Ohio High School Pilots Gunshot Detection, Shooter Tracking System

In one of Reynoldsburg, Ohio's two high schools, sensors would inform police of the shooter’s movements and location.

by Reis Thebault, The Columbus Dispatch / August 7, 2015
(TNS) — An active shooter in a school — it’s everyone’s worst nightmare.

And, lately, FBI statistics show, it has been happening more often. A generic scenario goes something like this:

The shooter enters the building through the front doors and moves through the lobby. He — because FBI data show it’s almost always a he — is looking for targets. In the lobby he fires off a couple of shots.

Panic ensues.

People run for cover, and teachers work to follow practiced safety drills. Everyone is screaming and many are calling 911.

Meanwhile, the shooter moves to another floor, or another building, looking for more people to terrorize.

More often than not — in 67 percent of cases — the incident is over before police are able to engage the shooter.

That means every minute matters.

Battelle, the Columbus-based research and technology organization, is piloting a system that is designed to make the most of those first critical minutes.

The SiteGuard Active Shooter Response system is up and running in one of Reynoldsburg’s two high schools — officials don’t want to say which one — and, if there were to be an active shooter, the system could make it far safer for students and teachers.

The system uses gunshot-detection sensors to notify authorities when and where shots have been fired.

The sensors themselves are not new devices; they’re already used at some military sites and other places. But the way in which they work with other security technology makes them innovative, said Battelle business manager Ed Jopeck.

If, for example, the shooter would fire off a round in the school lobby, the sensors nearest there would register that shot, alert 911 and begin to map the shooter’s movements.

So, if the shooter then moved down a hallway, shot again, then went upstairs and fired again, the sensors would be able to inform the police of the shooter’s movements and location.

Battelle’s system also can be tied into the school’s cameras and provide first responders with a video feed of the shooter.

In an active-shooter situation, police often get dozens of 911 calls, each with slightly different information about what’s happening. These inconsistencies cause confusion and can delay response time, Jopeck said.

Lt. Ron Wright of the Reynoldsburg Police Department said this technology would cut down on those types of delays. And it could remove human error.

“If you have a pretty good idea where the active shooter is located, you can concentrate the resources and get them inside as fast as possible,” he said.

Wright said the extra knowledge of the shooter’s location and actions also would make responding safer for the police. And, when it comes to safety, he’ll take every bit of information he can get.

“Every little bit helps to provide the quickest and most efficient response,” he said.

Also with the system, the school has the option of allowing it to lock down the building when sensors detect gunshots. That could isolate the shooter in a building, or one wing of a building, and close and lock classroom doors.

The system is now being shopped around to schools and can be installed for $75,000. Reynoldsburg gets it for free because it’s piloting the technology. Joe Begeny, a Reynoldsburg school board member, said that, especially with all of the school shootings that have happened since Columbine, a district can never be too careful.

“It’s about student safety,” he said. “You hope that nothing bad happens, that there is never a situation of an active shooter in a building, but you want to be prepared if it does.”

This is a collaboration — among Battelle, the school and the police — that hit on everyone’s No. 1 concern, said Tricia Moore, Reynoldsburg schools director of partnerships.

“Among us three, student safety is a top priority,” she said.

©2015 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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