Active Shooter Equation: Faster Response = Fewer Deaths

    Karen Cooper, Education Vertical Leader, Honeywell Building Technologies 

    No one wants to think about the horrific scenario of an active shooter entering their children’s school. While the odds of this happening are slim, school administrators need to have a plan in place that informs, equips, and trains before an emergency occurs.   

    Recent legislation known as Alyssa’s Law has been adopted by several states to address law enforcement response times in life threatening emergency situations. The law requires primary and secondary schools to install “panic button” alarm devices throughout their facilities that silently and directly notify law enforcement of a life-threatening situation. To date, Alyssa’s Law has been passed in Florida and New Jersey and is known as the Leilah Hernandez Act in Texas.

    While schools are required to comply with Alyssa’s Law, they should also consider a complementary solution that helps to automate emergency notification, minimize response time, and help law enforcement pinpoint a shooter’s location. Gunshot detection and response has evolved into a highly accurate, automated technology with the ability to alert first responders in just four seconds rather than the average two and a half to three minutes – a difference in that can save lives. Faster and more accurate responses are critical in these situations.   

    When shots are fired, wireless sensors placed in unobtrusive locations throughout the facility analyze ballistic wave forms and energy levels of the blast to pinpoint the shooter’s location and identify the type of weapon and ammunition being used. The system generates an immediate and automatic response sequence. Once the sensors detect a threat, they activate security cameras in the area and superimpose those pictures onto a Google Earth image of the school grounds that can also be overlaid onto an actual floorplan of the building.  

    A call is then automatically dispatched to 911 that provides critical details of the situation, shows the shooter’s exact location based on the mapping, and tracks that person’s movements throughout the school grounds. Besides being tied to the 911 center, the sensors can connect to the building’s PA and mass notification systems and support extensive email and text capabilities. The system’s open architecture enables it to integrate with most security systems and pull live video from IP security cameras on site.  

    Within seconds of the first shot, location images can be sent to every teacher’s mobile device, allowing them to act quickly and decisively. At the same time, notifications can go out to parents, keeping them apprised of the situation as it unfolds. The sensors can also be integrated into the facility’s access control system, which enables lockdown protocol to be initiated automatically from a dispatch location, effectively locking or unlocking doors.   

    Automated gunshot detection technology is designed to augment  Alyssa’s Law compliance.  

    While an automated gunshot detection solution can cost more than minimal compliance with Alyssa’s Law, there is considerable federal funding available to make K-12 schools safer. Congress has allocated $190.5 billion under the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief (ESSER) Fund, and

    There are also Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants available through the Department of Justice. Both resources can be used to fund gunshot detection technology, which qualifies under “mass notification systems.” 

    In situations where every second counts, this automated system can remove unintentional delayed reaction time while providing more accurate situational awareness for everyone. 

    1. New Jersey Office of the Governor, Governor Murphy signs “Alyssa’s Law.” February 6, 2019
    2. New Jersey Education Department, ESSER Fact Sheet. [Accessed October 14, 2021]