There is no way to talk about active shooter incidents without conjuring up horrible images from schools, nightclubs, movie theaters and a variety of other scenes. It’s a phrase many of us wish could be wiped from our memories – something that would never come up again.
Unfortunately, active shooter attacks continue to increase in frequency and lethality. While we know it’s not feasible to prevent every possible incident, new technology is making it possible to reduce the severity of such attacks.
Battelle’s Ed Jopeck has spent the last few decades studying mass shootings and terrorist attacks, and he shares his insights.
Assessing the risks.
We all recognize there is a serious problem when an armed person approaches a building intent on killing. I’ve found that assessing the risk of future attacks for preventative purposes is sometimes possible, but too unreliable for preventing all incidents. Some attackers will always fly beneath the radar and get through the law enforcement or safety net.
As I’ve continued to study other mass shootings and attacks, I recognized there was a problem with responses. There are often human errors, delays and confusion that may contribute to the number of killed and injured.
Knowing the technology exists will not save lives. Using it will.
Much of the focus and current government funding is on hiring consultants who advise clients that the best answer is assessments, plans and training. While that is important, we have to do much more than tell victims to do their best to run, hide or fight until police arrive. Improving the way we protect people and buildings has lagged behind available technology.
The most useful piece of information is the first gunshot.
First responders need to know and share everything about an active shooter situation as soon as possible. Understandably, victims tend to not wait around to observe and report to police about shooters in their midst. Information that they report is often incorrect, outdated or contradicted by other callers. CCTV cameras are often not a factor in an active shooter situation because they are often not monitored, and without integration with gunshot detection, don’t respond to gunshots. So why are we relying almost exclusively on CCTV cameras and the victims themselves as our only sources of information on active shootings?
A “smoke detector” for gunshots.
Like smoke detectors, gunshot detection systems can immediately sound the alarm better and faster than humans can. Battelle’s SiteGuard® Active Shooter Response system automatically detects, locates and responds to gunfire to reduce response time for incidents. The technology is being tested in a Central Ohio high school.
Where do we go from here?
There is increased interest and adoption of this technology. There are numerous early adopters who have sophisticated security and emergency response programs and understand the limits of the victim-initiated response to active shootings.
In the future, gunshot detection sensors will almost certainly be a fully integrated part of a building’s fire safety and/or building control systems. People will come to expect higher levels of protection in the buildings where they work, play and send their children to learn.