9:01 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Gunshot Detection Technology To Be Used In Methuen Schools

A bullet is fired from a gun.
A bullet is fired from a gun.
Credit Niels Noordhoek / Flickr

As the country continues to grapple with deadly mass shootings, a North Shore company is taking on the task of alerting people when shots are fired indoors. And right here in Massachusetts, they’ll be installing these gunshot detectors in schools.

The technology is called Guardian, and it uses sensors not only to capture the sound and location of a gunshot, but also uses infrared sensors to detect the flash when a shot is fired. It’s made by Shooter Detection Systems, based in Rowley, Massachusetts.

Guardian will now be installed in schools and airports across the country, including Methuen Public schools this fall.

Once a shot is fired, the system immediately alerts local law enforcement and school personnel. CEO Christian Connors says the technology will drastically reduce the time it takes for first responders to arrive at the scene of a shooting.

"It also enables additional security measures, such as loud alarms, exit route lighting, lockdown doors or any other security measures that the school has implemented," Connors said.

The technology had originally been used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan to detect enemy gunfire. Connors says it will buy a little more time should a shooting take place, hopefully preventing the destruction of tragedies like Sandy Hook and the Navy Shipyard.

"The goal of the company is to help mitigate the threat that is now evolving here and growing here in the United States and apply that same technology that saved soldier’s lives overseas to help save our students and citizens," Connors said.

Connors wouldn’t disclose the cost of installing Guardian in schools, but says it’s comparable to camera surveillance systems many schools already have in place. The company is not the only one developing indoor gunshot detection. ShotSpotter, which is used by the Boston Police Department to detect gunshots, recently launched its own indoor detection system.

Methuen police chief Joe Solomon says the technology eliminates the time it takes to call 911.

"What we figure," said Solomon, "is the 3 to 5 minutes for somebody to realize what’s happened… You have to observe what’s occurred, you have to confirm in your mind that this is what you’re actually seeing to take the time to go somewhere and make the call to the station. Those crucial minutes will be gone because the system will be instantaneous."

Critics cite privacy as a potential issue because the technology, once activated, records audio of its surroundings. Civil rights attorney Richard Cole, says there’s a strong law enforcement need for this kind of detection but it runs the risk of recording people who don’t know they’re being recorded.

“That’s impermissible under the state wiretap statute without party’s consent, so that’s where it is most questionable.”

Shooter Detection Systems says that setting can be turned off at the discretion of school officials.