Christopher Swanger

Active Shooter Detection In The Casino Environment

Shortly after the October 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, casino managers began looking at shifts in security protocols to better prepare for the worst without lessening the casino visitor experience. In the past, your security policies and procedures were securely guarded and distributed only on a strict need-to-know basis. Today, promoting any advances in the safety and security of your property can become a competitive advantage. A carefully crafted messaging campaign that shares your commitment to the safety and security of your casino can help patrons feel safer and keep gaming revenues up.

To truly take advantage of such a strategy, you need to back it up with fielded, proven innovations and coordinated, well-practiced drills that evolve along with modern technology developments and security systems upgrades. You also need to pair with a systems integrator that can strategically help identify and deliver the integrated physical security measures to help prevent and respond to threats before they can turn into a crowd panic incident. These should include:

  • An effective Access Control System for access and egress points that doesn’t increase queue times for your guests.
  • A sophisticated Video Management and Video Analytics System to proactively address potential crowd threats.
  • A Gunshot Detection System to quickly detect shots and report their location for rapid response to a shooting incident.
  • A robust Incident Command System to quickly respond to and help mitigate threats that do materialize.

You might be surprised to see gunshot detection on my list of technologies, but with this rising threat, it’s my opinion that the time has come for us to admit that video and access control alone, while critical, are not enough to respond to shooting events.

According to the ALICE Training Institute, the average length of an active shooter incident is between five and seven minutes. During that time, an average of one death occurs every five to 15 seconds. With these staggering statistics in mind, does relying on nearby security officers to alert and respond to the threat seem like the most effective means for alerting the surveillance room to an event in progress? What if, while officers are responding to the threat, surveillance already has cameras queued to the incident area and a description of the perpetrator? When it comes to addressing the active shooter threat, gunshot detection is the most advanced technology to enter the commercial market in recent years, and it evolved from real world incidents in the battlefield.

Today’s Commercial Gunshot Detection Was Designed For Military Applications

Gunshot detection was born out of a U.S. Government initiative in 1995 sponsored by a research arm of the Department of Defense called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA sponsored the development of prototype systems that paired acoustic muzzle blast and ballistic shock wave signatures to accurately predict the location of gunfire events and associated shooter locations. Six systems were developed and tested, but it wasn’t until the Iraq War in 2003 that the need for these systems became critical.

While traveling in noisy Humvees, U.S. troops were battling against an aggressive insurgency and often didn’t know they were being shot at until a fellow soldier was hit. Knowing they were being shot at, and being able to identify where the shots were coming from, would give them a life- saving and tactical advantage. DARPA selected the company that had produced the most successful technology from their trials – BBN Technologies out of Cambridge, Massachusetts – and challenged them to rapidly develop vehicle gunshot detection systems that could not only localize a shooter to plus or minus 15-degree accuracy, but had to report within one second of a shot and do so on vehicles traveling up to 60 miles per hour on rough terrain and in harsh environments. The result was what is now known as the Boomerang Shooter Detection System, credited with saving over 250 American lives in the field.

Gunshot Detection For Commercial Applications

Fast forward to 2018, and the news is full of stories of casinos, schools, workplaces and public venues that instantly become battlefields with an active shooter as the enemy. Active shooter drills, now commonplace, were not being practiced in our schools until after the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Innovations in ballistic glass, panic buttons and door-locking devices were flooding the market in a reactive response to the security weaknesses exposed by the Sandy Hook incident. That year Christian Connors, a key team member from the Boomerang deployment days, heard his elementary-school-aged children talking about the active shooter drills they had in school. Knowing the lifesaving benefit Boomerang had overseas, Connors realized he had an obligation to investigate the development of an indoor gunshot detection system.

The Boomerang Sensor Concept

In 2014, Connors and his team of engineers from BBN Technologies took the Boomerang technology – a large array of microphones appropriate for a Humvee and developed it into a small, discrete device that can be implemented into ceilings and walls and look no more intrusive than a switch plate. They called it the Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System. They incorporated their new company as Shooter Detection Systems. Instead of alerting soldiers in battle, these systems help alert building occupants and law enforcement with the same Boomerang performance adapted for indoor acoustic environments with the addition of infrared muzzle flash detection. This additional technology helps to ensure against false alerts and offers users the confidence to integrate automated shot detection alerts and actions into other security systems.

Gunshot Detection And Integration

Although originally developed for the school mar- ket, the overwhelming market adoption of this technology has been from Fortune 500 corpora- tions, airports and other public venues including retail facilities and convention centers. Most of these sites have integrated Guardian systems to queue video surveillance cameras directly to the The Boomerang Sensor incident area, initiate lockdown procedures, populate emergency incident command centers with shot location information, send alerts to security radios and more. The systems are installed by the company’s network of certified global systems integrators, including SSI, who is a prominent integrator in the casino gaming space.

With truly endless possibilities for integration with your existing security systems, you’ll want to sit down with your systems integration partner and your security team to best plan what actions you want shot detection to activate and who should receive them. Here are a few considerations for planning the integration strategy to include gunshot detection.

The Boomerang Sensor

  • Do you want cameras pulled to the incident area?
  • Should security guards receive radio alerts? If so, what should they say?
  • Do you want to automate alerts to all onsite staff and vendors?
  • What about co-located staff such as Senior Leadership and PR/ Crisis Response teams?
  • What is your relationship with local lawenforcement?
  • Are they willing to do training drills with you and your security team that incorporate automated alert response?

As casino and venue managers, your challenge is to balance the adoption of new security technologies with the patron experience to ensure that all attendees, as well as your employees and vendors, have a safe environment to work and enjoy events. When it comes to adopting technologies and integrations to address the evolving active shooter threat, I urge you to lean on your trusted security consultants, technology providers, and systems integrators. Demand that they research and vet out innovative technologies, understand the integration capabilities and can provide best practices for implementation so that when your security budget allows, you can quickly make decisions to adopt and implement the technology.

Christopher Swanger is a technology veteran in the gaming industry and has worked both as a vendor and an operator. He is a Go-To-Market expert who helps companies establish relevance and value within the gaming and hospitality sector. As a proponent for innovation, Chris writes for Gaming & Leisure Magazine to help tell the stories that his technology partners and colleagues deem important to the betterment of the gaming industry. You can learn more about Chris at Contact Christopher.