Tragically, in the world we now live, mass shootings and gun violence are epic concerns not only in schools, but Big Box retail, hospitals, municipal buildings, festivals, sporting events, concert venues, and just about anywhere crowds gather or work. The number of incidents is not acceptable and is truly startling. There are many societal and mental health issues that can cause these events and their importance in solving this issue is critical. However, this article will be focussed on the technology side of preventing mass shooting events.

Going beyond metal detectors

The best way to eliminate mass shootings is to detect weapons before they ever enter, or as they enter, a building. Metal detectors have been effectively dispatched and used to identify weapons on a person entering a building. The major drawbacks of metal detectors are the cost to operate them, several security guards per machine, and the resultant bottlenecks which cause limited throughput at the entrances.

The technology eliminates the need to empty pockets and allows backpacks, luggage bags, and purses to be scanned

New technology on the market uses millimeter wave detection to quickly scan someone walking through a portal. The technology eliminates the need to empty pockets and allows backpacks, luggage bags, and purses to be scanned at the same time as the person. People can walk through the portals side by side to reduce bottlenecks. Additionally, the technology reduces the number of guards needed, reducing overall costs. 

Taking out the human element

The first step in surviving a mass shooting is being situationally aware. Immediately accepting and understanding the sounds as gunshots is paramount. Just a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death during an active shooter situation. Gunshot detection can eliminate the fear factor, which in many cases temporarily paralyzes those involved and causes precious seconds to pass before action is taken. By using a trusted, effective gunshot detection solution properly partnered with a monitoring system can eliminate the human factor of indecision and delay. Further, coupled with a VMS camera system, it can visually verify the situation as an emergency, identify the shooter, and provide valuable, accurate information to First Responders—all within just a few seconds.

The state of gunshot detection technology

Gunshot detection technology has been explored and developed by the military since WWI, but commercially it has only been around for a few years. Such detection systems range from wide area coverage to room-to-room coverage. Most are acoustic based (using microphones) to listen for the sound of a gunshot, record the sound, then analyze it with sophisticated software to determine if it is, indeed, a gunshot. Many years have been invested fine-tuning the software to differentiate between a gunshot and other loud noises. Eliminating ambient noise is very difficult during this process. The locations and venues mentioned at the outset of this article inherently have loud, ambient noise. This, in most cases, causes systems to give a false-positive or to even fail to detect the gunshot. In turn, it can send unverified or wrong information to First Responders and Security and cause havoc of unwarranted fear and actions. To help increase the accuracy of the detection of an actual gunshot, many systems have added infrared sensors.

Many systems use backroom or cloud servers to run the necessary analysis

In addition to the challenge of false positives, many systems use backroom or cloud servers to run the necessary analysis. This not only increases the cost of the system but may increase the notification time of the actual gunshot. Integration of this data to alarm, notification, and camera systems is difficult and costly. And experts say none of these systems are yet 100 percent effective.

Enter ultrasonic sensor technology

Fortunately, new technology is emerging in the industry. Technology which can eliminate the false-positives and reduce the cost by doing away with the expensive software, servers, cloud servers, and human intervention. This technology uses non-acoustical ultrasonic sensors to detect the frequency of a gunshot concussive wave created by a bullet, leaving the chamber along with the explosion wave force. Because these sensors are not acoustic (microphone), they will not pick up the ambient noise like other systems. In addition, the ultrasonic sensors only detect the gunshot concussive wave within the determined frequency. This also helps eliminate confusion caused by loud noises such as thunder, cars backfiring, large boxes being dropped, etc. An added bonus is ultrasonic sensors are not acoustic, therefore they are never listening or recording, the sensors only operate when there is an actual gunshot; hence, they’re completely non-invasive.

The ultrasonic sensors only detect the gunshot concussive wave within the determined frequency

Finally, these non-acoustic sensors do much of the work through an onboard processor, no backroom or cloud servers are needed. Integration to systems such as VMS, Access Control, Alarm Panels, etc. requires minimal effort. This allows existing security systems to be integrated with gunshot detection, creating a low-cost, highly effective overall solution. Protecting our children, loved ones, employees, and customers is a monumental challenge for any security professional. Using newly available technology, combined with existing security infrastructure, we have the ability to add on layers of safety to help reduce the tragedy of gun violence and mass shootings.

This article was co-written by Brad McMullen, General Manager at 3xLOGIC, and Brad Jarrett, CTO at Active Guardian.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

In case you missed it

Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. However, the attacker was only in the system for 3 to 5 minutes, and an operator corrected the concentration back to 100 parts per million soon after. It would have taken a day or more for contaminated water to enter the system. In the end, the city’s water supply was not affected. There were other safeguards in place that would have prevented contaminated water from entering the city’s water supply, which serves around 15,000 residents. The remote access used for the attack was disabled pending an investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. On Feb. 2, a compilation of breached usernames and passwords, known as COMB for “Compilation of Many Breaches,” was leaked online. COMB contains 3.2 billion unique email/password pairs. It was later discovered that the breach included the credentials for the Oldsmar water plant. Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?
What Are The Positive And Negative Effects Of COVID-19 To Security?

The COVID-19 global pandemic had a life-changing impact on all of us in 2020, including a multi-faceted jolt on the physical security industry. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly the exact nature and extent of that impact. And it’s not over yet: The pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind in 2021. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What have been the positive and negative effects of Covid-19 on the physical security industry in 2020? What impact will it have on 2021?

Maximising Supermarket Safety With Real-time Surveillance Solutions
Maximising Supermarket Safety With Real-time Surveillance Solutions

Supermarket employees have been the hidden key workers of the past year, keeping shelves stocked and queues under control as panic buying gripped the nation. As a result of being expected to enforce face covering and social distancing regulations, they also been asked to act as de-facto security guards alongside their existing duties. This is problematic as many employees have never had to deal with this kind of responsibility before, let alone received any conflict de-escalation training. In order to maintain the safety and security of their staff retailers must take additional steps to uphold their duty of care, with the NPCC recently specifying that it is the responsibility of retailers ‘to manage entry to their stores and compliance with the law while customers are inside’. Supermarkets in particular need to be aware of this requirement, as the big four recently announced that their employees would now be challenging customers shopping in groups and those not wearing masks. Verbal abuse from the public Crime against retail employees has already been a major issue over the course of the pandemic, confirmed by research from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers that found 90% of retail staff in the UK experienced verbal abuse last year. The Co-op has recently been vocal about the effects of the pandemic and lockdown-related frustrations on its employees.90% of retail staff in the UK experienced verbal abuse last year The supermarket reported a 140% increase in crime within its stores over the past year, with many of the 200,000 cases related to verbal and physical abuse experienced by employees. Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food chief executive, confirmed that the number of issues has already increased drastically as a result of staff enforcing COVID-secure guidelines. So, what steps must retailers take to ensure their duty of care remains intact as employees take on new enforcement responsibilities? Introducing real-time surveillance technology to support security guards and shop floor employees alike is vital. Bolstering front line defences Security guards posted at supermarket entrances are the first line of defense against shoppers determined to break the rules. However, they are now being pulled in multiple directions with queues to monitor and occupancy to manually keep track of, along with the usual security alarms to respond to. With one person usually posted at the entrance at any one time it’s simply impossible to have eyes everywhere, which is where automated video surveillance comes in. COVID-specific technologies, such as mask detection and occupancy management systems, are now the golden bullet to retail safety and security.Mask detection and occupancy management surveillance tools can automatically alert a shopper Mask detection and occupancy management surveillance tools can automatically alert a shopper whether or not they are allowed to enter the store on their approach to the door. The system surveys the person and a screen will automatically display different instructions depending on the situation: whether they must put a mask on before they enter, wait until capacity is low enough to enable social distancing or, if the previous criteria are fulfilled, that they are free to enter. COVID-secure safety This stand-off technology minimizes the need for contact between security personnel and shoppers, allowing security guards to complete their usual duties, safe in the knowledge that the store is being managed in a COVID-secure way. With a hands-off approach enabled by surveillance technology, the potential for tense confrontation is greatly diminished as customers will usually comply to the reminder shown to them and put on a mask or wait without further prompting from staff. With security personnel able to better focus their attention on the stubborn rule-breakers,It is crucial that retailers choose a solution embedded in real-time connectivity this responsibility will no longer land with staff on the shop floor who are often ill-equipped to deal with this situation. It is crucial that retailers choose a solution embedded in real-time connectivity that will allow all store entrances to be screened simultaneously. Nobody can be in multiple places at once, but this connectivity allows alerts to be streamed instantly to any connected device that can be monitored by just one employee, meaning they can review the alerts that require their attention without needing to be physically present or re-tasked away from their day-to-day duties. Instant reassurance with body worn tech As a customer-facing role, there can be no guarantee that shop workers will never experience a potentially violent confrontation with a customer, which is where the presence of live streaming body worn cameras can help. While they may not always be trained to de-escalate a risky situation, being able to discreetly call for assistance can provide the reassurance employees need to feel safe and supported at all times. If an employee asks a customer to put a mask on while they’re in the store or step back from another shopper and the situation turns abusive – verbally or physically – a live streaming-enabled body worn camera can be triggered to stream a live audio and video feed back to a central control room manned by trained security personnel.A live streaming-enabled body worn camera can be triggered This real-time footage gives security staff exceptional situational awareness, allowing them to fully assess the situation and decide on the best course of action to support the employee in distress, whether that is going to the scene to diffuse the situation or contacting the police in more serious circumstances. Bolstering front line security This goes one step further than record-only body worn cameras, the capabilities of which these next generation devices match and exceed. Record-only cameras are well-suited to provide after-the-fact evidence if a customer interaction turns sour, but they do little to provide reassurance to out of depth employees in the moment. The duty of care grocery retailers must provide to their employees has never been more important, with staff taking on new mask and social distancing enforcement responsibilities and managing interactions with frustrated customers. Bolstering front line security and giving staff extra reassurances with the introduction of real-time video surveillance technology is a crucial step for retailers striving to keep employees and shoppers safe during these challenging times.