CHARLESTON, S.C. A Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) Atlantic team is performing an Office of the Under Secretary of Defense sponsored initiative centered on active shooter detection. The group is currently testing and examining a commercial-grade indoor gunshot detection system (IGDS) to determine feasibility and application across Department of Defense (DoD) facilities.
The purpose of an IGDS is to provide first responders with real-time notifications of gunshot incidents in a facility to aid in a quick response without reliance on calls to 9-1-1. Many systems also provide security personnel with data on shooter location and movement.
Rodney Rourk, SSC Atlantic information technology specialist, works in the area of physical security and force protection, and after reviewing previous active shooter reports, identified the topic of detection systems as a future area of interest.
Serving in a Marine Corps technical representative capacity, Rourk proposed the project to the Physical Security Enterprise and Analysis Group (PSEAG), comprised of physical security leads from each of the joint services who mutually supported the feasibility of testing and evaluating a commercial-grade gunshot detection system.
“The deliverable product will be a technical package including engineering planning, training artifacts and a test report containing raw test results to be submitted to the PSEAG. From there the data is distributed to each of the four services for their application,” said Rourk.
After receiving the greenlight to proceed from the PSEAG, Rourk and SSC Atlantic engineers acquired and installed an IGDS in an SSC Atlantic facility on Joint Base (JB) Charleston for testing in an office setting.
The goal, Rourk said, is to provide project test results to the military services to aid in their decision and planning for potential application in their facilities.
For the phased study, the team is using a facility that closely matches the most common type of working environment used by personnel across the DoD, which includes acoustic and line-of-site challenges that come with cubicle layouts and carpeted buildings.
“In the office type environment, cubicles are specifically designed to absorb and dampen sound and common office space furnishings can create blind spots and dampen the acoustics,” he said. “During testing we varied the sensor installation – ceiling mounts, wall mounts – and we tested multiple weapon types at many test points, with weapons discharged at varying heights, to ascertain probability of detection and performance of the system.”
In addition to installation testing, one of the key phases of research included multiple live fire scenarios with JB Charleston first responders from the 628th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) and the 628th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) flight.
“Our goal with the system was to see if weapons firing would be registered during the live fire scenario,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Silk, 628th SFS Combat Arms Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. “As fire was detected, the demonstration helped security forces know how and where to respond.”
For first responders, some of the challenges associated with current incident response include the reliance on third-party information from someone on scene. The possibility of delays in reporting and lack of location data create hurdles for security personnel in accurately and quickly responding to a life-threatening situation.
“The challenge of not knowing where the threat has been increases the amount of time in our search for additional hazards,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Morrison, 628th EOD Plans and Intelligence Section Chief. “This technology could allow us to see where the threat began and the possible route of travel. If we have that information, it greatly enhances our threat assessment and provides us with more information for our course of action.”
This additional threat information is a key capability that SSC Atlantic is researching through their assessment efforts.
“Depending on the sensor placement and configuration of the system’s graphical user interface (GUI), the system GUI displays the precise sensor and shot detection time and location, and when combined with other sensor shot detections in close proximity, provides first responders with intelligence they may apply to predict where the threat may be going next,” said Rourk.
Other potential advantages to this type of detection system is the option to add automation. In the case of a gunshot being detected, not only could first responders receive an immediate report of shot detection and accurate shot location that reduces their response time, but the system may be integrated with other emergency response systems such as indoor/outdoor voice announcement, reverse 9-1-1 and computer notifications that deliver voice and text messages alerting those at risk.
“You’re making significant defense in-depth improvements when you automate through system-of-systems integration,” said Rourk.
With live fire testing successfully complete, Rourk said their final phase is to evaluate the system for nuisance alarm rate (NAR)/false alarm rate (FAR) to ensure the IGDS isn’t sending false reports to first responders. The NAR/FAR system testing that began April 2018 at JB Charleston will continue to be monitored until April 2019. Since testing began this spring, Rourk said there have been zero instances of nuisance or false alarm detections.
Once NAR/FAR testing is complete, the results from all phases of SSC Atlantic’s test and evaluation will be consolidated into a final report and delivered to the DoD PSEAG. The project results are intended to inform and shape the future acquisition, engineering, and application of IGDS within the DoD.
Despite the lengthy process of test and evaluation, the SSC Atlantic team understands the value of their work and the potential positive impact it could have on the workforce.
“We have a very strong background within the Navy and Marine Corps, and other federal government agencies and joint services, with a history of force protection solutions,” said Rourk. “Having a full and thorough understanding of emerging technology that can be applied to the mission is key. We have to know what’s there, what the gaps and issues are, and what’s on the leading edge, so we know what we can bring to protect our warfighters and our assets.”
SSC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.