New Tech Helps Pinpoint, ID Shooters Inside Buildings

ROWLEY, MASS. – Active shooters: two words Americans have become all too familiar with. Most recently, the San Bernardino shootings that left 14 dead and 22 wounded. There is technology that could change the way businesses, schools, even the police respond to active shooter scenarios. It was developed near Boston.

Christian Connors is the CEO of Shooter Detection Systems based in Rowley, Massachusetts. Connors’ business idea grew from personal concern. He says, “When my children came home actually one day and were talking about doing a lock down procedure at school. I asked what it was for and they said it was to train for an active shooter event.”

Scary stuff to consider. So Connors got to work. Got input from the Department of Homeland Security. And got a benign looking white wall plate. Connors says, “In fact, most of our thousands of sensors deployed, I don’t know if the employees even know what they are to be honest.”

We asked for a live demonstration. The high tech wall plate is equipped with audio and infrared sensors to detect gunfire, and only gunfire, inside a building. No slamming doors. No construction noise. No false alerts. Once the sensors are triggered, an alert goes to the police, and the people inside the building.

WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty explains how it works. She says, “I’m sitting at my desk, doing work, when the alarm is sent, telling me there’s a gunman in the building. A map of the office pops up on my computer telling me where the gunman is and now, a new development in the technology, it’s been tied into the building’s existing surveillance cameras, so I can see watch the gunman move and see exactly what they look like.”

Connors says, “You’ll actually have a visual of the shooter, instantly, once the gun fire is detected. As you probably already know, most of the descriptions of the shooters vary wildly and are rarely correct. So now, we’ll be able to provide the people inside the buildings and the police an actual visual of not only the incident but the active shooter himself.”

“We hope to God we never have to use it, but we hope it’s installed in every single building in the whole country so we can make people safer,” says Methuen, Mass. Police Chief Joseph Soloman. Shooter Detection Systems is already installed in one school in his jurisdiction. Soloman says it provides the two things that matter most: facts and time. It takes just one second for the alert to register.

Soloman says, “One of our issues is a 5-7 minute response time, a 3-5 minute window for someone to find out what happened, grab a phone, make the 911 call, tell you what it is and the the person has already moved to a different location.”

“This technology does for shootings what the fire alarm did for fires,” says Ed Davis. Davis was the Boston Police Commissioner during the 2013 marathon bombings that killed three people and hurt hundreds of others. He’s now a Shooter Detection Systems advisor. Fogarty asked him, “Do you think that this is necessary technology at this point in our country’s history?” He answered, “Tragically, I do. The instances of these incidents is increasing every year if you look up the statistics. There’s a clear upward path.”

Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering making the Shooter Detection Systems technology part of future state and school building code, says Connors. More than 2,000 of the benign white wall plates have been installed inside school buildings, a state-wide court system and corporations so far. Soon, they’ll also be in airports and sports arenas.

They’re mostly in the New England area and New York City but also in Texas, Iowa, California, Nevada and Florida.

Fogarty asked Connors, “Have there been any instances at your installs where the technology has come to play in real life?” He says, “Thank goodness, no. It is a little bit of an odd situation that we invest a lot of time and money to work on something we hope is never used. But we certainly tested well over 30,000 rounds to make sure it does, if an active shooter event were to happen where we are installed.

The alerts come through on your computer and your cell phone. Installation starts at $10,000. Connors says he has had contact with banks and corporations in Charlotte, but no installs yet.