Few technologies are as critical as gunshot detection in today’s world. From school shootings to terror acts, the ability to confirm that an incident is from a gunshot allows for faster responses to a critical situation. There have been many articles written about the importance of gunshot detection in a security strategy, and I don’t want to rewrite those articles. Instead I want to focus on the lessons that we at Convergint Technologies have learned with this technology.
When you introduce technology, it changes the dynamics of the active shooter situation, because it adds a very trustworthy notification method. In the midst of chaos, the human ear often cannot differentiate between a book being dropped, a piece of construction equipment falling, and the sound of gunshot – but an electronic sensor can.
As it is not being prejudiced by the environment, the sensor is waiting for environmental stimuli that the human ear cannot detect, such as wave forms and energy levels of sounds that are the signatures of a gunshot. The ability to – and here’s the acronym – “NCIR” is drastically altered by the use of gunshot technology.
NCIR (Notification, Confirmation, Identification, Response) is how we work with our clients in integrating their gunshot detection technology into action. Gunshot detection technology only assists in each step, giving your client the much-needed time for the plan to work.
- Notification: How the end-user is informed if there is a possible gunshot (meaning an active shooter situation may be in progress) using gunshot technology.
- Confirmation: How to confirm an active shooter is in process using the technology.
- Identification: How to identify the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the active shooter, so that a response can be formulated.
- Response: How to act in the situation – not react, but act. Your client needs a proactive plan in place, in which everyone knows their role in advance.
The First Step: Planning
The first questions we ask clients are about their planning – assuming gunshot technology has been put in place and an incident happens, what is the plan? Gunshot detection puts them in the moment, transitioning their position from reactive to proactive; however, what is done during and after is up to the particular end-user. Here is an evaluation checklist to use when acting as a trusted advisor for your client in creating that plan:
During an Event:
- Who is in control?
- What is your chain of command?
- Will communications be manual or automatic?
- How will you work with law enforcement?
- How will you work with media?
- How will you work with the public?
After the Event:
- How will you work with media?
- What will you do with items left behind?
- What will you do with work stoppage and getting ‘back to business?’
- How will you provide comfort and assistance?
Clients often focus so much on what will happen during such a situation that they forget what will happen after. In public places, such as an airport or mall, the after-effects of the situation can seem insurmountable. For example, in a large public space, how will they address the thousands of personal items left behind due to an evacuation?
These are great evaluation questions, but a plan that is not trained and rehearsed by staff is not an actionable on. You must help your clients test the plan, identify its weak points and address them. Controlling the public reaction is challenging, but if lots of effort is dedicated to training staff and ops center – rehearsed often – preparedness will help in the wake of an incident.
Whatever gunshot detection technology is chosen for a facility, the most important element remains preparedness. Is the system being maintained and tested? People and response questions are just as important as deciding between different technology offerings. Without the people to respond, they are just sensors on a wall.
Choosing and Integrating the Technology
As part of Convergint’s STEP Up initiative, we provide underserved schools with free interior and exterior security system installations, security upgrades and assessments. We have seen firsthand the lack of security systems in places as vital as our schools. So when clients ask about gunshot detection, after asking if they have a plan, I always ask the question, “What are we plugging these sensors into?”
The first evaluation needs to be of the existing security infrastructure – especially of the technology that will provide notification of the event. What level of integration does the gunshot technology have with existing video management, access control and situational management systems? Find out whether the client will get a notification on the video management platform or if they will have to go to a separate system to find out what is occurring. Perhaps a situational management platform can automatically pull up a map and a camera view. In responding to the incident, time is of the essence, and the difference between an automated map and camera view vs. a notification that requires searching for a camera view, could be a matter of 30 seconds – a very long time when an active shooter is roaming.
It is important to understand that no system is perfect. Over time, all systems will have a false alarm. You should plan with your client accordingly by including confirmation methodology after a notification. If the decision of this technology comes down to the potential of a false alarm, the proper notification and confirmation methodology makes it a no-brainer. These systems save time, which can save lives.
For more than two decades, Matt Powell has worked in the security industry, experiencing the market as an end-user, manufacturer, and integrator. He specializes in transportation security, leading Convergint’s transportation market efforts. To learn more about Convergint Technologies, visit www.convergint.com.