News | May 19, 2017

As America mourns a school shooting, an Air Force inventor works to stop them

News Article Image of As America mourns a school shooting, an Air Force inventor works to stop them

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- 50th Space Wing Inspector General personel conducted an active shooter exercise at the Child Development Center Feb. 9 to test the response of child care providers. Exercises are conducted regularly across the base to ensure personnel know how to respond to crisis situations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

A firearm was again used where it never should have been.

This time in an elementary school in San Bernardino, the same community rocked by a mass shooting 16 months ago.

On April 10, an 8-year-old boy and his teacher were killed, and another student was wounded by a man who, police said, then took his own life.

“When I see stuff like this it just frustrates me,” said former Air Force Capt. Chris Perrine.

Perrine, who served in uniform for 11 years that included tours in Afghanistan, is carrying an invention to market that promises to increase survivability of, and police response times to active shooter incidents.

“The need is urgent,” he said.

On March 1, Perrine’s startup company, Protective Innovations, signed an exclusive patent license agreement for a gunshot detection and alarm technology with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

In 2015, he was part of a six-member Air Force team who competed in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 2015 Commanders Challenge. There the team developed what’s called the Active Shooter Protection System for use in military bases, schools, and other buildings.

“We have created, in effect, a fire alarm for active shooters,” he said.

Leading up to its successful demonstration, the team examined public safety agency response times to different types of emergencies.

“We realized we’re much better at responding to fire emergencies than we are to gunshot emergencies,” said Perrine. Building codes require automated fire detection systems that sound exit alarms while simultaneously alerting dispatchers.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Chris Perrine, Air Force monitors his team’s active shooter detection system during the 2015 Air Force Research Laboratory Commanders Challenge. Their system enabled dispatchers to see where in the building an alarm was activated and inform emergency responders. (U.S. Air Force/Wesley Farnsworth)

And because firearms have a unique acoustic profile, the team was able to prototype a similar system that could piggyback on an existing fire alarm’s wiring.

The sensors, which also resemble a fire alarm, trigger only when they hear a gunshot. “This is not a loud noise detector,” Perrine said.

When the alarm sounds, it can signal to lockdown. “It’s often overlooked that sounding an alarm for the building occupants to lock their doors is as big a deal as getting the police on scene,” said Perrine.

Unlike 911 reports, the system will give police forces precise data on shot location, in hopes of reducing response times.

In 2013, 69 minutes elapsed between ‘shots fired’ at the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and ‘shooter down,’ according to the Washington Post.

“The police did not arrive at the correct location until 11 minutes into the event,” Perrine said. “When 911 calls were made, people were panicked and inaccurate information was given.”

But then, because the building was large, it took police nearly an hour to find the shooter. During that time, the lone gunman killed 12 people. Perrine believes that nine of the 12 deaths could have been prevented.

“With a gunshot detection system installed in that building there’s every reason to believe that the police could have been at the correct building in three to five minutes and in contact with the shooter immediately,” the Air Force veteran said. “Time lost equals lives lost.”

With the patent license agreement in hand, Perrine is looking for office space in the Washington, D.C, area and investors.

TechLink, a Montana-based nonprofit affiliate of the Department of Defense, assisted Protective Innovations with writing a commercialization plan, negotiating terms, and preparation of the license agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“I cannot imagine an easier way to work out a contract than working through TechLink,” Perrine said.

The technology manager who worked with him agreed.

“During the first conversation I had with Chris it was clear he was extremely passionate about this technology and driven to see it realized. And we really carried that momentum all the way through the process, said Austin Leach, senior technology manager at TechLink.

“It inspired me to get the license agreement in place as soon as possible.”

Troy Carter can be reached at or 406-994-7798.

Headshot Image of Austin Leach, PhD, CLP

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