Athena Weapons Detection System Software

Staffing a Weapons-Detection System: What’s the Right Number?

By Michael Gips

Hospitals, schools, theme parks, museums, stadiums, and other facilities have been increasingly adding weapons-detection systems (WDSs) to their entrances to combat growing violent crime. Used properly, this technology has repeatedly demonstrated its value.

But few people are talking about a critical issue involving these systems: the deployment of manpower. A high school where hundreds of students pour in prior to the morning bell may well have far different staffing requirements than a small retailer, an urban hospital emergency room, or a federal courthouse.

Staffing depends on many factors, including facility type, public accessibility, and the environment. Other key considerations include quantity and hours of traffic flow, the identity of the users (e.g. customers, staff, clients, contractors), the number of repeats and new users, personnel costs, training resources, remote-monitoring capability, and the type of weapons-detection and access control hardware used (e.g., turnstiles, scanners, mantraps).

Let’s look at some use cases in which a facility might not have to use on-site specialized personnel for the WDS at all, through cases in which three or more is advisable.

No Dedicated Personnel

Trained on-site staff are necessary to correctly use security technology, but in certain applications, a facility can get away without any personnel. Consider the use of mantraps with Weapons Detection in low-volume staff entrances.

An individual opens an exterior door to enter a vestibule. Once they get inside and close the door behind them, they walk between a pair of towers equipped with metal detection and induction, LIDAR, a visual camera, and artificial intelligence technologies.

If the system detects a weapon on the person, the doors leading from the vestibule to the facility won’t open. Staff inside or remote staff can then decide whether to call the authorities, open the door manually, or take some other action.

This application comes with important provisions. The entryway glass should be bulletproof so the intruder can’t shoot their way in. The staff must be trained in how to use the system and how to respond to an incident. They will also have to decide whether the exterior door will also lock, trapping the person inside, or whether that door will remain unlocked so they can escape.

While enclosing the person will hasten their capture, it comes with significant risks. The person will become angry and desperate and may be able to break through the glass. In addition, an innocent person who is caught in a mantrap could sue the retailer for false imprisonment, which would also bring negative publicity.

Other potential applications that might be able to function without on-site WDS personnel include users that have to badge in either at a retail store, office building, or houses of worship where valid users are credentialed. In that setup, staff might have to pass through a weapons-detection system before their badge reader or access control credential will allow entry into the building.

One Designated Security Officer

A single security professional, could suffice in many scenarios, especially if augmented by an offsite officer monitoring the entranceway. Single-officer setups work best in low-volume locations under 100 people an hour. This can be switched out during high volume times, over 100 people an hour with 2 officers.

Two Officers

Two is the magic number for many applications. In fact, the “two-man rule” is enshrined in areas such as cybersecurity and nuclear security, though with slightly different manifestations. In this case, one officer directs traffic and manages the throughput while the second one, who should be armed, can perform secondary screening and respond to any threat.

Two officers should be the preferred approach for most schools, hospital emergency rooms, courthouses, and public venues during peak times.

Three or More Officers

Large events and facilities with heavy traffic flow will require three or more security professionals on-site. As a rule of thumb, traffic of more than 250 per hour at any access point will require one security officer to manage traffic flow and two to conduct secondary screening. These conditions tend to apply at stadiums, large theme parks, festivals, and large facilities such as factories and corporate headquarters, where many people report simultaneously.

Of course, staffing—especially 24/7 staffing—can be costly. An effective Weapons Detection, such as Athena’s, should be able to track and enumerate traffic flow by day, hour, and location. Analyzing this data can help organizations determine the optimal number of on-site officers for any particular entrance.

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