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Military tactics to fight US shootings

Gunshot-detection technology is tested by Massachusetts school

Gunshot-detection technology is tested by Massachusetts school

In the US, a country forced to deal with shootings on school grounds on a near-monthly basis, advances in keeping students safe are hugely important. The latest, a gunshot-detection system first used by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now being piloted in a Massachusetts school.

The technology, called Guardian, can capture the sound and identify the location of a gunshot, and has infrared sensors that recognise the flash when a gun is fired.

If a weapon is used, the system automatically alerts the emergency services. Guardian can also be connected to a school's security system, triggering the building's lockdown mode and sounding an alarm.

The move follows the massacre of 26 pupils and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, in December 2012, and the news earlier this year that two school shootings had taken place in the US every month in the 14 months since the Sandy Hook tragedy.

According to Shooter Detection Systems, the company behind Guardian, the sensors were originally used by the US military to locate enemy fire. The same technology that helped to "save soldiers' lives overseas would now help save our students and civilians", the firm said.

As TES reported in February, 13 school shootings took place in the US in the first six weeks of 2014 alone. In a period of just eight days, four shootings occurred on school campuses. Debate is growing in parts of the country about whether schools should employ armed guards and whether staff should carry weapons.

Marianne Alvarez, a former US police officer who trains civilians, including school staff, to deal with armed intruders, said the technology could help to prevent loss of life.

"Gunshot technology should be looked at as one tool in our toolbox of options available for schools to enhance their chances of mitigating losses and increasing survivability," Ms Alvarez, director of training at Alice Training in California, told TES. "Timely and accurate information is critical in the first five to eight minutes of an active killer situation."

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