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Tech Suite Can Greatly Benefit Law Enforcement in Active Shooter Scenarios

July 22, 2016

The FBI confirms it: Active shooter incidents are on the rise. According to the FBI document A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013, an average of 6.4 of these incidents occurred annually from 2000 to 2006.

“In the last seven years of the study, that average increased to 16.4 incidents annually,” said the FBI study. “This trend reinforces the need to remain vigilant regarding prevention efforts and for law enforcement to aggressively train to better respond to — and help communities recover from — active shooter incidents.”

The Smart City Tech Summit in Kansas City, Mo., in March was a showcase for technologies that when deployed as an integrated suite can give law enforcement a leg up on an active shooter scenario.

The Scenarios

A vacant Kansas City school served as the stage for two active shooters who roamed the halls seeking targets. Starting with a flash-bang explosion to start the simulation, the hypothetical attack illustrated how various technological solutions could enhance police response to the incident.
For example, the initial gunshots were detected by ShotSpotter sensors mounted in the area.

By comparing the delay times of the rifle cracks as they arrived at each sensor location, the ShotSpotter system was able to triangulate the real-time position of the gunshots and relay this data to police and emergency management command centers. This allowed the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) to respond immediately by dispatching vehicles to the area of the shooting, rather than waiting for someone to call it in to 911.

As the KCPD cars rolled to the school, the department launched a 12-pound drone made by UAV Solutions to get over the reported active shooter scene fast. Capable of hovering 50 feet above the scene, the drone used its HDTV and infrared cameras to provide police with real-time video of the situation, including displaying heat signatures of moving shooters and possible victims.
This overhead video gave first responders advance situational awareness of what they were heading into. Both headquarters and the people on scene were able to assess what was happening and plan accordingly.

Once the first responders were at the school, an electronic grid pattern was overlaid on an overhead view of the campus, with the coordinates defined by letters and numbers. The Smart ImageMap was produced by AllSource Analysis, a commercial intelligence company.

“Using this grid, we could accurately tell the responders where to go, simply by saying things like, ‘You’re in sector B-3,’” said Herb Sih, managing partner at consulting firm Think Big Partners.
All the while, simulated citizen-generated social media posts — the kind that regularly clog the Internet during such events — were collected and categorized by the data mining platform DataCapable, which sifts through posts to find the most useful ones and displays their locations on a map to provide first responders with relevant public-sourced information.

Working in concert, these technological tools helped KCPD’s incident command get a handle on the situation and direct officers to the best locations to take down the shooters as quickly and safely as possible.

The Technology?

It was not the equipment itself that made the difference: “Much of the technology that was showcased — drones, IoT [Internet of Things] sensors, shot-detection sensors, personnel tracking sensors, social media monitoring, satellite imagery, streaming video and readily accessible facility data — have all been around for a number of years,” said Mike Grigsby, KCPD’s information services director.

“The overall effect of technology on public safety services can be a compounding positive if they are strategically integrated with the purpose of rendering a community safe. They can extend the capabilities of public safety resources in ways we haven’t even dreamt of,” Grigsby said.

What made the difference was the combination of these technologies into an integrated threat response suite. “The Smart City Tech Summit endeavored to showcase the aggregation of all of these technologies in a single space and what they could do collectively for public safety agencies,” he said. Put together, this aggregation created “the ability to know where resources and personnel are at a scene and to gather intelligence from the scene almost immediately upon incident trigger is invaluable to first responders. Incident intelligence is good; smart and immediate intelligence is best.”

The Smart City Tech Summit tied into Kansas City’s $15.7 million Smart City project — in association with Cisco Systems Inc., Sprint Corp. and Think Big Partners — that is currently upgrading the city’s downtown area with a large public Wi-Fi access and sensor network to improve government-delivered services. The Smart City program will also install 25 digital kiosks around Kansas City’s 2.2-mile streetcar line, providing users with information on local attractions, city services, 911 assistance and real-time data collected by the sensor network.

“Beyond the obvious link to the Smart City initiative, Kansas City was a logical choice for the Smart City Tech Summit given the city’s narrow escape from a planned terrorist attack in 2015,” said Sih. “Only effective undercover work by the FBI prevented a planned pressure cooker bomb/rat-poison-dipped shrapnel attack on the popular Kansas City Stair Climb, where local firefighters climb stairs in honor of the firefighters who perished on 9/11. Preventing terror attacks, and coping with them when they do occur, is a big priority for everyone who attended the Smart City Tech Summit.”

Combating an Active Shooter Attack Using Technology

Other topics covered included “critical incident response, intelligent response, big data and near-real-time analysis of streaming video,” Grigsby said. “Intelligent response to critical incidents results in faster resolution and greater capabilities in identifying ways to rebound and learn from experience; improve adaptive resiliency. Smarter, more connected public safety results in more highly thriving communities.”

Government Technology - Kansas City