In 2018, there have already been 18 gun-related incidents at American schools, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. And while some of those include suicides or accidental firings, some were intentional shootings and people died.
According to statistics posted on the Homeland Security Digital Library, the average school shooting (for institutions of higher education) lasts 12.5 minutes. But, in general, three to five minutes pass in these situations before calls even start going out to 911. After that, the average response time of campus and local law enforcement to the scene is 18 minutes.
You do the math.
So how do we get first responders there more quickly and minimize the possibly horrific effects?
While lawmakers debate gun control, the world of technology definitely has some ideas on what else might help.
Acoustic gunshot identification systems include sensors (about the size of a smoke detector) placed around a building and are already installed in some schools around the country. One company, Shooter Detection Systems, uses software — created by the military — combined with infrared gunfire flash detection to immediately alert law enforcement if someone fires a gun. The system can call up surveillance cameras in the building, start lockdown procedures and send mass notifications. Using a floor plan of the building, it shows police officers exactly where someone fired a gun and then makes a trail of lights on that map as the shooter moves around.
An app called InForce is also part of the system that contacts law enforcement with a chat portal so staff members can communicate with them. The cost starts around $10,000 and can increase depending on the size of the school.
More corporations than school districts have bought in at this point. The company first installed one of these systems in a Massachusetts public school in 2014. The area police chief, Joseph Solomon, told the Huffington Post at the time that such systems should be required in public buildings, just as fire suppression systems and smoke detectors are.
"We need smart buildings," Solomon now tells WHDH. "Smart buildings save lives."
Another option, the SchoolGuard app, doesn't require physical additions to a school building, but also may cut down on response times. Guard911 gives teachers a digital "panic button" right on their phones. Nate McVicker, president and founder of Guard911, says we must find ways to deter and possibly prevent subsequent attacks in our schools, businesses and churches.
"During every one of these senseless acts of violence there remains a common conclusion at each," he says. "A shorter police notification and subsequent response time can and will save lives."
When a school staff member hits that button, the app alerts every police officer — on duty or off — within a certain radius of the school. For nearby law enforcement to receive the alert, though, they must be part of the Hero911 Network, a voluntary, nonprofit foundation of federal, state and local law enforcement officers.
McVicker says nearly 50,000 officers have joined the network and that they'll receive the notification of a shooting at the same time the call is placed to 911, shaving crucial seconds off response time. The app notifies all schools within five miles (as long they are also Guard911 participants), and will show every other teacher and staff member at the school where their colleague was when they activated the panic button.
The service costs $1,000 per property for implementation, has no limits on the number of users, and charges a $99 monthly service fee. If multiple schools in a district implement the service, they get a discount.