Emergency Preparedness and Response

The safety and security of students and staff is our highest priority. That’s why it is important to be prepared for a variety of incidents that may occur both in the community or within schools.  

This includes having procedures in place to protect students and staff, conducting regular drills to help everyone be prepared, and to be available to provide support in the event of an emergency or tragic situation.

In developing these procedures, we work closely with partners including the Ottawa Fire Services, Ottawa Police Service, and other emergency providers. 

This page will offer a snapshot of some of these measures. For more information, please review the OCDSB Safe Schools (Emergency Preparedness and Response) Policy, which was last updated and approved by the Board of Trustees in 2022.  

Safety Procedures

In the event of a threat or situation where additional staff support may be required, the OCDSB has three safety procedures we follow. Depending on the situation, other measures may also be taken. 

When is this used?

What actions are taken?

Shelter in Place

Typically called in response to a hazard or threat in the community outside the school (ie police investigation, extreme weather, potentially dangerous wildlife). Persons in the school are not considered in immediate danger.

School doors are locked, students and staff brought inside, and access to the school is restricted so that no one can come into the school or leave it.

Regular school routines continue inside the school.

Secure School

May be called for a variety of scenarios for the whole school or part of the school to allow staff or emergency responders to respond to a situation. Persons in the school are not considered in immediate danger.

Hallways are cleared, access to the school and movement of individuals within the school is restricted.

Staff and students can continue with their regular routine but must remain

within their classroom or designated safe area.


Called in the event of a serious active threat imminent or occuring in the school. Persons in the school may be considered in immediate danger.

Action is taken to restrict movement and secure persons in a school, out of sight, in a safe location.

Regular routines do not continue until school administration or police notify that the lockdown has been lifted.

During these procedures, access to school buildings will be restricted to outside individuals, including parents/guardians, contractors, and members of the media (see note at bottom). Depending on the timing, student transportation and end of day may also be delayed until it can be ensured the situation is safe.

Emergency Drills

To help students and staff be prepared in the event of an emergency, schools regularly practice emergency drills. 

  • Lockdown drills are conducted at minimum twice each year.
  • Six fire drills per year are performed in all OCDSB schools. In schools where regular classes are conducted, three drills are to be held in each of the fall and spring terms. In all other buildings, one fire drill is held each year.

Extreme Weather Situations

School buildings are recognized as very safe spaces and we have emergency weather plans for schools and workplaces to protect students and staff. OCDSB staff closely monitor weather conditions in Ottawa and Public Weather Alerts from Environment Canada.

In the event of sudden extreme weather occurring during school operations, staff will take every measure necessary to keep everyone safe. Depending on the situation, when it is safe to do so, this could include: 

  • those in portables move into the main school building; 
  • students and staff may move to interior rooms/hallways without windows; and
  • students remain indoors and if weather conditions are unfavourable at the end of the school day, we may delay release times for walkers and students who take student transportation until conditions allow for students to safely leave.

Student Transportation Cancellations

The decision to cancel student transportation in the event of poor weather conditions (particularly during the winter months) is the responsibility of the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), which manages student transportation for the OCDSB and Ottawa Catholic School Board. Parents/Guardians should sign up to the OSTA Parent Portal for updates. Learn more on the OSTA website.

Media access to school sites during an emergency or following a tragic situation

Following a traumatic event, it is important for students and staff to regain a sense of normalcy, safety and security. School must be a place where students and staff can feel comfortable, share their emotions, and/or grieve in a safe space.

Unless otherwise indicated by OCDSB Communications, journalists will not be allowed on school premises during an emergency situation or following a traumatic event. Members of the media are asked to remain on public property across from the school. This allows students, staff and members of the school community space for privacy and they can decide whether they wish to leave the school premises and speak to journalists.

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