Timing Is Everything

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Timing Is Everything

The timing in active shooter situations is changing.  In the past, the time between the first shot fired and the arrival of the police has been measured in long, tortuous minutes, minutes that felt like an eternity to victims.  In some cases, it has taken as much as forty-five minutes for police to regain control of a situation.  Meanwhile, many may lie dead, many more injured and in desperate need of immediate medical attention.  In that lost time, the murderer may escape or take his own life.  Even after law enforcement arrives, essential minutes expire as they sift through information from the site and from witnesses, trying to put together a picture of what may be going on inside a building.  Law enforcement has been doing all that could be done, but they have lacked the tools necessary for an immediate, coordinated response.  That is changing.

   Police Response Times* for Priority 1** 911 calls.  

U S City Response Time in Minutes **** Active Shooter Incidents *** Number of Fatalities Number Injured
Las Vegas, NV 6 5 7 21
Houston, TX 5.51 5 3 17
Los Angeles, CA 6.1 10 9 35
New York, NY 6.69 7 9 20
San Antonio, TX 6.88 2 3 5
Chicago, IL 3.46 31 18 140
Dallas/ Fort Worth, TX 8.92 3 2 13
Washington, DC 9 6 2 23

 *Police Response Time = the amount of time it takes from the moment the officer receives the call from dispatch and the moment the officer makes contact at the scene.

**A Priority 1 911 call is a request for help in a dangerous or violent situation.

*** Retrieved from individual state and city websites.

**** From MassShootingTracker.org

According to the National Sherriff’s Association, the average time for an Active Shooter is 12.5 minutes

Variables affecting average response times include:

o   The amount of time preceding the first 911 call.

o   The amount of time before dispatch is able to assign an officer (panicked callers cannot always provide location information immediately).

o   Traffic

o   Distance from officer’s location to scene of shooting

o   The time it takes for backup officers to arrive.

          It is never our intention to add to the pain of loss by speculating about what might have been in situations past. Instead, to consider the positive impact of new technologies on these tragic situations, imagine a normal shopping mall in a busy suburb of any great American city.  These sprawling centers have dozens of exits, alcoves, and shops. There are long, wide promenades, and multi-level department stores at either end.  Movie theaters, carousels, arcades, broad, open food courts, stairs, elevators, and escalators serve the thousands who visit daily.  Many are flooded with natural light that is spread throughout the building via glass doors, walls, skylights, and windows. Even at night, shopping malls are brightly lit, noisy, and full of people walking, visiting, shopping, browsing, and dreaming.  At meal times, it’s difficult to find a table in the vast food courts.

          The frightening reality has been that a lone shooter in a building like that could murder dozens of people at one end of the mall without ever raising alarm at the other.  He could, conceivably, hide his weapons and fall into step with shoppers along the promenade exiting through any of the doors that lead to the parking lots and garages that surround our malls.  The police would certainly pore over the grim videoafter the incident in an attempt to identify the shooter, to see how he entered the mall, who was shot when and with what weapon.  But none of that would bring back those innocent people lost during the shooting.  None of it would lessen the grief of survivors and families.  Another terrible crime would have occurred. Another shooting.  More deaths.  Nothing anyone could have done.

         Until recently, the above scenario would have been unavoidable.  Law enforcement and security officers have done the best they could with the tools they had in hand.  Businesses and the government have spent tens of millions to harden buildings and improve police response times, to make the law-enforcement presence more effective. But shooters are still finding their way into public and private spaces, still taking lives without remorse, still killing.  However, the rules have changed.  New, leading-edge technology has the potential to completely change both the timing and the options for response teams.

        Let’s take a second look at that imaginary shopping mall.  This time let us look at what might happen with Athena Security Cameras fully integrated into the mall’s security systems.  Let’s imagine that law enforcement has had an opportunity to train with mall security and Athena’s highly qualified instructors.  And, finally, let’s suppose that law enforcement has access to the live feed from the Athena Cameras inside the mall, live communication with mall security, and clear floorplans of the mall itself as well as each of the shops inside.

        Now imagine that that same shooter enters through a parking garage door at the north end of the mall.  In the same moment that the killer raises his gun, Athena’s protocols are in motion.  Information is sent to security.  Law enforcement is called, and a live feed is sent to them from the Athena Camera system inside the mall.  Long before the first officer arrives at the mall, they can all see the shooter inside.  They know exactly where he is, what weapons he has, and how many people are in the vicinity.  Police can see and hear exactly what is going on.  So can Mall Security.

          Security officers begin to quietly evacuate patrons through the south exits, through the back doors of shops, well out of the sight of the shooter.  This time, the size and complexity of the mall is an advantage to law enforcement, not to the shooter.  Police can track every step the shooter takes.  Emergency personnel can enter behind him to treat any injured.  In a few quiet moments, most patrons have already been evacuated.  Doors have already been locked.  The shooter finds that shops have all been closed.  The exit he had planned is closed. A trained negotiator is already speaking to him.

         Vital intelligence is sent to every police and security officer involved.  Everyone knows where the shooter is, what he’s doing, and where he’s going.  Communication is coordinated between all parties. Everyone is kept in the loop.  Facial recognition software is being employed to identify the shooter so that police can check his record.  Exits are being systematically locked after shoppers and employees have been successfully evacuated.  The shooter’s options are getting smaller and smaller until he is finally cornered, identified, arrested.

         From the moment the shooter presented a threat, the police and security have had their eyes and ears on him.  They know where he is, they can see him moving, hear him, speak to him.  Instead of a response time measured in long minutes, police are virtually in the building in a matter of seconds from the time a threat is spotted.

         This isn’t a someday scenario.  This technology is available now. Today.  Experts at Athena Security are ready to install their camera technology in schools, offices, shopping malls, banks – anywhere that people have been vulnerable to the vicious attack of an active shooter.  Athena will even partner with existing security systems, to integrate their technology with cameras already on site.  The advantages an active shooter once had over a vulnerable population are coming to an end.