The Latest Technologies for Active Shooter Situations

The increased rate of active shooter incidents is tragically turning into a “new normal.” However, security integrators can offer technologies to help minimize the frequency and damage of these events.

As I was composing this month’s Tech Talk on access control, a sad incident happened that included an active shooter with the death of 19 children and two teachers. At that moment, I stopped the presses and felt an obligation to discuss where we might have helped with the application of security technologies.   

But first, let me tell you a story about another real active shooter situation. Some time ago a friend of mine was involved in an active shooter situation in a big box store. My friend, knowing that I knew something about security technology, came to me frustrated. He explained that as bullets were flying, he and others tried to exit a rear door in the store. The door had a loud siren and only allowed them to exit after a time delay.  

I explained to him that this was an approved delay of 15 or 30 seconds for fire code. The delay was to help protect from theft. You can imagine that seconds can seem like an eternity in an active shooter situation.

That did not sit well for someone who was trying to flee flying bullets. Door delays can be switched to instant egress for fire. Why can that not happen, and why can’t they be silenced, for identified active shooter scenarios?

You could have store management and/or security identify the active shooter situation and then press a remote button to change the exit door statuses to instant and silent. However, the whole concept of applying security automation is to remove the human element as much as possible.

You have heard the saying in fire-safety that “every second counts.” Well in an active shooter situation every second is critical, and as we have seen, can mean the rapid loss of human lives. 

One security device that can help speed things up is the application of gunshot detection.  One such device is the Guardian from Shooter Detection Systems. These devices can either be wireless or wired PoE installed. They sense both the acoustic bang and infrared flash of a gun. Location detection is immediately sent via text, email or other notification pathways. 

Another device you may want to consider is the Halo from IPVideo Corp. It is very versatile, has been around for some time, and was an annual product pick of mine a couple of years back. See more in this month’s Tool of the Month below. 

Camera systems can now be provided with analytics to help analyze and instantly respond to an active shooter. This can include gunshot detection and/or visual weapons identification with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI). The camera station displayed can then be prioritized with an instant alert going out via email, text, etc.  

One company with such a system is ZeroEyes. Another is the Aegis weapon detection system. This AI application can turn any camera into a smart gun-detecting camera. The system looks for weapons in existing camera feeds, and according to the manufacturer, with 99% accuracy. 

Another important factor of active shooter situations is intelligent and rapid egress. Knowing which exit path to take could mean the difference between running away or into an active shooter. Companies like EvacLite provide dynamic signage. These signs can be centrally controlled to quickly show the suggested evacuation route for both fire or active shooter situations. 

Another system, Wren Solutions, provides personal video monitors (PVM). These are small video monitors that can be located at strategic locations, including exits, and will display video from cameras in the location of the active shooter or crime scene. I see much more being done in this area. I ask, why cannot exit signage actually be small, high contrast LCD displays like we now see on most highway systems? 

Let’s take a moment and get back to the motivation behind this column. That is the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary Grade School in Uvalde, Texas. While the investigation is still ongoing, I would still like make a few comments and security tech suggestions that could have made this school be a harder target.   

First, the information on the propped open door. This door should have had access control for only credentialed staff. The door should have been monitored and a prop-open alarm should have sounded. This is also a deterrent for propping the door open in the first place.

Gunshot detectors should be placed throughout the building and may have even caught the gunshots before the shooter even entered the building. Also, instantaneous electronic communications from detection devices of the situation to all staff, security and maintenance.  

Some suggested reference material: NFPA 101, NFPA 730, NFPA 731 and NFPA 3000 (active shooter info).  

Tool of the Month

Probably one of the most versatile sensors available is the HALO from IPVideo Corp. This device can detect gunshot, voice help, aggression, health conditions and vaping, just to name a few.

It has two-way communications, so it can be used in case of voice communications for an active shooter scenario. 

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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