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Action News Investigates: Technology providing quicker response times in active shooter cases - SCAD

It’s possible through technology called ShotSpotter

May 14, 2015

Gunshots ring out and within seconds, before anyone even has time to call 911, officers are dispatched to the scene. It’s possible through technology called ShotSpotter.

Law enforcement in cities across the country already use it. However, Action News learned that one college in the area has installed this technology.

The threat of violence is an unfortunate reality for schools and colleges across the country. 

In November 2014, a gunman opened fire at the Strozier Library at Florida State University. Three people were wounded before police took the gunman down. When shots are fired, seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

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Action News traveled 138 miles up Interstate 95 to SCAD, the Savannah College of Art & Design. It recently became the first college in the country to use ShotSpotter’s Secure Campus system, a gunfire detection system.

The technology uses sensors to pick up the sound of gunfire, then pinpoint how many shots were fired and where, within about 80 feet. Then within 30 to 45 seconds that information is sent to first responders, all without one call to 911.

The campus system includes sensors both inside and outside campus buildings.

SCAD Director of Security John Buchovich gave us an example of the type of information the system can provide to responding officers. 

“Shots fired, Building A, second floor, so if we had a situation where someone was firing multiple shots in a building, we would know what floor they are on,” Buchovich said.

The technology covers two square miles of SCAD’s campus, which winds through the heart of downtown Savannah.

“It’s like a fire alarm in a building. When you walk into a building, you don’t expect it to catch on fire but that fire alarm is there to protect you.” Buchovich said. “This system is the same thing.  It’s like a fire alarm.”

The director says ShotSpotter helps speed up response times, getting officers to the scene before a call for help is even made. 

Action News went through the police reports from the FSU shooting. The reports reveals the gunman walked into the library and opened fire around 12:23 a.m. Two 911 calls were made around 12:24 a.m., dispatch relayed that information to officers by 12:25 a.m., who arrived at the scene around 12:27 am. A campus alert was then went out 7 minutes later, at 12:34 a.m.

While most agree the FSU response was fast, director Buchovich said ShotSpotter could speed up responses even more and decrease the time it takes to get alerts out.

“It lets people know that no one has to call 911. We're going to know what is happening on our campus and we can turn cameras there and send police officers and our officers there much quicker,” Buchovich said.

The shooting at FSU prompted local colleges to review their security.

Action News reached out to some of those colleges and asked if they are considering ShotSpotter. FSU officials told Action News they are not looking into it. Only Edwards Waters College in Jacksonville told Action News it would use ShotSpotter technology because of the school’s location, but if it could get grants or other funding to pay for it. The EWC campus is right in the heart of Newtown, an area plagued by crime and violence.