In the aftermath of the nation’s second deadliest school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, one Baraboo woman asked herself what more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.
“Years ago I was praying for the victims of Sandy Hook and going through solutions in my mind,” said Stacy Jax, a former substitute teacher for the Baraboo School District. “I thought, what if you could create a fire alarm that listens for sound and then put out a notification on top of that?”
Jax brought her idea to Madison software development company Acumium in February 2016. Since then, she has worked with developers to create the Trinity Gunshot Alarm System.
The technology works like a fire alarm. Sensors are placed throughout a building, and once they detect and confirm the sound of a gunshot, the system sets off a building-wide alarm and simultaneously notifies emergency responders. The sensors can distinguish gunshots from other loud noises, and also pinpoint the location of the shot, which could aid law enforcement entering a building to address an unknown threat.
Jax tested the alarm system last week with Sauk County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. James Hodges at an indoor shooting range. Hodges said the technology could help school staff differentiate the sound of gunshots from other noises because depending on where a gun goes off in a building, it might not sound like a gunshot.
“It would be like having smoke in a room, but you don’t know it’s smoke,” Hodges said. “That’s eating up precious time that a person could use to take some sort of action that’s necessary to get themselves safe, or to get first responders to the scene.”
Jax said the alarm also could better prepare substitute teachers and other school staff members who may not be familiar with active shooter protocols.
“You’re not as familiar with those situations,” she said. “Having an alarm system that can trigger awareness so people know what to do will help everybody secure their safety.”
A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month left 17 people dead and forced the nation to re-examine what can be done to prevent more horrific occurrences. While the event has sparked a firestorm of political debate around the issues of school security and gun control, Jax she believes her alarm system could be part of a bipartisan solution.
“It isn’t political in nature, it’s just an alarm system,” she said. “It’s helpful, and I think it’s one part of a very complex system that has to be integrated.”
Jax said her next step in developing the technology will be to secure additional funding to create a five-sensor system, which she hopes to test when the courthouse conducts active shooter training in May.
People interested in supporting the technology can donate on the Trinity Gunshot Alarm System website at trinitygunshotalarm.com.