Reducing Reaction Time to Active Shooter Incidents Through Technology

Time. Time is the single most important variable when we look at mitigating the impact of a mass or active shooter incident. Despite the current discussion over whether there have been 15 or 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook (depending on your definition of a school shooting), we can all agree that there are too many. Preventing further mass shootings on school campuses, in businesses, places of worship and elsewhere will require a multifaceted approach and should be a top priority. We also need to spend considerable effort on mitigating the consequences when one does occur, as we are unlikely to ever fully eliminate their occurrence.

Researchers and law enforcement agencies have studied active shooter incidents from every conceivable angle – the frequency of attacks, the location of the incident, the predisposition of the shooter to committing the act, the number of victims, what caused the resolution of the incident, etc – but one indisputable fact is that the longer the incident lasts, the more casualties it will produce. According to a 2012 NYPD study only 16% of the 230 active shooter incidents reviewed ended without applied force - either by PD, security, bystanders or the attacker. That is to say, until someone – law enforcement officer or otherwise – confronts or challenges the shooter, he keeps firing shots. By reducing the notification time of bystanders on scene and responding police officers, the attacker has a smaller window to kill and inflict injury.

In another study of 84 active shooter incidents occurring between 2001 and 2010, researchers J. Pete Blair and Hunter Martindale found that in just over half of the cases (51%, or 43 out of 84), police arrived on scene while the shooting was still ongoing. In 49% of the cases, police arrived after the conclusion of the incident. In those cases, either the shooter stopped the attack by committing suicide, walking away, or victim intervention stopped the attacker. The breakdown of the resolution of these 84 incidents is depicted by the following graphic:

Active Shooter Graphic

While the recommended actions taken by bystanders and law enforcement differ, both serve to reduce the target potential for the attacker. The first two elements of the now familiar “Run > Hide > Fight” guidance for bystanders directly impacts the number of targets through a combination of fleeing and restricting the attacker’s access to more victims by initiating lockdown procedures. As the attacker runs out of targets, it is a reasonable assumption that he will attempt suicide (40% of the 230 cases reviewed by the NYPD). If he does not, then at least he has fewer targets, and the police have fewer bystanders impeding their ability to contact the shooter. When evacuation and hiding are not viable options, then the guidance is for bystanders to forcefully attack the shooter with whatever improvised weapons they can find.

Minimizing the time interval between the first indication of an attack and bystander and law enforcement notification and intervention will limit the number of casualties. I'll call this the reaction time. How can reducing the reaction time be accomplished most effectively? In addition to training school officials, students and first responders, we at Rave believe strongly that technology plays a critical role. Leveraging the unique features and widespread use of Smart911, we have developed Rave Panic Button to enhance school security. By arming school (or any other industry) employees with a smart phone based app that, when activated, does several unique things. Firstly, it dials 9-1-1 to allow for a verbal exchange of information between the reporting party and the 9-1-1 call taker. Secondly, it automatically launches the Smart911 viewer at the 9-1-1 call taker’s workstation. The Panic Button viewer displays a profile of the school, including floor plans and access points, key procedures, contact information of administrators, and much more. Because the app is integrated with Smart911, any landline, VoIP device, or hard-wired panic button can also be tied into and used to trigger the system.

Lastly, Panic Button provides a real-time notification and communications platform for collaboration among school officials, employees, 9-1-1 and first responders. The app can be configured to send all users an automatic message the moment that someone activates the system. This immediate notification, and subsequent hosted in-app messaging platform, affords everyone on scene with the ability to take immediate action – Run > Hide > Fight – or whatever their procedures call for. Responding officers are provided with situational awareness that they simply do not have today. It is impossible for every officer to be familiar with the layout of every school or commercial facility in his or her jurisdiction. Simply knowing the access points and layout of the campus allows for more rapid contact with the aggressor, which, in turn, leads to a faster resolution and lower number of casualties. All of these features reduce the reaction time of both bystanders on scene and responding law enforcement personnel.

As Rave continues to support public safety agencies and educational institutions across the country, we are constantly developing and enhancing the capabilities of our solution stack. Panic Button is just the latest example of how we translate the needs of public safety into functional software and smart phone applications. Frankly, Rave’s collaboration and industry involvement is what prompted me to leave the public sector and join their team, and assisting with the development of products that make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis is extremely rewarding for all of us here.

Noah Reiter
Noah Reiter

Noah Reiter, MPA, ENP is Senior Vice President of Customer Success for Rave Mobile Safety, where he is responsible for ensuring customer engagement with Rave's solutions and, ultimately, their ability to impact emergency response, communications and safety through technology. He has previously served in various public sector and public safety roles, including Assistant City Manager for the City of Sandy Springs (GA), EMS Director for Grady Health System (Atlanta), and as the Director of EMS, Security, and Emergency Preparedness for Lenox Hill Hospital (NYC). Noah has been with Rave since 2011.

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