In active shooter situations, the time taken to respond to an incident has a critical impact on casualties. A video-based weapon-detection system that uses preexisting surveillance camera infrastructure is an effective means of reducing response times and, ultimately, lives lost.
In active shooter
situations, the time taken to respond to an incident has a critical impact on casualties. A video-based
weapon-detection system utilizing preexisting surveillance camera infrastructure is an effective means of reducing response times and, ultimately, lives lost.
systems are a new technology that uses most existing surveillance camera
systems to recognize and detect weapons within seconds,” explains Richard Ryan, Adviser at Athena Security
, which offers gun, knife and fight detection solutions. “Conventional systems start the response after the gunshot and after the 911 emergency call. Video weapon detection systems save time by starting the response when the weapon is drawn, before the gunshot and 911 calls. These systems provide critical intelligence to officers and EMS arriving on the scene so that they can make informed decisions on aggressive entry.”
In the U.S., emergency services take anywhere between three and 12 minutes to reach a location — but most casualties occur within the first five minutes or so, according to Ryan. Medical staff also need to wait for police to systematically clear the scene of threats before entering "warm zones" and attending to the wounded.
“If a modern security approach included an early warning
capability, police could be alerted while the shooter was still in the parking lot or approaching an entrance or seconds after a concealed weapon was brandished,” Ryan said.
A weapon-detection solution can also provide crucial verified information to first responders on the number of shooters and weapons used — a significant improvement on often unreliable eyewitness testimony.
Despite its benefits, adoption of video-based weapon detection has yet to take off. Ryan attributes this to the lack of confidence in any new technology, with many viewing artificial intelligence
(AI)- based systems as futuristic or aspirational. “Security and law enforcement professionals are a special group of people whose efforts, often heroic, save lives and produce priceless results,” Ryan said. “Video weapon detection does not challenge or replace the already proven approaches. We have to demonstrate that this technology offers the opportunity to make these practices even better.” This can be done by letting potential users see the detection system in action to help them understand how accurate and effective it is.
One of the drawbacks of a video-based weapon detection solution is that the weapons have to be visible to be detected. Detecting concealed weapons can, of course, be done effectively using checkpoints and equipment that penetrates target surfaces, but this approach is considered too intrusive and costly for most organizations.
“We have not identified any single video technology that will effectively detect concealed weapons,” said Ryan. “We have been successfully testing thermal cameras to detect weapons concealed under garments for a limited set of use cases and will make this solution available to customers who choose to invest in thermal cameras. We expect to effectively detect concealed weapons using some combination of visible and thermal images and observed behaviors that we have trained the AI model to recognize.”
In short, weapon detection is a great and easy-to-retrofit addition to existing security. Such a system would provide the biggest benefit to soft targets with multiple entrances and large groups of people, such schools, offices, and retail stores.