Oakland school will test new gunshot detection system

Wed, 2013-11-20 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

SiteSecure software Gunshot detection systems are already used on the streets of cities around the country, but a charter school in Oakland, California will be among the first to test the technology in a school setting, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The sad reality is that preparing for an active shooter is the new normal. We must ensure that we do everything within our power to provide an enhanced notification and response capability to first responders so that they can effectively engage in active shooter situations,” said Ralph A. Clark, president and CEO of SST, Inc. the company that makes the technology, in a statement announcing its new indoor gunshot detection system.

 “Just as fire alarms cannot prevent fires, ShotSpotter SiteSecure will not prevent shootings. However, fire alarms are a critical mass notification component of building safety, and similarly gunfire detection will give first responders a much faster and far more precise real-time understanding of an active-shooter incident. ShotSpotter SiteSecure acts as a first and enhanced alert within a broader security strategy which will reduce the risk the public faces in our most vulnerable locations and will create a safer environment for students at school and universities.”

Here's how it will work in the Oakland  school: Sensors designed to detect the pressure changes and infrared heat associated with gunshots will be placed in every room in the school as well as hallways and open areas. If a gun is fired in the school, a ShotSpotter employee monitor will hear it and push a button to notify police within seconds.

As the Chronicle explains it: "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."

Meanwhile, teachers and staff at the school can also receive instant messages alerting them to lock down their spaces or get out fast.

The charter school will test the system initially for free, but schools that want to tap the technology will have to find a way to pay for it. The Chronicle says the set-up fees are $15,000 and yearly costs about $10,000. For today's cash-strapped schools, that can be a significant expense – especially given that as horrific as they are, school shootings are still rare. Read more about arguments pro and con in the Chronicle report.

Related topic:

Smart policing: How 70 U.S. cities get gun violence alerts from sensors