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Gun Violence on Campus: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

By Tommy Blackwell, Director of Security Solutions, ShotSpotter

While most schools will never have a fire, they all have fire alarms and emergency preparedness training. Unfortunately, most schools can’t say they are truly prepared for gun violence. Like fires, gunshot incidents are rare, but many schools do not have the technology or response system in place to properly respond if a gunshot incident were to occur.  

To be prepared for gun violence on or near your campus, it is important to have the correct tools and procedures in place before an incident occurs. The most important factor in minimizing the damage of a gunshot incident on or near campus is rapid identification and verification that a gunshot has occurred and getting a location to respond to.

Fortunately, ShotSpotter makes gunfire detection as simple and reliable as smoke detectors and fire alarms, ensuring that first responders are instantly notified of exactly where gunshots occur.  Every minute matters in a gunfire incident and this extra level of proactive planning for rapid response can save lives and provide peace of mind for a campus community.

Today more than 50 colleges in the United States have a dome of protection provided by one of ShotSpotter's gunshot detection services (10 colleges are direct SecureCampus customers and 40 are covered by ShotSpotter Flex). ShotSpotter consists of a network of inconspicuous acoustic sensors atop buildings that notifies police to gunshots and their location within 60 seconds of trigger pull.  Alerts are received via mobile phone, patrol car MDT or dispatch. ShotSpotter and gives the security team and staff a higher confidence in their ability to rapidly respond to potential gunfire.

Many of the campuses protected by ShotSpotter took a proactive approach. The schools had ShotSpotter installed and ran drills even though the campuses had no history of gunfire.  They did this because they understood the value of being prepared for a gunfire incident and the cost of not being prepared. In today’s environment, having the advantage of knowing and responding to events is critical.

To be fully prepared on your campus means not only having the right technology but also taking a “Whole Community” approach. This requires coordinated plans, training, and drills with neighboring police, fire and EMS agencies. It means being able to notify all campus community members with an emergency notification system and having the technology and procedures in place to institute a lock-down if necessary.

Below are some resources for law enforcement and security professionals to prepare for a gunfire event on or near their campus.

  • Review and use the latest Department of Homeland Security guidelines for active shooter preparedness including: tips, checklists, resources, and videos.   https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness  
  • Institute a threat assessment program as recommended by the Secret Service.  This operational guide provides fundamental direction on how to prevent incidents of targeted school violence. USSS Enhancing School Safety Guide
  • Conduct appropriate training and on-going refresher training for your first responders and communications staff.  The FBI recommends ALERRT ( https://alerrt.org/) or ALICE  https://www.alicetraining.com/)  
  • Initiate training for your campus community with programs like “Run, Hide and Fight.”

We sincerely hope you never have to deal with a gunshot incident. But if you do, we hope that for the benefit of your students, staff and faculty, you are fully prepared.



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