Kendra Noonan, Director of Communications, Shooter Detection Systems looks at what US schools are doing about the active shooter problem.
Gun violence remains an ongoing concern in the US, with active shooter incidents seeming to occur all too frequently.
High profile school shootings like those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and Covenant School in Tennessee have grabbed international headlines and highlighted the threats students face.
With legislative action on gun control complex and solutions not immediate, many American schools are taking proactive measures to enhance safety and detect threats.
This article will look at four US schools deploying gunshot detection systems and highlight the ways they chose to integrate it into existing security infrastructures.
Facing the stark reality that gun violence is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, these schools aim to be ready to respond.
Their proactive tactics provide examples of how communities can come together to immediately make learning environments safer, while broader debates continue about preventing the root causes of violence.
North Providence Public Schools: North Providence, Rhode Island
Enterprise level protection – North Providence is a community of 32,500 inhabitants with a student to teacher ratio of 14 to one.
Passionate about school security, the town’s public safety and police leaders engaged Shooter Detection Systems (SDS) to learn about its indoor gunshot detection system for school buildings.
After assessing floor plans and evaluating entry and exit pathways, North Providence Police, school leadership and the municipality’s facilities teams agreed on threat areas and sensor locations.
Once installed, SMS, email and floorplan map alerts were configured for the school’s administrators and local police so stakeholders can be notified if shots are detected within any of the school buildings.
The school and the town also wanted to leverage integration with its existing VMS.
The result is that each school in the network can automatically track, transmit and record video of shooter activity to improve building evacuation and reduce police response time.
Integration with a VMS is one of the most common deployment strategies, allowing users to visually identify an assailant’s clothing, weapon type or, in the case of an accidental weapon discharge, intent.
Following the installation, a live-fire exercise was conducted with the system.
The North Providence Police Department demonstrated how shot frequency and location was made immediately available with the SDS floorplan mapping software to an audience of concerned parents and media alike.
This test demonstrated how quickly on-duty officers and school staff could visually locate and track confirmed gunshot signatures and then directly target the threat.
Centner Academy: Miami, Florida
Response time means everything – Centner Academy is a private school focusing on a unique blend of student academics, wellbeing and security.
Centner Academy has two campuses supporting over 300 pre-kindergarten to middle school students and 90 faculty.
Centner’s Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Ms. Leila Centner, has made the security of her schools a priority by adopting an automated, multi-layered approach.
When the school’s security systems vendor recommended indoor gunshot detection, the concept immediately made sense to her.
“With how crazy our world has become – hearing all these stories in the news, gun shootings happening at schools – it interested me right away that we can add another layer of protection for our schools, our faculty and our students,” said Centner.
In addition to engaging two armed guards, Centner has implemented over 200 security cameras.
The school’s security integrator worked with SDS to integrate shooter detection into its video system to pull live camera views to the scene upon gunshot notification.
The security vendor also integrated shooter detection into the school’s access control system. When a gunshot is detected, the access control system is automatically programmed to initiate zone-specific lockdown procedures, removing the human errors that can naturally occur under duress.
Pinkerton Academy: Derry, New Hampshire
Open yet secure – Pinkerton Academy is the largest independent high school in the US. On the main campus, 16 of the school’s 26 buildings are used for academics.
Maintaining an open and welcoming environment is a key goal for the school’s board of trustees, which presents additional security challenges faced by the school and most campus style education environments.
Based on recommendations from a 2018 New Hampshire School Safety Preparedness Task Force, Pinkerton Academy’s Board of Trustees chose to hire a School Marshal to help improve campus safety; this person is employed and appointed by a board of trustees in a school district, which operates as the governing body for this type of educational institution, whose goal is to prevent any offence that threatens serious injury or death to their community.
Eric Kester, a former Derry Police Lieutenant, accepted the role and is now Director of Security/School Marshal, Pinkerton.
While indoor gunshot detection was already identified as a valuable tool by the NH Task Force, Marshal Kester had an additional reason to introduce indoor gunshot detection at Pinkerton – his own experience with similar technology in the military.
After talking with other schools, Marshal Kester reached out to its school’s security integrator and SDS to help develop and execute a campus-wide project using indoor gunshot detection.
“We can’t always predict if it’s going to occur, but we can try to delay the violent intruder so that our response has time to effectively stop the threat,” said Marshal Kester.
“The selling point for us was that it puts all our first responders immediately ‘on the X’. We know exactly where the problem is and we don’t have to waste time communicating what the problem is.”
Hooksett School District: Hooksett, New Hampshire
A comprehensive approach to school security – Hooksett is a community of 14,542 inhabitants with a student to teacher ratio of 13 to one.
Academic achievement, through constantly improving standards, is the district’s highest priority and it takes security just as seriously.
As a part of a multi-faceted approach to address an active shooter threat, Hooksett School District was the first school district in the state of New Hampshire to install gunshot detection in its school buildings.
After a review of available gunshot detection technologies, the Hooksett School Board and Superintendent selected SDS due to its proven performance history at other schools across the country and its certified technology integrations with the schools’ current systems.
The integrator worked with the schools to integrate gunshot detection alerts with additional technologies to maximise incident identification and tracking that gunshot detection provides.
When a gunshot occurs, the public address system will now alert building occupants and the video management system will pull live video feed of the incident, giving first responders within the school a visual of the situation in real time.
SDS’ mapping software, displaying the Hooksett sites and gunshot sensor locations, is monitored in the school’s security centre and at Hooksett PD dispatch.
Schools like Hooksett are taking a layered approach to security, recognising there is no one size fits all solution.
In addition to the implementation of gunshot detection, the school district collaborated with the New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security, the Hooksett Police Department and the Hooksett Fire Department to assess the safety needs of the schools along with providing feedback to enhance emergency procedures.
The district has also trained staff in first aid, CPR and emergency management practices whilst also investing in surveillance and walkie-talkie systems.
Innovative gunshot detection systems are just one way schools are acting to enhance protection and response capabilities.
These four examples showcase how deploying such technology can provide critical, lifesaving data to first responders when seconds matter.