DARPA-inspired technology that promises to detect gunshots in a school, alert authorities and help first responders locate the shooter will be demonstrated this afternoon for civilian officials and members of law enforcement gathered in Methuen, Mass.
That the name of the school where this will happen, reportedly the first in the nation to be so equipped, isn’t being made public says a lot about the plague this technology is designed to address.
From a story on Boston.com:
Mayor Stephen Zanni, Schools Superintendent Judith Scannell, Police Chief Joseph Solomon and Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas are among those who were expected to be on hand, along with police chiefs and police officers from across the northeast. The demonstration will simulate an active shooter in a school building and show how police would respond using the new technology.
The ‘‘Guardian Active Shooter Detection System’’ is triggered by the sounds of gunfire, sending an alert to police within seconds. Then, using smoke alarm-sized sensors installed throughout the school’s classrooms and hallways, it can transmit audio recordings in real time, so that emergency responders can track the shooter and monitor other developments before, during and after the person enters the building.
The company touting this technology, Shooter Detection Systems of Rowley, Mass., claims it produces “close to zero false alerts.” How close to zero that proves to be will likely be important.
The company has a six-minute marketing video that is predictably alarmist.
Will such a system actually help?
Methuen Police Chief Solomon seems convinced, having earlier told CNN: “What we always find is that seconds count … I want to go right to the target, because if I can stop or mitigate the target, I can stop the carnage.”
Call me skeptical. “Seconds count” sounds an awful lot like “if it saves just one life,” which gets used too often to defend public-safety and zero-tolerance practices that are more about appearing to do something than actually doing something.
However, it wasn’t that long ago that I would have dismissed technology like this out of hand, as I did the ever-more-common school lockdown procedures. Not anymore.
By Paul McNamara