New system protects schools from active shooters


By Christine Bryant
Staff Writer

Though no one wants to think an active shooter scenario could happen close to home, school districts across the United States have found they could happen anywhere.

A new system from Battelle Memorial Institute, however, is designed to save lives by protecting people from active shooters in the critical first minutes of such an event – and Reynoldsburg Schools is home to the first of its kind system in the nation.

Battelle installed an initial version of the integrated system in one of the Reynoldsburg High School campuses in May 2014. Which campus this has occurred in has not been disclosed.

This month, Battelle advanced the project into the second phase of installation, and when fully implemented, the system will exceed the effectiveness of traditional gunshot detection systems that only detect and alert.

“Phase II of the installation provided an improved user interface and increased the number and coverage areas of the gunshot detection sensors, which were also optimized to improve performance and reduce cost,” said Ed Jopeck, who is leading the project for the Columbus-based organization. “The second phase also adds features, such as greater integration with the school’s video management system to help verify and track a potential shooter throughout the building.”

The SiteGuard Active Shooter Response system, which is customizable, allows the addition of features in the future as well, he said.

“When a gun is fired, the system detects all gunshots with inexpensive gunshot detection sensors,” Jopeck said. “The location of the shooter is displayed over a floor plan in the Siteguard Control Center, which runs on any Internet-accessible computer screen.”

Once this occurs, the control center directs cameras to the scene and replays the gunshot audio to allow school security or police to confirm presence of an actual active shooter, he said.

“A distress call is automatically initiated identifying to police the address and location of the shooting,” Jopeck said. “Building occupants are also alerted of the incident type and location throughout the incident via an integrated public address or emergency mass notification system.”

First responders receive previously-unavailable and detailed information, such as the number and location of all gunshots, in near real time – even before arriving at the scene, he said.

“When they do arrive, they are better prepared to concentrate their resources and go directly to where they can most quickly neutralize the shooter,” he said.

It’s also possible to automatically or remotely control the building lockdown, evacuation and communication tools to further protect and communicate with building occupants until police have determined the situation is safe, Jopeck said.

Reynoldsburg City Schools was selected for the system installation based on its proficiencies in technical sophistication and modern building construction – not because of a perceived threat or likelihood of a shooting occurring at the school, Jopeck said.

Todd Hutchins, director of communications at Reynoldsburg City Schools, said the district volunteered for the opportunity because providing a safe learning environment for students is a top priority.

“This new technology will help improve our safety standards by alerting students and staff to any danger on the school campus more quickly than before, while also reducing confusion for first responders,” Hutchins said.

Battelle’s goal is to develop the technology to benefit other school districts, as well as public and commercial buildings, Jopeck said. The organization is working with several federal government departments, hotel chains and other businesses that are seeking to acquire their own systems.

“The increase by active shooters and terrorist attacks by home-grown extremists and terrorist groups like ISIS has many public buildings and organizations seeking to improve their protection and response capabilities,” he said.

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