The Case for Gunshot Detection in Schools

Aug. 11, 2016
The role of the security integrator is key when recommending these systems to education end-users

The education sector is one of the fastest growing markets in the security industry. It comes as no surprise that protecting students, teachers, and safe learning spaces has become a high priority throughout the United States.

Integrators are offering new, high-demand solutions that specifically address the changing needs of the education sector to meet evolving security threats — one of the most notable that every campus public safety director must prepare for is an active shooter event. More campuses, districts, and universities are implementing gunshot detection systems to identify such an occurrence.


A Common Target

In 2015 alone, there were nearly 300 mass shootings (shootings where four or more people died) in the United States. When it comes to school campuses, there have been 39 active shooter incidents from 2000-2013, which left 117 fatalities and 120 people wounded, according to a 2013 United States Department of Justice report.

The shocking reality is that there appears to be no identifiable pattern or procedure in the selection of victims during an active shooter situation, making it extremely difficult to prepare for and defend against. Not to mention the unnerving fact that these situations evolve quickly and, many times, end with the shooter taking his or her life.

The study also reported that active shooter incidents in education settings account for 24.4 percent of all active shooter incidents in the U.S., making it the second-most targeted location among seven key environments: commerce, education, government, open spaces, residences, houses of worship, and healthcare facilities. Additionally, schools tend to experience a higher number of casualties when compared to other sectors.

As schools remain a primary target for attacks, it is no surprise that interest in gunshot detection systems has risen. In fact, legislators in both Massachusetts and Virginia introduced bills in the last year that would require plans for the inclusion of an indoor gunshot detection system for new school buildings in their districts.


Communicate with the End-User

When proposing the idea of deploying a gunshot detection system and presenting its benefits to your customer, there are three key areas of importance:

1. Early Warning and Detection: Within seconds of a firearm being discharged, an effective detector will recognize the gunshot sound, trigger an immediate notification to security personnel, and provide them with an approximated location. Some gunshot detectors perform more advanced operations, such as directing cameras toward the area of a gunshot or saving footage before and after an event occurs to maximize evidence capture.

According to the DOJ study, the average duration of an active shooter incident in a school is around 12.5 minutes, while the average response time of law enforcement is 18. Shortening the response time of emergency personnel can drastically decrease the number of victims in an active shooter incident.

2. Minimal Maintenance and Monitoring: End-users need to know that adding a new component to their overall security solution does not have to become a major project within itself, requiring significant monitoring and maintenance from staff. Some turnkey solutions seamlessly integrate into existing security systems, providing continuous monitoring. These systems only notify security personnel when an event is detected. All this is done without any extra effort from a central station monitor, minimizing the amount of staff needed.

3. Overall Value: The reality is that many schools have limited resources to put towards campus safety. School administrators must decide what is most important to invest in right now. Given the fact that many times active shooter incidents are slowly reported by those involved in the event, having a system that can save valuable time is crucial. Immediate and automatic notification of an active shooter event removes the need for reporting and allows those present to follow emergency procedures.


Selecting the System

Gunshot detection systems are extremely valuable, but have historically been very complicated and costly for non-military use. Fortunately, the increased demand for gunshot detection has driven the market to introduce new options that are more feasible, cost-effective and easier for end-users to deploy. Buyers now have the ability to choose from a handful of gunshot detectors at different price points.

When helping your end-user to decide what system best fits their security needs and budget, there are three important factors to consider:

First, the initial cost to install and maintain the new security component should always be examined before making a decision. If a school has already spent $75,000 on its security system and the proposed gunshot detector quoted at double or triple of what the existing system costs, it is probably not be a feasible option. Additionally, some manufacturers allow schools to pay outright for the system and minimal software assurance fees, while others require a substantial yearly subscription for monitoring in addition to the initial cost of system that can be up to $100,000 or more. The functionality the school needs in comparison to its budget over the life of the system is key. Take the time to analyze the total cost of ownership and shop around for the most appropriate solution.

The second element to determine is whether your customer would like the gunshot detection system to integrate with the current security solution. This is important information to define because there are gunshot detection solutions that do connect with existing surveillance cameras, microphones, VMS or emergency notification systems. In many cases, it is much easier for a school to secure the funds needed to expand an existing security solution rather than install a new system.

The third characteristic an end-user must consider is a gunshot detection system’s ease-of-use and control. Some solutions, after they have identified a gunshot, require alerts to first be sent to their specific monitoring centers before being transmitted to local law enforcement. This process adds additional steps before notifying security personnel.

The points will help you find an effective gunshot detection system that serves as a key component to a customer’s existing system. Knowing how to improve public safety — especially in educational environments — is what makes the role of a security integrator critically important.

Many manufacturers feel it is part of their moral obligation to protect students, and may even offer a discount to schools so integrators can make critical safety and security technology more affordable and easier to implement.


Richard Brent is CEO of Louroe Electronics and a member of the Board of Directors of the Security Industry Association (SIA). Request more info about the company at