Technology developed in Ohio could detect school shootings in seconds

New technology could help save lives by calling first responders to the scene of a school emergency, even before people start dialing 9-1-1.

The SiteGuard Active Shooter Response system, developed by the Columbus-based nonprofit research and development organization Battelle, is designed to detect gunfire of any kind in a school, office complex or factory.

Wesley Pirkle, a senior research scientist at Battelle, said they began by seeking answers to a series of questions about the weapons most often used in school shootings. They looked closely at everything from handguns to sniper rifles and assault weapons.

RELATED: West Liberty school shooting victim’s parents speak

“What kinds of sound do they make? What kind of frequencies are involved in that signature?” Pirkle said. “And we look for characteristics that are similar to all of those. And we look at other sounds that might be similar to gunshots but are not.”

At the West Liberty-Salem High School shooting on Jan. 20, first responders were on the scene within minutes after multiple people called 9-1-1.

With the Battelle system, when a gunshot is detected, police are notified within two to three seconds through a computerized system and are provided with a stream of information from the scene to help first responders, the school’s staff and students.

DETAILS: ‘It was unbelievable,’ dispatcher recalls West Liberty school shooting

Pirkle said it’s faster and more accurate than relying on witnesses to call police, especially when they are confused about whether they are being faced with an active shooter or something else.

“They heard a noise. Was that actually a gunshot? Should I be going to our lockdown procedures?” Pirkle said people often ask themselves in the early moments of an emergency.

When the system detects a shooter on the move, it tracks their whereabouts and maps movements for first responders to see in real time. The closest security camera provides a live video feed of the area where the gunfire has been detected while a text alert goes to students and staff with up-to-date information on the best way to flee to safety or seek shelter in place.

So far a few school districts in the Columbus area have had the SiteGuard system installed. Battelle is currently marketing the system to schools, universities and a variety of businesses that have large complexes to protect.

READ MORE: West Liberty-Salem students sing ‘Truly Brave’ after school shooting

One concern among customers, Pirkle said, is the potential for false alarms.

“If the system goes off and says ‘there’s a gunshot,’ you may have first responders coming, you may institute lockdown procedures, things go out to the media perhaps, and people are concerned about that,” he said. “And so it is very important that the system is accurate every time.”

The system does distinguish the difference between a gunshot and a loud noise like a door slamming or a heavy object falling to the floor, he said, so it’s been very accurate so far.

Pirkle believes eventually systems like Battelle’s will be as commonplace as smoke detectors and will be installed in every school building being constructed across the country.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Good Samaritan Hospital closing: Community angry, devastated, concerned
Good Samaritan Hospital closing: Community angry, devastated, concerned

The closing of Good Samaritan Hospital will be a crippling blow to the west Dayton community and raises several concerns going forward, said three people who represent the hundreds of residents living near the 86-year-old facility.  "We're behind the eight ball," Minister Daria Dillard Stone, 66 and a member of the Mount Carmel Missionary...
Xenia police, US Marshals arrest suspect who evades manhunt this month
Xenia police, US Marshals arrest suspect who evades manhunt this month

A 33-year-old Xenia man who evaded capture, which led to a manhunt in Xenia, was taken into custody by Xenia police and the U.S.  Marshals. Charles E. Dameron was arrested Wednesday night without incident, Xenia police Capt. Alonzo Wilson stated tonight in a news release. Dameron will be facing additional charges as a result of this arrest, Wilson...
Hippo Kiss: Fiona’s smooch on canvas can be yours
Hippo Kiss: Fiona’s smooch on canvas can be yours

In celebration of the first birthday of Fiona — the premature hippopotamus who beat the odds and captured hearts around the globe — fans will get a chance to win a one-of-a-kind “Hippo Kiss” painting, and become an official Fiona parent. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking Fiona’s first birthday with a special...
Greater Dayton RTA buses could be rid of cash fares by 2020
Greater Dayton RTA buses could be rid of cash fares by 2020

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority hopes to modernize its payment system and get rid of cash fares by 2020, officials said Wednesday. More than half of RTA riders have migrated to passes, including monthly and weekly passes, said Mark Donaghy, CEO of the agency.  The agency will work to become the first major transit authority in the...
Pastor: Community ‘in shock’ after news about Good Samaritan closing
Pastor: Community ‘in shock’ after news about Good Samaritan closing

Hours after Good Samaritan Hospital officials announced Wednesday that the facility will close later this year, reaction about the community impact has been wide ranging. "It's devastating news, I was shocked" said Daryl Ward, pastor of Omega Baptist Church in Dayton.  His church is just down the street from Good Samaritan Hospital,...
More Stories