By Philip Marcelo
METHUEN, Mass. — With students off for the Veterans Day holiday, a simulated school shooting at a Methuen grammar school on Tuesday showed what “active shooter” technology could do to help police catch a gunman if the horrible threat ever strikes as it has at other schools across the country.
In the live demonstration, the “gunman” entered the school armed with an assault rifle, opening fire with dummy rounds first in the school library then rampaging through hallways and classrooms. But he had only a few minutes to wreak havoc. Smoke alarm-sized sensors installed in classrooms, hallways and other points throughout the building were activated by the sounds of gunfire, and police officers were immediately able to track his movements and quickly subdue him. Nearly 100 people, including regional law enforcement officers, gathered in the school auditorium to observe the demonstration of what the school district bills as the first such system operating in a public school in the U.S.
Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he believes such systems should be required in many public buildings, just as fire suppression systems and smoke detectors are.
“It’s amazing, the short, split-second amount of time from identification of the shot to transmission of the message,” he said following the demonstration. “It changes the whole game. Without that shot detection system, we wouldn’t know what was going on in the school … Valuable, valuable time can be lost. Unfortunately, with school crisis situations, it’s about mitigating loss.”
School Superintendent Judith Scannell said she hopes the district of about 7,300 students can find the money to pay for outfitting its four other schools. The new system was installed at no cost by Shooter Detection Systems, a Massachusetts-based company. Company CEO Christian Connors said it is installing the technology in two more schools in Virginia and California, as well as undisclosed airports.