There are many different programs and companies actively looking to prevent school shootings and other mass violence. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “the worst period for this violence has been in the 2021–2022 school year, which saw nearly quadruple the average number of gunfire incidents since 2013. This past school year saw 193 incidents of gunfire on the grounds of preschools and K–12 schools.” Parents are understandably uneasy as they send children back to school. News polls around education have revealed that parents’ top concern is school safety.
“The need to protect children in schools is very real, so if there is another added layer we can bring in, schools are very open to it,” Brian Sathianathan, the co-founder of Iterate.ai says.” His company is just one of many working on solutions.
In the Denver area, the Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety is training law enforcement and other safety officials to use tactics in a mass casualty event by placing them in an ultra realistic training environment.
The DeAngelis Center in Wheat Ridge was known as Martensen Elementary School for over 50 years. The school was changed to the Frank DeAngelis Center in 2017, named after the former principal of Columbine High School in Littleton, who was present during that tragic day in 1999 when 12 students and one teacher were gunned down. Since then, DeAngelis has become an advocate for school safety awareness and school shooting prevention.
“When first responders are actually responding to an event in a school, it’s helpful to be in an environment that is realistic in your training,” Shawna Fritzler, Business Manager of the Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation said. “There’s all kinds of simulations, and we have subject matter experts who have actually responded to lots of other tragic events.”
The DeAngelis Center uses a wide variety of interactive videos, sounds, and even scents to put those who come for the training into the most realistic experience possible. “I contacted all the parents I knew on Facebook and told everyone to give me their old backpacks at the end of the year so that it looks like a real school.” Fritzler said.
Different types of law enforcement and school safety officials come from all over the country to participate in the training exercises, varying from police, SWAT team members, and school resource officers. They go over lessons learned and mistakes made in the training as well.
“Our trainers will even push people to make mistakes so that they experience them in a safe space, so that they don’t repeat those mistakes when they are responding to an actual event,” Fritzler said, “I’m just a mom. I’m not a first responder, but our priorities in our training here is to stop the killing and to start the healing.”
Fritzler spoke about how important it is that doors are able to be immediately locked automatically. The time it takes to get up and manually lock or unlock a door in an active shooter situation can be the difference between life or death.
“Frank said when they were running from the shooter in Columbine, they were backed in a corner and he had a pocket of keys,” Fritzler said, “So in his key ring there were like 50 keys and miraculously somehow or another he pulled the right key out and the door opened.”
The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX caused parents to become more concerned about school protocols. Learning how to prepare for a school shooting the right way is something that Fritzler finds to be vital.
“We are starting this new community education program because after the Uvalde shooting we had parents reaching out and telling their kids not to follow the lockdown protocols and just run,” Fritzler said, “There’s also politics attached to a lot things that shouldn’t have politics attached to it, so we strive really hard to be that nonpartisan organization to just do the education piece, so that we can work towards the prevention and preparedness to prevent tragedies.”
Fritzler also emphasized how important community and the bonds within them are for school shooting prevention and the healing process if a tragic event occurs. This means healthy relationships with different aspects of the community, such as with the local law enforcement and the school districts.
“That’s one of the things we look to make sure when we train these districts,” Fritzler said, “If the law enforcement agencies don’t have a good relationship with a school district, you fix it right away; it’s really important.”
Iterate.ai is an artificial intelligence developer looking to use 21st-century technological advancements to help prevent school shootings. Iterate.ai has created and developed a weapons detection system that can identify guns or any type of weapon that it catches in its view.
“We built a system where the AI starts looking for weapons, sharp objects, masks, and if it finds something, it will automatically call the alert system the school district already has,” Brian Sathianathan, Co-Founder of Iterate.ai, said.
Sathianathan worked on the security for the first iPhone, so he is no stranger to being a part of tech that has transformed our world. The artificial intelligence iterate.ai has created can be installed into the preexisting security cameras that the school already has, where it does detection surveillance at all times.
“The AI can detect a glimpse of a weapon in under 30 milliseconds, and then within a couple of minutes, we can talk to a business management system where we can close the doors and prevent anything,” Sathianathan said.
In a video demo that Iterate.ai showed Bucket List Community Cafe, we could see how the AI worked in real time, in various videos involving surveillance from different gas station and convenience store robberies. Immediately when the robber toting the gun comes into view, you can see the detection system go to work. Different colored blocks represent either the gun or type of weapon being used. For example, an AR-15 style weapon may have a red block around it, and a handgun may have a yellow block around it.
Sathianathan and those at Iterate.ai have tested and put the AI through numerous situations. Throughout this work, they have the AI to a point where it can detect guns or weapons concealed inside backpacks and in clothes. The AI can also be made to recognize law enforcement or security guards, so there are no false alarms in the weapons detection system.
“We should provide this in every school, every grocery store, every church, any public place where people feel they could be threatened,” Jon Nordmark, CEO and Co-Founder of Iterate.ai, said.
At this point, Iterate.ai’s threat detection is only in one school in the Denver area. The company will not disclose the location because of security concerns except to say it is near Columbine High School.