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Methuen schools to test out gunshot detection system

A Methuen school may soon become the first in Massachusetts to have a gunshot detection system installed, School Superintendent Judith Scannell said.

The high-tech system, which was developed during a time of heightened concern about school shootings, sends an alert to local police the moment a gunshot is fired, so authorities are aware of a crisis more quickly than they would with only a 911 call.

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“Anything we can do to enhance the safety for our students is a good thing, and that is the number one job of a superintendent,” Scannell said in a phone interview Thursday. “We have to constantly tweak our standards.”

Scannell said she believes this will be the first time such a system will be involved in a Massachusetts school.

The system will be installed in one of Methuen’s schools in August, Scannell said, but she would not say which one. Ideally, she said, the system will be working by the start of the school year.

In addition to making the school safer, Scannell said, she expects that the system will give students, parents, and faculty peace of mind.

Scannell said she met no opposition from the city’s School Committee during discussions last year about the system. Parents will be included in discussions this summer, she said.

“When it comes to the safety of the students, the community is very supportive,” she said.

School committee member D.J. Deeb said he was excited by the prospect of having the system in the schools.

“I think that students and parents should feel good knowing this is a state-of-the-art system that enhances the security of our buildings,” he said.

The Guardian system, made by Shooter Detection Systems of Rowley, uses microphones to record the sound of a gunshot, then validates the sound, said Christian Connors, the company’s chief executive.

When shots are fired, the system can begin recording voices and other noises, allowing emergency responders to know where the shooter is and what is going on inside a building before entering. Each sensor records sounds within a 25-meter radius, Connors said.

He added that systems like Guardian have been used in overseas war zones, where they have limited human casualties and deaths. He would not disclose the cost of the system, but said it is about equal to that of a video surveillance system.

The Methuen school will be using the system free of charge, Connors said, because the company wants to test it in a school.

Scannell said she would seek a grant to have the system installed in all city schools.

Kiera Blessing can be reached at kiera.blessing@globe.com or on Twitter at @kierablessing.
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