Proactive Security for Active Shooter Situations

Proactive Security for Active Shooter Situations

Intelligent security solutions take campus security from reactive to proactive

You can’t stop something you don’t see coming. So how can campus security be anything but reactive to active shooter situations? Intelligent security might be the answer.

By combining the best insights of humans and technology, campuses can establish a proactive security strategy to mitigate the impact of active shooter events, if not anticipate and avoid them altogether. Advances in AI, video analytics, sensors, and wearable technology already provide the tools necessary to make this a reality. What’s missing are the intelligent insights and “awareness” to tie them together.

See It Coming

There are many ways to detect an individual on the “path to harm.” One way is by deploying video cameras with enhanced video analytics capabilities that include facial recognition, license plate identification, loitering and object left behind detection.

With increases in computing power, facial recognition technology has become an increasingly viable and affordable solution to implement, allowing campuses to identify a “person of interest” as they approach the perimeter, and to issue an alert in advance of a potential attack.

This might have helped in Parkland, where the perpetrator was already on a watch list. The suspect was known to be dangerous enough not to be allowed to bring a backpack on campus, and was expelled one year before the shootings. Although a security guard saw the shooter approach the campus with a duffel bag that day, there was no video analysis to connect the dots to other data on file, and to warn the staff that an expelled student was approaching campus in an unauthorized manner.

The 19-year-old was the subject of dozens of 911 calls and at least two separate tips to the FBI. He also came to the attention of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Despite warning signs stretching back over a decade, no one intervened to stop the Valentine’s Day shootings.

License Plate Recognition is another tried and true method that can identify “automobiles of interest” as they approach a facility. This is typically done with higher accuracy than facial recognition and gives campuses one more identity attribute to detect and monitor.

When these types of alerts are connected to an AI-powered risk intelligence system, they can not only provide actional security alerts in real time, but also help campuses take preventive measures to avert potential attacks before they occur—activating access control systems to lock the doors, and notifying the authorities that a dangerous suspect is in the vicinity.

Keep the Human-in-the-Loop

Campuses are busy, dynamic places. Students, teachers, parents, administrators, maintenance crews, security teams, and myriad other visitors contribute to a vibrant, yet complex physical environment of comings and goings.

Security technology offers countless innovations and efficiencies for keeping an eye on things, but it cannot replace the human factor. Modern “See Something, Say Something” applications are necessary combine human-in-the-loop observations with other sensing and detecting technologies. For instance, teachers and security resource officers are still needed inputs to a sound security procedures. They can not only provide reports of suspicious or concerning behavior but also are on the ground and can serve as eyes on a developing situation. Armed with mobile devices and applications that enable them to quickly report and record activity, campuses will be more informed and proactive.

The goal is for technology to empower and augment human intuition and observation in order to help stop threats before they become headlines.

It Takes a Village

Not only can a community work together to prevent a crisis, but it can stay together to improve the response and mitigation. Mobile and tablet applications can be used to improve mustering to account for people in an active shooter situation. They can provide one-touch panic buttons for those in distress. And, with actionable guidance being delivered to all those on campus on their mobile devices, they could be directed to safe shelter locations until the coast is clear. It could also offer visibility into a student’s status in the instance that an active shooter situation has taken place. With wearable devices, the potential for fast responses and communications is greatly improved. In active shooter situations, every second counts.

One-Touch Lockdown

Lockdown during an active shooter situation is undoubtedly one of those times. Fortunately, technology has pushed the functionality of smart phones to an even more intuitive form factor: the Apple Watch. Today’s smart watches have a new and critical benefit: life safety.

With the tap of a wrist, a security officer who “sees something” could implement a lockdown procedure by adjusting permissions for an entire campus. Based on location, classroom doors could be locked to protect students sheltering in place, or selectively unlocked to give first responders immediate access. (They could also be locked to isolate a suspect and limit the risks of further harm). This emphasizes the importance of AI-driven and riskadaptive access control systems where intelligence can significantly improve life safety.

Intelligent Access

Unfortunately, the Virginia Beach shooting is a timely example. According to Fox News, “Police responding to the deadly mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building were unable to confront the gunman at one point because they didn’t have the key cards needed to open doors on the second floor. Over the radio, they desperately pleaded for the electronic cards and talked of bringing in a sledgehammer, an explosive charge or other means of breaking down the doors.”

Emergency responders were locked out of the emergency they were supposed to be managing. Independent of response times, if there is no quick ability to automatically or remotely modify access permissions according to elevated risk levels, how can they do their job, and help to save peoples’ lives?

Having a way to adjust facility permissions from a mobile device during an emergency situation can solve this problem. Further, riskadaptive access control solutions allow facilities to adjust permissions in real-time based on the risk situation and the individual’s credentials, without giving carte-blanche access to people who otherwise don’t need it. 20/20 Vision

On average, five minutes lapse between active shooter detection and emergency first response. In those five minutes, the situation evolves quickly—but too often first responders are left in the dark. Literally, guessing and reacting.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Video surveillance systems, typically siloed from police and EMS systems, now have the ability to be integrated with third-party communication and security solutions to provide a common operating picture, or COP.

With a COP in place, campus safety and emergency responders can monitor all security events from a single, centralized platform, where all the inputs and outputs are normalized to speak the same language—enabling teams to go from manually “collating” siloed information to a fully integrated view providing actionable intelligence. We move from simply mass notification to mass cooperation.

Actionable Guidance

There are paths to harm and paths to safety. Using mobile applications, students, and teachers can be notified of an incident, and prescribed the most relevant safety procedures based on their relative location and proximity. Additionally, smart buildings outfitted with intelligent sensors can monitor and analyze activities, illuminating the optimal path to safety with lighting and signage.

It’s almost impossible to stop something bad from happening before you know about it. But you can certainly be better prepared to respond if and when it happens. The good news is that technology is elevating our awareness—and giving us new tools to take action as necessary. And hopefully one day, it will empower us to stop having this conversation at all.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.