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The Active Shooter Epidemic: Prevention is Possible

By: Anil Chitkara
Co-Founder & President, Evolv Technology

As I was traveling last week, two magazine covers caught my attention. They describe the epidemic that is taking lives, traumatizing families, and devastating communities across this country. In August alone, 53 people died in mass shootings; many more lives were forever changed. In the days after each event, news coverage follows a familiar arc: understand the event and the shooter, report heart wrenching stories about the victims, then engage in discussion about preventing this type of event from happening again. Inevitably, whether due to politics, disagreement on the right course of action, availability of funding, or some other reason, weeks will pass, and we will revert to the status quo. Another event will occur, and the cycle will begin anew, with more lives senselessly lost and many others permanently altered. 

Despite this paralysis at the federal level, there is real, measurable action happening at the local level. My own children have been doing ALICE drills in their elementary, middle and high schools to prepare for active shooters for as long as I can remember. Think about that: reading, writing, arithmetic, and active shooter training. Bullet proof backpack sales have soared this summer. Sensors have been placed throughout buildings to detect shots fired and locate the source to help police respond. In the past twelve months, more than 500,000 people have been trained in bleeding control techniques and more than 14,000 stop-the-bleed kits have been sold. These are all important measures that help in the response after the shooting has started. 

Mike Ellenbogen and I have spent the last eight years searching for different technologies that would detect an active shooter before he or she enters a facility. We have developed technology that is designed specifically to recognize that while most people entering a venue pose no threat, there may be a few individuals who require closer evaluation. Advances in technology finally make it possible. We use the best sensors and machine learning algorithms packaged in a welcoming design, allowing thousands of people to pass through while automatically detecting those few who may be of concern. Virtually everyone walks through with a cell phone in their pocket. The technology instantly differentiates that phone from a weapon, alerting guards to those few visitors who require a closer look. Over nearly two years, our first product has screened more than 25 million people. Thousands of weapons have been detected with numerous examples of deterrence when people saw the system and decided not to enter. Our newest product is launching this month. 

Our mission is to prevent active shooter incidents. Regardless of the outcome of mental health and gun safety initiatives, something can be done today. Our technology is preventing weapons from entering facilities. We are saving lives. We work closely with the broader community of security professionals and technology companies to keep people safe. It takes people, process and technology to address this problem. Our technology is a foundational piece that we hope may reduce these senseless tragedies.

Something can be done today to curtail this epidemic.  

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