AMMON, Idaho - The city of Ammon in conjunction with District 93, law enforcement and a Virginia-based tech company are testing out a system they say will alert them to gunmen on school campuses.
Saturday officials tested Shotpoint – an acoustic shot detection system – with live rounds at Sandcreek Middle School. Although Saturday's exercise was staged, school leaders said the possibility of an actual school shooting is all too real.
"We've seen it happen at a variety of places, even places where folks thought this could never happen," said John Pymm, director of safe schools at District 93.
Pymm said Shotpoint could be a valuable tool in helping manage shootings.
"Our system will locate the shooter. It'll tell you fairly accurately within several meters where in the hallway the shooter is," said Kathleen Griggs, president of Databuoy, which manufactures Shotpoint.
Shotpoint uses a series of sensors mounted on ceilings throughout the school. Each sensor is equipped with four microphones, which can detect the sound of gunshots.
When a shot is fired, automatic alerts pop up on Databuoy's computer system.
"We send our alerts to the city dispatch -- their video management system. Also the alerts will go to the active 911 systems," said Griggs.
Not only will responders know where the shots are coming from, but they'll also get real-time pictures of the gunman courtesy of the 64 cameras already installed in Sandcreek.
"You could have a dispatcher who is feeding video to -- live video or recorded video -- to law enforcement people who are arriving at the scene so that they know how best to enter the school and to approach the situation," said Brian Minner, with AlphaCorp Security.
The technology is by no means ready for use -- it's merely being tested out. Sandcreek is one of the first schools in the nation to test it with live rounds.
"For a number of weeks afterward we'll be looking at the data and the information provided so that we can get the sensors so that they're a little more accurate in an indoor environment. That's the objective," said Bruce Patterson, technology director with the city of Ammon.
The city is a top five finalist in a competition sponsored by the National Institute of Justice to find the best use of a high speed system. City officials approached Databuoy to test the Shotpoint system for the contest.
If the city wins, it'll get the money needed to implement the system in several District 93 schools.
The winner will be announced in December.