With students off for the Veterans Day holiday, a simulated school shooting at Methuen grammar school Tuesday showed what "active shooter" technology could do to help police catch a gunman if the horrible threat ever strikes as it has at other schools across the country.
In the live demonstration, the "gunman" entered the school armed with an assault rifle, opening fire with dummy rounds first in the school library then rampaging through hallways and classrooms.
But he had only a few minutes to wreak havoc.
Smoke alarm-sized sensors installed in classrooms, hallways and other points throughout the building were activated by the sounds of gunfire, and police officers immediately were able to track his movements and quickly subdue him.
Nearly 100 people, including U.S. Rep. Nikki Tsongas and regional law enforcement officers, gathered in the school to view the demonstration of what the school district bills as the first such system operating in a public school in the U.S.
School Superintendent Judith Scannell said she hopes the district of about 7,300 students can find the money to pay for outfitting its four other schools.
The new system was installed at no cost by Shooter Detection Systems, a Massachusetts-based company. CEO Christian Connors said the company is installing the technology in two more schools in Virginia and California, as well as undisclosed airports.
Founded in 2013, the company is among others across the country trying to market such "active shooter" systems to the owners and operators of malls, airports, government offices, schools and other public buildings.
Savannah College Art and Design in Georgia is set to become the first college in the country to roll out such technology. That system, "SecureCampus," was made by SST, a California-based company.
Connors said the technology is based on systems successfully developed for the military to help soldiers locate enemy fire during battles and could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the size and structure of the building.
Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he believes such systems should be required in many public buildings, just as fire suppression systems and smoke detectors are.
Methuen has never been targeted, but three schools briefly were placed on lockdown last month after a psychiatric patient at nearby Holy Family Hospital reported a man with a gun in the clinic.
Methuen long has been among the more active districts in the state in addressing school safety. In a city about 30 miles north of Boston, the district was one of the first to post uniformed police, known as school resource officers, in its schools.
With the rash of school shootings across the country, including the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that killed 26 children and school staff, Methuen was among the first to conduct "active threat" drills for police officers.
This article was originally published on November 11, 2014.