Guest Post: Shooter Detection for Utility Market

Christian Connors by Christian Connors | 02.02.2016

Christian Connors is the CEO of Shooter Detection Systems.

The April 16, 2013 attacks on the PG&E Metcalf substation almost took out power to Silicon Valley, forcing NERC and security professionals to accelerate efforts to address the possibility of a sniper attack that could result in crippling power loss to our nation. As a part of the team that brought Raytheon BBN Technologies’ Boomerang outdoor and Warrior-X wearable gunshot detection systems to some of the world’s most challenging military environments, we understood the immediate need for technology to address attacks such as this and the increasing public Active Shooter problem. Our team of researchers and experts in acoustic gunshot detection capabilities looked at improving Boomerang for the utility environment and applying that technology indoors.

Boomerang uses acoustic detection and computer-based signal processing to pinpoint small arms fire and immediately report the precise shooter location to authorities. The system can be mounted on vehicles, fixed structures such as poles and walls, embedded on helicopters, or simply sit on a serviceman’s shoulder.

Shooter DetectionBuilt for Power Grid Asset Protection
The development of Boomerang began in the early 1990s as a feasibility study about using acoustic methods to locate snipers. In the early 2000s, the first production system was developed for use on military vehicles. When looking to protect critical infrastructure such as utility substations, the traditional system was not a perfect fit, since it was still a mobile application even in a fixed environment. To develop a system for the utility market, we also had to consider the CIP requirements.

Boomerang Spectrum was created to address these requirements as well as acclimate to a different set of challenging settings – HV transformers and switching yards. Our goal was that performance would not falter, which in the business of gunshot detection means zero false alerts. We made adaptations to firmware and software and adjusted detection algorithms to adapt them to the unique environment of this industry, such as switching events. In the commercial market, we needed to be able to “plug in” to a multitude of security platforms to allow the customer to effortlessly incorporate our solution. The result? A simplified Boomerang System Integration Kit (SIK) for ease of integration and use. Finally, we were able to scale for small substation yards or large power stations, across multiple sites. The sensors now feed into one “Gateway” system at the site and is then networked to the Security Operations Center.

As a result of these improvements, Boomerang Spectrum is now protecting major utility substations nationwide from gunfire attack. The system is fully integrated with Honeywell’s Pro-Watch and Vindicator Perimeter Detection System. This is a scalable solution to meet differing substation requirements and provide accurate threat detection, assessment and response with few false alarms.

With the increasing public Active Shooter problem and the new requirements for the utility market, it is clear that there is an immediate need for this technology. What are you doing to help address these concerns in your part of the world?