Page 96 - Security Today, July/August 2020
P. 96

Gunshot Detectors
Being Prepared
Statistically, the probability of an active shooter event occurring at any given location is quite small. Even so, the devastation active shooters cause is so horrific that being prepared for such events demands attention and resources. A recent survey1 of top security decision makers representing a wide range of workplaces, including schools, offices, retail spaces, places of worship, manufacturing facilities, and utilities, reported that an active shooter scenario was the physical security threat that concerned them most.
In fact, OSHA Section 5 requires employers to furnish workplaces that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Sadly, active shooters are a “rec- ognized hazard” for many types of work environments. Failure to imple- ment sufficient risk mitigation programs can result in significant fines from OSHA, as well as legal liability for injuries and deaths resulting from an attack.
In response, as today’s systems integrators sell the value of technolo- gies like video surveillance, access control, security screening, emergen- cy communication systems and visitor management, they are including information about how these solutions can perform in an active shooter scenario to help mitigate risk and reduce harm. However, conversations regarding indoor gunfire detection solutions have been reserved for only the most high-profile, well-funded projects.
The historically high price for such systems is multi-faceted. For effec- tive coverage, a high number of detectors must be deployed throughout a property, and the price adds up quickly. Labor-intensive monitoring and alert notification services that support these systems are expensive.
Unlike many security technologies whose cost can be justified for the many day-to-day use cases in which they deliver value, most gunshot detection sys- tems will never, hopefully, need to alarm and notify. These compounding con- cerns make budgeting for their high price even harder to justify.
A New Wave of Hardware
The adoption of IoT and cloud computing in other industries has brought a new wave of low-cost hardware powered by incredibly power- ful backends. This architecture, when applied to indoor gunshot detec- tion, can be paired with cutting edge AI engines to enable a new genera- tion of systems; systems that will redefine the capabilities and pricing of hardware sensors, software, installation, and monitoring.
For gunfire detection systems, sensors that leverage the cloud to pro-
"For gunfire detection systems, sensors that leverage the cloud to process and analyze their signals can completely eliminate the need for additional overhead hardware on-site."
cess and analyze their signals can completely eliminate the need for addi- tional overhead hardware on-site. New detectors, as small and incon- spicuous as the smallest of smoke detectors, can be sold for hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars each. The cloud facilitates robust mobile and web-based management software and installation tools, offering all the advantages of a with minimal upfront costs and reason- able annual service fees.
Installation costs are minimized, due to simplified network require- ments and “plug and play” connectivity of IoT sensor devices that can be programmed and mapped from a mobile device or browser. Continu- ously improving AI, powered by cloud computing allows for constant adaptation and improvement of gunfire analysis, reducing or eliminating the need for human involvement for monitoring and throughout the alert notification sequence.
Technologies rooted in government and military applications have limited the accessibility of gunfire detection systems. As the headlines continue to be written and the question continues to be raised actions must be taken to open up that access. IoT and cloud computing continue to grow in their maturity and ubiquity, and they offer a lifeline to this previously stifled sector. The ability to process a large number of high- speed, high-precision inputs no longer has to drive up the cost of every device in the system. Instead, each device can act as a simple extension of the unlimited power in the cloud.
As the cost of indoor gunfire detection systems ceases to be an obstacle, responsible stakeholders must consider inclusion of such technology as part of a comprehensive active shooter security plan. Most have already invested in physical security technologies to harden their facilities. Now it is time to focus on strategies to save as many lives as possible, should an attack occur.
A gunfire detection system can notify authorities within seconds of the first trigger pull and equip first responders with actionable intelli-
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