In the wake of the Newtown shooting, schools across the country have taken radical measures to prepare students for an active shooter situation. We've seen lockdown drills involving firing blank rounds in the hallways while children take cover in classrooms. We've seen a SWAT team perform a hijacking drill on a school bus loaded with kids. Fake blood has been deployed.
The private sector has taken notice. Hardwire Armor Systems makes a bulletproof dry erase board that retails for $299. (Here's a video demonstration.) International Armoring Corporation also makes a bulletproof dry erase board, which sells for $1,850. Total Security Systems and other companies offer "bullet resistant polycarbonate security glass" for school entrances.
And now, ShotSpotter, the gunshot detection system used in roughly 80 cities around the globe (70 of them in the U.S.), is joining the game. An unnamed Oakland charter school (update: the school is Oakland School for the Arts) will be the first one in the country to use the ShotSpotter SiteSecure system, which is capable of detecting that a gun has been fired and where it was fired by using a network of microphones, then communicating that information to law enforcement.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark described how his technology will work in schools: in the event a gun is fired, a strategically placed acoustic sensor—in a hallway, classroom, or cafeteria—will send a gunshot report to an "incident review center," where an "acoustic expert" will be responsible for determining whether the detected noise is actually a gunshot.
If it is, ShotSpotter will immediately notify local law enforcement:
The information will hit police car computer screens instantly and include a floor plan of the school showing which classroom the shots were fired in, the type of gun used, and which direction the shooter or shooters appear to be moving. If more shots are fired, police almost instantly will know the exact location.
Classroom teachers and staff can also get instant messages advising them to lock down their rooms -- or run.
Being able to react quickly and precisely won't come cheap. Schools that decide to use the ShotSpotter system will pay $15,000 for installation, and $10,000 a year in subscription fees. That price tag is a turnoff to Oakland School Board Member Jody London, who told McClatchy that she'd rather hire more counselors, because, "At the end of the day, the person who has positive interactions with the students is ultimately going to be a better long-term deterrent."
But schools aren't the only places ShotSpotter is hoping to set up shop. The company sees a market for the indoor sensors in malls, college campuses, airports and on military bases as well.
Top image: A visualization of how ShotSpotter's outdoor technology works. The indoor system would not rely on triangulation.