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Alarms Won’t Stop an Active Shooter

Smoke Alarms Don’t Extinguish Fires and Gunfire Alarms Won’t Stop an Active Shooter

Recently, a Massachusetts school made headlines by installing an active shooter active shooter survivaldetection system.  The system, which is similar to others that have been used by the military, detects the noise and flash of gunfire through smoke alarm-sized sensors installed throughout the building and relays the location to emergency personnel.

Assuming this system works seamlessly, there are still concerns with this kind of technology.  We are always looking for the newest cure to remedy the current problem and systems like these allow school boards to do something proactive and sidestep politically thorny issues like using armed guards, arming staff, or installing metal detectors.

A Good Tool to Locate an Active Shooter

A detection system would be a valuable tool, but it is not a panacea, unfortunately, too many school administrators will be enamored with the unobtrusive whiz-bang technology and feel they have dealt with the threat.  Such a system is only one of the tools in the toolbox.  Smoke alarms are great for alerting us to the risk of a fire, but smoke alarms do not put out fires.

In most active shooter situations the shooter dies from self-inflicted wounds, sometimes before the arrival of police and often before they have entered  the building.  A detection system will provide valuable information as to the number of potential shooters and their last known locations, but the responding personnel will have to arrive on scene, formulate a plan, and then enter and clear the building, which when done correctly is a deliberate process.

Alarms are Only One Part of An Active Shooter Prevention Plan

Detection systems should be part of a balanced protection plan that preferably includes measures that monitors students for threat indicators, hardening access points, and training staff and students how to react to emergency situations.  Active shooter scenarios are varied and complex, our risk mitigation plans should be equally so.

For more information on how to create an Active Shooter Plan, take a look at our Active Shooter Survival Course.


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