(Photo: ShotSpotter)

Sensors, Cloud Can Help Schools During Active Shooter Situation

Damaune Journey, vice president of security solutions for SST, spoke with 21st Century State & Local about SST’s Secure Campus solution.

Damaune Journey is
vice president of security solutions for SST. (Photo: SST)

SST,  a maker of gunfire detection and location technology, has existed for 21 years and is responsible for monitoring more than 300 square miles in the U.S. alone. Its SecureCampus solution works inside and out, providing complete coverage for education customers. While Journey didn’t have an exact customer count for the education sector, he said there are in the neighborhood of a dozen paying customers using SecureCampus.

On a very basic level, SecureCampus uses sensors, the cloud, and occasionally trained experts to detect gunshots and then notify the police. The sensors detect the acoustics of a gunshot, use infrared technology to confirm a shot was fired, and then use proprietary characteristics to verify a gunshot. The sensors communicate with SST’s cloud to confirm a gunshot and then notify police and building officials. There are slight differences in how the indoor and outdoor solutions work.

“The indoor and outdoor technologies work differently,” Journey explains. “The outdoor technology detects a gunshot through a series of sensors and then triangulates the location. After the cloud has determined the location and that it’s a gunshot, it’s sent to our 24-hour monitoring center. Once experts then review the sound, it’s sent to police.”

Journey says the whole process takes close to 30 seconds from shot to notification. He also explains that the precise location triangulation is key to police officers.

“The dot we put on a map is accurate to a matter of feet,” he said. “We don’t send the police an address, we send GPS coordinates. The GPS is key, because a shooting might be occurring in the playground area, but the street address might be in the front of the building.”

This precise location technology could save police crucial minutes in getting to the scene and saving lives.

“The indoor technology is different. Because more data is captured, there is no need for human intervention,” he explained. “The sensors make the determination in conjunction with the cloud. Police are notified in less than five seconds.”

The use of the cloud not only allows for speedy notification, but also makes the technology easy to use for customers.

“Updates become a hassle, but we can monitor everything from a cloud. They don’t have to worry about the hassle and headache that come with software management. We can make sure all customers are on the same version,” Journey explained.

Once the gunshot is identified, notification becomes key. While some customers with their own security force want to notify police independently, other customers want police notified immediately. For those customers, SST trains police on the notification system, including its mobile app, at no cost to police or the customer.

As part of the notification to police, SecureCampus provides the number of gunshots fired, as well as an audio clip of the gunfire–improving the police’s situation awareness heading into the situation. However, there is no audio streaming associated with the sensors. Journey said SST recognizes that’s too great of a privacy concern. Instead, when there is an event the sensor sends a message to the cloud and the cloud pulls a few seconds prior to the gunshot through a few seconds after the gunfire. Non-event audio is overwritten in a matter of hours and SST staff doesn’t have access to any other audio recordings.

While one of its indoor systems has never been triggered, its outdoor sensors have detected gunfire. None of the incidents detected were mass-casualty active shooter situations, but the sensors were able to provide important information to police and allowed SST customers to secure their campuses.

Gunshots captured by SecureCampus’ outdoor sensors are sent to a 24-hour incident center.
(Photo: SST)

In terms of adoption, Journey said there is greater adoption among colleges over K-12 schools.

“The issue with K-12 schools is that they have a lot of other concerns. If it’s a choice between another security system or funding the phys ed program, they should fund phys ed, in my opinion,” Journey said. “Keeping kids safe is a paramount concern, but so is educating kids–it’s a tough tradeoff for sure.”

Journey said there has been a fair amount of interest on the K-12 front, but that it’s harder for those potential customers to make the final decision. College campuses, on the other hand, are typically harder to secure and have larger budgets.

As with the other technologies profiled, SecureCampus uses a subscription model, but their subscription includes repairs and technological maintenance.

While SST leaves faculty and student training to a school’s security pros, it does train the security pros on how to use the interfaces SST provides and how to use the customer service features–both during day-to-day operations and during an emergency situation. Journey said that training takes only a few hours. Similarly easy is the installation process. As long as customers have 24-hour power, they have all the technology they need to supply for an indoor sensor system–assuming there is cellular coverage on site. Outdoor systems also require Power over Ethernet, but SST project managers work with customers on installing the cables if they aren’t already present.

In terms of the value add of SecureCampus over other potential solutions, Journey compares it to secure cameras.

“A lot of security pros think about it from a camera situation. In a gunshot event, there are a lot more services they need than meets the eye. In an active shooter situation you are too worried about life and limb to monitor or control cameras,” Journey said. “We can lock and unlock doors, move cameras to the location of the gunfire. We also have a full suite of solutions to help police in the aftermath during the investigation, including forensics tools. It’s one thing to ring a bell, it’s another to provide full-on services that wrap around the event in an active shooter situation.”

Also in this Series:

Patented Multisensor Technology Can Save Lives in School Shooting

COPSync911 Makes Teachers First Responders in Active Shooter Situations

Active Shooter Technology Can Hasten Police Response, Save Lives

Accuracy is Essential in Shot Detection Technology, Says SDS CEO

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is 21st Century State & Local's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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