AI technology must be leveraged to respond to, minimize school shootings
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Even one school shooting is too many. Nineteen years after one of America’s most infamous and deadly incidents — the Columbine school shooting — little has improved in the nearly two decades since.
In fact, data suggests that during the last half decade, since 2013, there have been more than 300 school shootings in the U.S., according to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. Last Friday, 10 were murdered in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston.
Active shooter incidents average 12 minutes, during which time a person is shot every 15 seconds. Sixty percent of these incidents end before law enforcement can even arrive, exacerbating the tragedy.
These incidents require better prevention and response measures, as they create long-term impacts on schools and communities — destroying countless lives when the shooter succeeds in taking even one shot.
No matter which side of the endless legislative debate you happen to find yourself, we’re in a worse place with mass shootings than we were since before the tragic phenomena began. The well-being of our students and communities requires greater focus on implementing real solutions to address the problem and to save lives.
Are AI and IoT the Answers to Curbing Killings?
We are living in the fourth industrial revolution, defined by embedded technologies and automation enabled by advanced capabilities like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), and powered by data.
There is an abundance of technology in our lives, but sizeable deficits exist in actionable data needed to support automation in geospatial and situational awareness necessary for public safety. But these gaps can be closed, and the outcomes of the current industrial revolution can be employed to help save lives effectively.
We must first examine our present reality. As a population, we spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors. Yet technologies like GPS don’t work in these spaces, and capturing noninvasive offline data — like population movements and behaviors — is difficult at best, and is not currently being done at scale.
We are not measuring indoor behavior patterns, nor are we able to track our movements or surroundings when the need calls or when emergencies arise in the very areas where we spend most of our lives.
Active shooter incidents in public areas are occurring at an alarming rate across the globe. As a victim or first responder the chaos sparked by violent incidents demands rapid, highly complex decision-making from all parties involved.
In recent incidents, public safety has been impacted by secondary factors, such as rapid crowd dispersion and overburdened cellular networks that prevent timely reporting, and delayed law enforcement/EMS response because of uncertainty on the scene.
These events demand a timely, real-time armed response fueled by accurate information and distributed situational awareness that only technology can provide on scene. Recent incidents illustrate the dangers of misinformation during these chaotic episodes.
As technology advances, the ability to connect people and information to enable immediate and effective response will be mandatory. This is especially true in our society’s softest targets, such as schools and healthcare facilities. However, even in the two decades since Columbine, little has been done to marry technology approaches towards mitigating mass shootings.
Time to Take Action and Save Lives
The first quarter of 2018 has been especially deadly. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 — known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act — in March. The bill requires a law enforcement officer in every elementary and middle school in the state, and one officer per every 1,000 students in each high school.
While important to establishing the perception of safety within the state’s schools, these measures are extremely expensive and do not directly improve our ability to act at the point of crisis, as would locating and tracking an active shooter during an incident. More law enforcement in schools is a wonderful idea; perhaps 20 years too late, but even this does little to address the problem in its entirety.
The right technology, however, can be a bipartisan solution that empowers us to respond today by deploying scalable prevention and response mechanisms. Twenty years is too long to wait for a response to an exponential and life-threatening problem, and it is time to take action.
With the world connected in ways we never imagined, the technology necessary to prevent and respond to public safety threats is ready to be leveraged; and it must be for us to deter violence and save lives.
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