Indoor gunshot detection tech holds life-saving potential

Aug. 27, 2015
Guardian system helps improve response times in active shooter events

For years, security practitioners and equipment providers alike have sought to develop technology that can provide building occupants and first responders with accurate and timely warnings in the event of an active shooter. The industry has certainly come a long way in terms of being able to quickly disseminate emergency messages on a broad scale, but reducing the amount of time between when shorts are first fired to when law enforcement arrives on the scene remains a significant challenge.

One company that is looking to significantly reduce this gap is Shooter Detection Systems (SDS) with its Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System. According to Christian Connors, CEO of Shooter Detection Systems, the Guardian system was born out of technology initially developed for the military during the early days of the war in Iraq to help soldiers pinpoint the location of gunfire. That solution, which was created by BBN Technologies, a subsidiary of Raytheon that serves as a contractor for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was eventually incorporated into helicopters and even a wearable device. Connors said SDS bought that technology from BBN and sought to transform it into something that could be used in the civilian marketplace.

The Guardian system uses specialized microphones in conjunction with infrared sensors to accurately alarm to the sound of a gunshot in a building.

“We added to the acoustics infrared sensors that look for the muzzle flash of the weapon and only when both the infrared and the acoustic decide that there is a shot do we output that a shot has occurred at that location,” explained Connors. “It’s not one or the other, it requires both to do that and the main reason we do that is to make sure that we don’t false alert.”

In addition to the infrared component, Connors said another thing that makes the Guardian system unique is that it doesn’t require a human offsite to make a determination as to whether or not a shot has been fired.

While some could argue that detecting shots after they have already occurred would do little to mitigate loss of life during an active shooter scenario, Connors believes earlier detection could prove vital in reducing casualties.

“It isn’t as if someone as soon as they hear the gunfire calls 911, so there’s about a six minute delay to get to the police. The simply math is that police aren’t notified fast enough,” said Connors.  “Number two, the information that they receive is rarely factual.”

Connors said instant notification to both first responders and building occupants is a key to minimizing the damage inflicted by active shooters.

“Similar to smoke alarms, eventually you’re going to know there is a fire, but you want to know as early as possible so you can take the right actions and have the right people respond,” he said. “The first part is alerting first responders, but I believe as importantly, everyone in the building now needs notifying too. When you look at protocols like ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate), they are all basically based on run-hide-fight, but the question we ask is, who is telling you to run, where are they telling you to hide and when are they telling you to fight? We provide that information one second after the shot occurs to everyone in the building.”

Connors said that Guardian is being leveraged in a variety of applications, including Fortune 100 corporations, school campuses, manufacturing facilities, financial institutions, hospitals, government buildings, and sports stadiums. Because the technology is relatively new to the market, Connors said one of the biggest hurdles his company faces in gaining more widespread adoption of the Guardian system is just simply creating awareness about the product’s existence.

“I think getting word out that the capability exists, explaining it in the correct way and then, of course, like anything else, especially that’s new and it wasn’t planned for, there are budget cycle questions,” he added.

The company has also been very active in spreading the word among law enforcement agencies about the capabilities and benefits of Guardian. In fact, just last week, the company took part in a tactical training exercise involving a mock active shooter/terrorist event at a synagogue in West Orange, N.J. This was the second time that SDS has been invited by the Department of Homeland Security to participate in a training exercise. Last year, SDS participated in a DHS-sponsored school safety exercise using Guardian to alert first responders to a mock live fire active shooter event.

"From a first responder's standpoint, the Guardian system provides first-hand intelligence to significantly reduce response time and assist us in ending active shooter incidents in a timely manner," Scott Smarsh, an officer with the West Orange Police Department said following the exercise.

As a company, Connors said SDS learned a lot about exactly how this information needs to be relayed to authorities by taking part in the training exercises.

“What we learned, for the most part, was the simpler the better and the faster the better,” he said.

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.