What if a shooting in a school or any other public area were reported and its location identified within five seconds of the first shot? How valuable would that technology be?
The technology is not only available but it has been developed by a Billings inventor who has plans to manufacture the equipment in Billings. Alan Overcast, founder of Tracer Technology Systems, Inc., is already searching for a site for a manufacturing plant, having finally acquired a patent and the necessary certifications, as well as having launched worldwide marketing.
Overcast has developed technology that can accurately detect the sound of gun fire – recognizing it from all other sounds – and a system that immediately notifies law enforcement, or any others designated to be notified – utilizing existing means of communication.
If one thinks about the long delay at Parkland High School in Florida, as victims struggled to reach out for help, and responders tried to figure out where the shooting was happening, it makes clear how valuable such technology would be.
Reports about the police officer at Parkland, who appeared to be reluctant to respond, were a disservice to the officer, said Overcast. Overcast does not believe the officer was acting cowardly, but was trying to figure out from where the shots were coming and where he should go. Tracer Technology Systems would eliminate that uncertainty.
The sound of a gunshot, immediately – “before you can blink” — activates a notification system that not only alerts responders that a shot has been fired, but exactly where it happened.
The development of this technology is the achievement of a life-long dream of Overcast to do something that would help save lives of first responders. While he had always held that as a goal, Overcast says the impetus to actually do something came with the shooting death of a Highway Patrolman near Three Forks about eight years ago. The trooper was found shot to death by a fellow law enforcement officer along side his vehicle along a lonely rural road.
What if there was some technology that could immediately alert authorities with the firing of the first gunshot, pondered Overcast. He set about teaching computers to distinguish between loud bang sounds, so that it would unerringly be activated to launch a notification process in whatever manner it is programmed to do.
Overcast achieved his goal and has succeeded in getting the new technology patented internationally, in 2014, and most recently in the US. Overcast said that potential customers in other countries were the first to recognize the value of the technology and urged him to get it patented as soon as possible, which he successfully did four years ago. He just recently received his US patent, and has been certified by companies like Verizon and Vodafone, the largest cellular provider in the world, as a law enforcement device. That is all “a big deal,” for Overcast. It took four years to get a US patent and two- and –a -half years to get certified by the communication companies.
The focus of the technology is to reduce the amount of time it takes to get victims to medical care, since most victims bleed to death in the critical moments after the shooting. The average response time by first responders to a school shooting is six minutes, many take as many as 15 minutes and more. What if that time could be cut in half? Overcast quoted statistics that claim that 95 percent of gunshot wounds are “survivable,” if they get medical attention soon enough.
But more than that. Besides being more effective in initiating response, just having such a system installed would undoubtedly discourage most would- be perpetrators. “If I am going to rob a place and they have an alarm system would I think twice about?” queried Overcast, “Absolutely.”
To have a prototype operating in a school would be beneficial to promote sales and Overcast is seeking a school that will allow him to install a system free of charge. The offer was rejected by School District 2 in Billings, he said.
The reason he was given, said Overcast, is that it if it works the district would have to equip all the school buildings with the system, which they fear would be too expensive. Their decision was reached without ever asking about the cost, said Overstreet, who said that the technology was designed with the goal of being less expensive than any other technology and its cost is expected to decrease even more as efficiencies are gained in the production, as is always the case for new products.
“We are the lowest cost solution,” said Overcast.
Overcast said that he didn’t develop the technology to get rich, but to truly be of benefit to law enforcement — making it as inexpensive as possible has to be part of that strategy.
Overcast likens his system to smoke detectors. When was the last time there was a death reported in a school because of a fire? he asks.
“1958.” is the answer. That year coincides with the year that smoke detectors were by law mandated in all schools.
But schools are not the only potential market for Tracer Technology Systems. In fact, public schools in the US represent only about five percent of the potential market, said Overcast.
Faith Evangelical Church in Billings is an example of other public arenas which will benefit from the protection and security that Tracer Technology Systems brings. Besides churches, shopping malls, work places, hotels, auditoriums or any place where people gather and is vulnerable to attack can be monitored.
The device can be connected to existing alarm systems or wirelessly connected over cellular systems, placed on walls or ceilings or carried as mobile units.
Should they become inoperable for any reason that information, too, is immediately relayed to operators.
Besides notifying first responders, the system can be programmed to launch other security responses such as locking or closing doors or initiate sprinkler systems, etc. “There are so many ways that could stop a shooter,” said Overcast.
Overcast is optimistic about the future for his company. Getting financing for manufacturing will be the primary focus going forward. He projects needing about $1 million. But, Overcast points out that the prospects are better than that of many start up companies, since all of the costs for research and development are paid. “The most expensive part is done and we have a patent,” he said.
Tracer Technology Systems, Inc. employs four people at the moment, while other services are being provided on an out-source basis. Distributors have also been obtained in Mexico and the Middle East. “We have been marketing it extensively for a year,” said Overcast.