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When Delays Are Deadly: Using Live Video To Limit Fatalities In School & Workplace Shootings

Sahil Merchant
July 29, 2019

12 minutes. That’s all it took for 20 students and 6 teachers to lose their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School- the victims of a lone gunman.

12 minutes for 17 dead in Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

70 minutes for 11 dead in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA.

180 minutes for 50 dead at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida.

The list goes on.

The common theme that emerges from these horrific events is the chaos that ensues once the shooting starts. Multiple 911 calls are typically made to police dispatchers, who have the difficult job of rapidly deciphering the information given to them by panic-stricken people often trying to hide themselves. This information has to be verbally relayed to first responders in the field, who are converging on the scene of the unfolding incident. Then they have to figure out what’s going on inside- should they make a tactical entrance? What will they be faced with?

In the case of Sandy Hook for instance, the first call to 911 was around 9:35 a.m. The town of Newton’s 911 police dispatch first broadcast an alert regarding the active shooter at 9:36 a.m. Newtown police arrived at the school at 9:39 a.m.

Newtown police first entered the school at 9:45 a.m. – 6 minutes after they arrived on the scene, and 5 minutes after the last shot was heard.

Nikolas Cruz stalking the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Similar scenes played out during the Parkland massacre, where first responders formed an armed perimeter rather than immediately engaging the active shooter. This isn’t to suggest that the first responders were slow to respond- they were placed in a highly dangerous situation, with little to no situational awareness of the conditions inside the school. Hasty action in this case could have potentially increased the casualty rate at the school.

But delays are deadly. Many gunshot victims do not die from their primary injury- instead, they tend to bleed out, even from initially non-fatal wounds. In these cases, minutes can make the difference between life and death. Rapid access to EMS personnel is the key to reducing fatalities in active shooter situations.

Situational Awareness Is The Key

So how can we get people to safety faster? The keys to a rapid and effective first-response in the case of an active shooter is complete situational awareness, coupled with a common operating picture. The first officers on the scene are typically confronted with the prospect of facing an unknown number of armed and aggressive suspects. To make matters even more complicated, these suspects are often visually indistinguishable from the students the officers are attempting to rescue, and their positions are unknown.

In cases like the Las Vegas Harvest Music Festival shooting, or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, these factors are compounded by their locations, hampering clear lines-of-sight and involving multitudes of victims.

911 Dispatchers Have To Rapidly Decipher Conflicting Incident Reports.

To enable a timely response, 911 dispatchers need the ability to have eyes on the scene, especially in the case of soft-targets like schools, universities, business campuses, and nightlife districts. Field units also need similar mobile capabilities to actually see what’s happening inside the locations they are responding to. Being able to visually identify the suspect(s) and pinpoint their location(s) goes a long way towards keeping both officers and victims safe as the incident unfolds.

Live Video Streaming Enhances Emergency Response

Live video feeds from inside buildings where a shooter is active, is the most effective way to create situational awareness and reduce emergency response times. This is especially important for first-responders on the scene, to enable them to make informed decisions in a high-stress situation. This doesn’t mean students, club goers, or office workers need to be under police supervision at all times in the course of their daily lives. But conditional, policy based sharing of video feeds to 911 dispatch is a critical security measure that MUST be implemented as an insurance policy against active shooters. Streaming on alert, usually by activating a panic button, is a rapid way to mobilize resources when a situation occurs.

Comprehensive internal camera coverage, coupled with live streaming capabilities to exterior locations (like 911 dispatch) is not an antidote to the threat of active shooters, but it does serve as an important safety net that reduces casualties and fatalities. Remember- in the case of gunshot wounds, the time to EMS is the difference between life and death. It’s also a highly cost-effective way for school districts to keep their students safe, with the per-student cost of implementing this type of system only running to a few dollars per student, per year.

Who's Behind This Door? A Student Or An Active Shooter?

Video & GPS Data Enhances Blue Force Safety

In addition, in the case of multiple responding police, fire, and EMS units, it’s also helpful for the Emergency Management Center to have a clear idea of the locations and disposition of their own people. For example, in the case of the Parkland shootings, a breakdown in communication between an armed school resource officer and responding units caused additional delays (coupled with the resource officer’s reluctance to enter the school due to a lack of situational awareness i.e. he had no idea about what was actually going on inside).

Officers having a clear idea of where other responding units are, helps cut through the chaos to reduce the likelihood of an accidental blue-on-blue incident. Having a clear view into the buildings in question also allows unarmed EMTs to decide whether it is safe for them to make an entrance and begin caring for victims, or stay out of the incident zone till it is clear.

It Comes Down To Preserving Public Confidence in 911

The public’s faith in the 911 system is based on a simple belief: when you call 911, someone is going to come as fast as humanly possible to save you. That first responders will make every effort to preserve your life and property, and protect you from the perpetrators of the crime in progress.

The more data and awareness we can equip 911 dispatchers and responders with, the better they are able to fulfil those promises. The sad truth is, we haven’t yet found an agreed-upon solution to the violence in our schools and workplaces. In the meantime, creating a technological safety-net is the best we can do to keep our children, co-workers, friends, first-responders, and ourselves safe.

About Fusus

Fusus breaks down silos, merging public and private video resources into a single, efficient and unified stream of information. Its lightweight SaaS platform is easy and fast to set up, leveraging virtual networking technology that has never been deployed before. The Fusus system requires little to no hardware investment, and can speak to existing video assets, making a sophisticated video platform affordable to any city or organization.

Fusus lives at the intersection of public and private video and IoT, building bridges within communities, and making Smart Cities Smarter.

For more information about Fusus, or to schedule a demo, please contact us.