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.

While composing this month’s Tech Talk on access control, a sad incident occurred involving an active shooter and the deaths of 19 children and two teachers. At that point, I stopped the presses and felt compelled to discuss where we could have helped with the application of safety technologies.

But first, let me tell you a story about another real-life active shooter situation. Some time ago a friend of mine was involved in an active shooter situation at a big box store. My friend, knowing that I was knowledgeable in security technology, came up to me in frustration. He explained that as the bullets flew, he and others tried to exit through the back door of the store. The door had a loud siren and only allowed them out after a while.

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

It didn’t sit well with someone trying to run away from flying bullets. Door delays can be switched to an instantaneous output in the event of a fire. Why can’t this happen, and why can’t they be silenced, for identified active shooter scenarios?

You can have store management and/or security identify the active shooter situation, 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’ve 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 life.

One security feature that can help speed things up is the gunshot detection app. One of these devices is the Guardian of Shooter detection systems. These devices can be installed wirelessly or wired PoE. They detect both the acoustic boom and the infrared flash of a firearm. Location detection is immediately sent via SMS, email or other notification channels.

Another device you might want to consider is the Halo by IPVideo Corp.. It’s very versatile, has been around for a while, and was my yearly product pick a few years ago. See more in this month’s Tool of the Month below.

Camera systems can now be equipped with analytics to help analyze and respond instantly to an active shooter. This may include gunshot detection and/or visual weapon identification with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI). The displayed camera station can then be prioritized with an instant alert sent via email, SMS, etc.

A company with such a system is ZeroEyes. Another is the Aegis Weapon Detection System. This AI app can turn any camera into a smart gun detection camera. The system searches existing camera feeds for weapons and, according to the manufacturer, with 99% accuracy.

Another important factor in active shooting situations is a smart and quick exit. Knowing which exit route to take could be the difference between running away or running into an active shooter. Companies like EvacLite provide dynamic signage. These signs can be centrally controlled to quickly show the suggested escape route for fire or active shooter situations.

Another system, Wren Solutions, provides personal video monitors (PVM). These are small video monitors that can be strategically located, including exits, and will display video from cameras at the location of the active shooter or crime scene. I see a lot more being done in this area. I ask, why can’t exit signage actually be small, high contrast LCD screens like we now see on most road networks?

Let’s take a moment and get back to the motivation behind this column. This is the recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary Grade School in Uvalde, Texas. Although the investigation is still ongoing, I would still like to make a few comments and suggestions for security technologies that may have made this school a more difficult target.

First, the information about the wedged open door. This door should have had access control only for accredited personnel. The door should have been monitored and a prop-open alarm should have sounded. It’s also a deterrent to holding the door open in the first place.

Gunshot detectors should be placed throughout the building and may even have detected the gunshots before the shooter even entered the building. Also, instant electronic communications from situational awareness devices to all personnel, security and maintenance.

Some suggested references: NFPA 101, NFPA 730, NFPA 731 and NFPA 3000 (active shooter information).

tool of the month

Probably one of the most versatile sensors available is the HALO of IPVideo Corp. This device can detect gunshots, voice guidance, aggression, health issues, and vaping, to name a few.

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