Lessons from the Eslöv school attack

20 December, 2023

A total of 60 municipalities participated in the webinar on school safety 2021, confirming what all speakers pointed out – that awareness of crisis management and ongoing deadly violence (PDV) is increasing within the school system.

“I thought I had reached out to most people by email as we are a very digital school. But maybe 50% of the teachers have seen my emails.”

Annelie about when she emailed staff that there was an offender in the area and that they should lock their classrooms.

Awareness raising is the first step in getting a good crisis plan, that was a common denominator for all speakers during yesterday’s webinar. But of course there is more to it than that, and this is what the day was about. Annelie’s story about the violence at her school in Eslöv last summer emphasises the importance of highlighting the risks of ongoing deadly violence while having a functioning crisis plan. There is a risk in using a communication system that requires the recipient to act in order to receive it, as Annelie realised. For it was only when the fire alarm went off that the teachers who had not yet received her email learnt of the crisis situation they were in. When the fire alarm went off, all the teachers acted according to routine and went to the classroom doors to feel if they were warm and could then see the perpetrator in the corridor.

Here are some of the shortcomings we see with digital-only alarms in schools:

  • Not everyone always has a mobile phone/computer nearby.
  • In order to act on an alarm, the recipient must actively see the information. So there is a risk that a recipient will look at the message too late. Or in the worst case, not at all. Annelie’s story is an example of this.
  • Most teachers ask their students to hand in their mobile phones during the lesson.
  • You need to be present and calm to be able to unlock a mobile phone and actively alert or compose an email.
  • An alert message written in the context of ongoing deadly violence is not only impractical, we would argue that it is almost impossible.
  • Mobile phone or data networks can be overloaded or down, making it impossible to raise or receive alarms.

That said, mobiles and other digital devices are a great complement to a public address system. Once you know that the alarm is reaching everyone in the school, you can then quickly focus on other important commitments, such as using email, text messages or an app to communicate the next steps in the crisis plan.