Security system that detects gunfire installed at Phoenix Academy

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A High Point charter school is the first school in the state to use technology that detects gunfire.

Phoenix Academy installed dozens of sensors throughout the campus designed to alert 911 when a shot is detected.

“This is part of our life now and this is something we have to address and be realistic about it,” Dome School Development Founder Paul Norcross said.

The devices are made by Shooter Detection Systems, the manufacturer for Johnson Controls. Kendra Noonan, with Shooter Detection Systems, said the sensors have a 100 percent detection rate with no false alarms.

“The system needs to tell the difference between a locker slamming, a book dropping or a car backfiring,” she said. "When the sensor detects the bang of the gun with these acoustic microphones, it also looks for the infrared flash of a weapon and it validates those two things, and only when those two things happen does it sound the alarm.”

Noonan said that during a shooting, it can take between three to five minutes before someone calls 911 to report it.

“Would you send your children to a school that didn’t have smoke alarms or fire alarms? It’s time for us to be looking at active shooter detection the same way,” she said.

The system will be integrated with the 911 center to automatically dispatch officers to the school. If additional shots are fired, the software can re-create the path the shooter is taking. High Point Police Chief Kenneth Shultz said those details are critical to their response.

“If we don’t have details, we’re coming in blind and looking for the trouble, and the benefit of the system is it’s going to start pinpointing the last known location and we can prioritize a reference and response that way,” he said.

School leaders hope to integrate the system with existing security cameras at the school and set up automatic alerts to teachers via cellphone.

School leaders say the system will be integrated with 911 by January.