Active Shooter Response – Minutes Save Lives

Wednesday February 20, 2019

Giving Responders the Who, What, Where & When in Seconds

By Rupa Shah & Richard Ryan – Advisers to Athena Security, Inc.

What could responders to mass shootings do with an extra 5 minutes?

About half of mass shootings are still active when police arrive. The valiant efforts of these officers to save lives by stopping the shooter puts them in great danger.  Once the shooting stops, officers must also systematically clear a scene of threats before EMS resources can enter “warm zones” and attend to the wounded. The total response time beginning with event notification to “all clear” status has a critical impact on lives lost.

The Athena Security Video Weapon Detection system is a new technology that uses most existing surveillance camera systems to recognize and detect weapons within seconds.

Start the Response before Shots are Fired

The Athena system saves time by starting the response when the weapon is drawn, before the gunshot and 911 calls providing critical intelligence to officers and EMS arriving on the scene so that they can make informed decisions on aggressive entry.

Analysis of past events tells us that it takes from 3 to 12 minutes for authorities to be alerted to these incidents.  Because shooting incidents can be over in 5 minutes, almost half of them are over by the time police arrive.  Do we really have to wait for a gunshot and a 911 call to begin the response process?

No.   Commercially available image processing technology added to existing surveillance systems can alert police within seconds of recognizing a weapon.  If a modern security approach included an early warning capability, police could be alerted while the shooter was still in the parking lot or approaching an entrance or seconds after a concealed weapon was brandished.  Would this early warning increase the percentage of events stopped by police intervention?

There have been 43 mass shootings[1]already in 2019.  There were 340[2]in 2018.  Think about the places that you or your family frequent.  Schools, offices, shopping malls, offices, churches, theatres and arenas are vulnerable to mass shootings.  Many of us take comfort in the belief that “it won’t happen here” but the statistics tell us that these tragic events can and do happen everywhere.

First on the Scene with Accurate Intelligence

Based on an analysis of active shooter events and police departments’ response policies, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) concluded:

“Today’s police departments focus on stopping the active shooter as quickly as possible, with fast action

by the officers who arrive first, rather than waiting for SWAT teams to arrive. Speeding the response by

even a minute or two can result in many lives being saved.”[3]

911 calls often include incomplete and conflicting information. Responders need critical intelligence for an effective entry.  This information includes number of shooters, description of shooter, weapon used and location of the shooter.  Gathering this intelligence, sorting through conflicting reports and communicating it to responding officers is fraught with challenges. Do we really need to rely on witness accounts to inform responding officers on what is actually happening at an active shooter scene?

No.  Today’s machine vision applications that use the existing surveillance camera systems provide the who, what, when and where in active shooting scenarios within seconds. These same applications map changes in shooter location using cameras that are positioned throughout a facility

Authors’ Note: Concealed Weapon Detection

When we write about this product, we often receive questions and comments related to the value and efficacy of detecting drawn weapons vs. concealed weapons.  There seems to be a perception that the preventative possibilities presented by concealed weapon detection may offer better value.  We believe that the answer to such questions depends on several factors including timing, cost and security strategy. Concealed weapon detection is delivered today in a checkpoint arrangement using electromagnetic or active sensors like X-ray, microwaves, etc.  Think TSA.  The equipment and staffing needed to operate checkpoints is highly intrusive and costly. Commercially feasible sensors that penetrate garments at a non-intrusive stand-off distance are in development. Their science and cost is not yet proven. The continued escalation in the incidence of mass shootings has created an urgent need for immediate action.  We believe that the capability of detecting drawn weapons now is a compelling improvement to existing surveillance camera-based security approaches in place.

[1]Gun Violence Archive

[2]Gun Violence Archive

[3]Police Response to Active Shooter Events