Standardizing Emergency Response Language Between Schools and Police

Standardizing Emergency Response Language Between Schools and Police


WHEREAS, emergency response plans and the language used within them are critically important to how emergency and all hazard incidents are responded to. Common principles upon which all protocols should be based, and the key elements such protocols must include, should be congruent between the schools and police to prevent any confusion on the type of incident police are responding to; and

WHEREAS, the distinct environments individual school stakeholders operate in and the limited resources available to them creates a challenge to develop identical protocols. It is imperative to standardize the language used within the protocols as language that is universally recognized by all police services and describes the type of response required from police in such tragic incidents of violence;1 and

WHEREAS, private sector organizations that design their own protocol using terminology that is unique to the personnel employed by such an institute without consulting with police agencies, creates an increasing risk of harm and continued uncertainty for police when they are responding to unrecognized emergency terminology when in fact it may actually be a “lockdown”;2 and

WHEREAS, at the root of effective school-police partnerships is a common understanding of each partner’s roles and responsibilities, as well as agreed-upon procedures and clearly delineated decision- making authority. Providing a safe school community is a shared responsibility that requires a commitment to collaboration, cooperation, and effective and consistent communication. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), will hereby take actions to encourage their respective members’ governing and regulatory bodies to standardize the language within school-police emergency response protocols as defined by the National Incident Management System (NIMS); and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the IACP recommends a consistent approach to communication in the local protocols developed by school boards and police services transnationally to promote dialogue and the establishment and maintenance of effective relationships between schools and police based on cooperation and shared understandings.




Submitted by: Crime Prevention Committee

Co-Sponsored by: Private Sector Liaison Section, Juvenile Justice & Child Protection Committee, Transnational Crime Committee, and Community Policing Committee


1 Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Provincial Model for a Local Police/School Board Protocol (Ontario, Canada, 2015),

2 Unpublished interview (Emergency Response Language, Ontario, Canada), July 24, 2019.

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