As part of their semi-annual active shooter training, the Nevada National Guard is testing a device that can detect a gunshot in a public building and automatically sound the alarm and call for help.
Chris Perrine, CEO of Protective Innovations, told an audience at the guard headquarters in Carson City all schools and most public buildings have fire alarm systems that detect smoke and flames and automatically report what’s happening.
“We asked ourselves, can we do the same thing with gunshots?” Perrine said. “We have created a fire alarm for active shooters.”
He said the device they have developed isn’t only similar to a smoke detector, it ties into existing commercial fire alarm systems in a building, making it much easier and cheaper to install.
He said the company is looking to do a full-scale test installation once their prototype is ready later this year and the Nevada guard complex may be the site. But on Monday, the detector was getting a workout at the guard headquarters.
The test of the Gunshot Detector advanced prototype was attended by a long list of agencies including not just law enforcement but fire officials, school district officials including Clark, Washoe and Carson City, state agencies including the fire marshal and Division of Emergency Management as well as officials from a few resorts and International Games Technology, IGT, which develops computerized gaming control and other systems for major resorts.
Major Robert Kolvet of the Nevada Guard said the system could greatly reduce the response time by law enforcement after a shooter opens fire in a public building.
“In the real world, it’s incredible how far the bullet sound does not travel in a building,” said Kolvet.
In addition, he said most people don’t recognize a gunshot when they hear it so it takes time for somebody to realize what’s happening and dial 911.
“My intent is to reduce that amount of time,” he said.
Kolvet and Perrine said the device can distinguish between a loud, sharp noise and a gunshot using artificial intelligence. In addition, they said it will continuously report the gunman’s location as he or she moves through a building firing.
“It listens for very specific algorithms of sounds,” said Kolvet. “Once they have (the detectors) placed throughout the building, it will follow that shooter down the hall.”
Perrine said most such incidents come from an insider threat.
“We don’t have the means to actually prevent these events so what we set out to do is find a way to improve our response so when one of these terrible events occurs there is less loss of life,” he said.
When a gunshot is detected, the system instantly sounds the alarm inside the building and calls 911. Perrine said it can do so with almost zero probability of false alarms.
The test is being conducted as part of the guard’s semi-annual active shooter training during which members of the guard and civilian staff are updated on what to do in an emergency.
Kolvet said in addition to the gunshot detection system, his staff is working on a “unit marshal program.” Similar to the air marshals now traveling incognito on commercial airlines, the unit marshal would be specially trained and armed with a concealed weapon to respond to threats in public buildings. He said that has the potential to deter attacks because a shooter wouldn’t know who the unit marshal is.