Rethinking our models for mass shooting events
There’s some disagreement about what constitutes the average human lifespan. But for the sake of discussion, let’s split the difference between 70 years on the low end and 80 for the long-lived, giving us 75 years as an “average” lifetime. Broken down into its smallest increments, that equals approximately 2.3 billion seconds, which sounds like a lot; until you find yourself in a situation where all of it — your dreams for the future, promises made, the people you love —could all be ripped away in an instant.
Many people who have survived a mass shooting describe those seconds as weighing like hours. Will the killer find me hiding here? Are the police coming? Should I try to run?
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida offers a stark illustration of the devastating swiftness of such an attack:
- 2:21 p.m. — The shooter enters Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and takes his AR-15 out of a case. He begins shooting into three classrooms, returning to two of them. He shoots into another classroom, then into two more before dropping his rifle.
- 2:28 p.m. — The suspect flees, mixing in with students who are running away from the scene.
The entire shooting lasted just six minutes and twenty seconds, leaving 17 people dead and another 14 wounded.
In 2007, the aftermath of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech revealed a picture of lost time as university officials grappled with unfolding events and whether to initiate a lockdown:
- 7:15 a.m. — Virginia Tech police respond to a 911 call from West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall, where a man and woman have been shot and killed. Police believe the double homicide stemmed from a domestic dispute, and that the gunman has already fled the campus.
- 8 a.m. — Students begin their first classes as word of the killings spreads via text messages and calls.
- 8:25 a.m. — Virginia Tech officials try to assess the situation and how they should notify staff and students.
- 9 a.m. — Campus police brief university officials.
- 9:26 a.m. — School officials send out the first email notifying staff and students of the killings at West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall.
As the above timeline shows, more than two hours passed after the first shootings in a dormitory until students were finally informed at 9:26 a.m. — via email.
“For a campus with 500 doors in 131 buildings, the concept of an absolute lockdown did not apply,” said Staff Director of the Virginia Tech Shooting Review Panel, Philip Schaenman. “There was simply no way to lock or guard all of the doors. And the shooter, as far as anyone knew at the time, could wait out a lockdown.”
It was 9:45 a.m. when campus police responded to a second 911 call about a shooting at Norris Hall, only to find the doors chained from inside. According to Schaenman, “Police couldn’t have done a better job. They made immediate entry. But it was game over by that time.”
But what if there was a way for police or school security to pinpoint the location of any gunshot within seconds?
Unlike traditional gunshot location (GSL) systems, next-generation GSL now employs “edge computing” (on the device itself) and smart software models that emulate the human brain’s ability to hear, see and smell — pinpointing gunfire and notifying law enforcement within three seconds with real-time alerts sent directly to computers and Android/iOS devices.
V5 GSL Sensor goes even further, learning the ambient sounds of its specific environment to avoid false alerts and eliminate lag time — those precious seconds that cost lives — directing first-responders to exactly where they’re needed with up to 97 percent accuracy. This isn’t some futuristic technology that’s years away from practical use; it’s here, right now.
We owe it to ourselves to make every second count.