Canadian Security Magazine

Finding a shot in the dark

By Joe Oliveri   

News Public Sector active shooter alerts gunshot detection technology integration joe oliveri response rates risk managers

The difference between life and death can be greatly impacted by the quick response from security and law enforcement teams, and with today’s emerging technologies, there are security solutions available to help detect an active shooter and alert the appropriate parties.

Intelligent technology to help protect patrons

Gunshot detection technology could easily be misinterpreted as a heavy lift for security and IT departments; however, risk managers and building owners might be surprised to learn that gunshot detection systems can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure. Access control, alarm panels, video surveillance, mass notification and mobile application technologies, among other traditional security features, are compatible with active shooter detection systems. While billions are spent annually on security systems, syncing the shooter detection system with an existing system can be a powerful addition to an overall security strategy to help protect patrons from gun violence.
Dating back to World War I, gunshot detection technology originally relied solely on acoustic feedback to detect a gunshot. Unfortunately, acoustics proved to be difficult to depend on alone due to sounds being misinterpreted. Today, new advancements, such as sensors that can spot infrared flashes as an additional way to confirm a gunshot, can be implemented with traditional security systems like video surveillance to enable more accurate and near real-time notifications. This dual authentication helps to reduce false alerts and cuts down on the time previously needed to have an expert verify the acoustics of a gunshot. Beyond the gunshot detection itself, live video surveillance footage and building floor plans can be integrated to provide first responders with the most up to date status and an enhanced understanding of the situation. This permits emergency personnel and security professionals to be alerted within seconds of the first shot, allowing them to more efficiently respond to the area where the event is occurring.

Where gunshot detection technology is most valuable

Areas where there is a constant flux of people are the most vulnerable to gun violence. The most susceptible areas range from entertainment venues like casinos and concert spaces to facilities like schools and hospitals. All of these locations experience high volumes of traffic across different levels or floors, which poses security challenges when it comes to identifying suspicious or criminal activity.


For example, entertainment venues serve as a meeting place for people to enjoy themselves in an exciting atmosphere. However, the constant flow of people presents safety hurdles for security personnel. Not only do they need to keep the public safe, but they also need to protect staff and any talent presenting at the venue from a potential violent situation. By integrating active shooter technology with their current security system, entertainment venues can better keep all parties safe and speed up any necessary responses from law enforcement to a harmful incident because of the more accurate information gathered through the technology. Having the correct location of where an active shooter event is happening can also help start lock down procedures or evacuations faster for staff and visitors to keep them out of harm’s way.

Improving response rates

Reducing response time to a potential threat is crucial for high trafficked areas. The near real-time information provided by gunshot detection technology is a quicker and more effective way for law enforcement and first responders to receive the information they need to properly address a situation. Upon arriving to a gun violence scene, first responders speak with witnesses, security teams and building or venue management to gather intel. They also review the video surveillance systems and the footage captured during the event. When combined with the latest gunshot detection technology, these systems can support their response efforts through the plethora of additional information they are able to attain. Collecting the most accurate information is critical for response teams as data shows that most active shooter incidents are over within minutes, and police are trained to neutralize an active shooter as soon as possible.

Active shooter technology is a long-term investment that can ultimately improve security measures far into the future for soft targets such as entertainment venues. While hopefully it never needs to be used, the technology can help minimize lives lost and accelerate response time by providing vital information to first responders, security personnel and building or venue managers to help keep patrons safe.   

Joe Oliveri is the vice president and general manager, security, for Johnson Controls Building Solutions North America (

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