices its emergency procedures as prepared for us by Harrison Tew," the school said in a note pupils took home to parents.

"We are very happy with the school's response to this emergency and are satisfied the emergency procedures were appropriate and the office staff and senior leadership carried out their duties in the best interests of students and staff."

A letter sent home to parents of Glen Eden Primary students.
A letter sent home to parents of Glen Eden Primary students. Photo credit: Newshub.

Harrison says for primary schools, they try to make lockdowns "a bit of fun" so the kids aren't scared.

"When you go into the centre of the room on your tummies, we say things like, 'You can go to sleep if you want, but don't snore.' Basically it's like playing hide-and-seek to a certain degree - we don't want them hiding, we just want them hiding in the centre of the room. But we reassure them."

While schools are required to have evacuation plans, there's currently no legislation concerning lockdown procedures.

"We've made attempts to contact the Ministry of Education in the past," said Harrison. "I would love to have it legislated. I don't see the difference really between a lockdown and an evacuation, except you go inside for one and you go outside for the other."

Julia Harrison.
Julia Harrison. Photo credit: The AM Show

It won't be simple however, with each school facing "unique threats".

"It's not necessarily something that can actually be, you know, 'here's a bit of paper, can you just fill it out online and that's our plan'."