Massachusetts school deploys ‘shooter detection system’

METHUEN Massachusetts (Reuters) - A Massachusetts school has introduced a security system designed to alert authorities and administrators when shots are fired in the building, the first of its kind in the United States, according to the manufacturer.

The technology, adapted from a system in use by the U.S. military in war zones, is being marketed to schools and other public spaces across the country after a spate of deadly mass shootings.

Authorities in Methuen, about 30 miles north of Boston, demonstrated the Guardian Active Shooter Detection System on Tuesday, when the school was closed for the Veterans Day holiday, with a man firing blanks in the school’s hallways.

After the shots rang out, police coordinated a response over radios and an audience, which included Massachusetts Democratic representative Niki Tsongas and police chiefs from across the region, watched as circles pinpointing the shots appeared on a floor plan projected in the school’s auditorium.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure our schools are sanctuaries for learning,” Tsongas said ahead of the demonstration. “From Columbine to Sandy Hook, unspeakable acts of violence have occurred in our schools, and gun violence is now a major concern for our children, our educators and our parents,” she said.

U.S. schools have ramped up security in recent decades, installing metal detectors and surveillance systems to counter a surge in shootings. New England saw one of the worst such attacks in 2012, when a gunman killed 20 elementary students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, said a system like the one in Methuen could lead to fewer injuries and perhaps save lives.

Shooter Detection Systems’ CEO Christian Connors said the system was the first of its kind in the country, and that the company was talking to the federal government about its wider use. The system costs $50,000 to $100,000 for a school of Methuen’s size, Connors said.

The system consists of an outdoor acoustic system and 50 to 60 smoke-detector-size sensors installed in hallways and classrooms, he said. It also uses infrared cameras to detect muzzle flashes, he said.

The technology was developed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, an arm of the U.S. Defense Department, and Raytheon, which has deployed similar systems in Iraq and Afghanistan, the company said.

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