Category: ZeroEyes in the News

ZeroEyes in the News

Schools are using facial recognition to try to stop shootings. Here’s why they should think twice.

Schools are using facial recognition to try to stop shootings. Here’s why they should think twice.
See the full article HERE.

Facial recognition is just one of several AI-powered security tools showing up at schools.
For years, the Denver public school system worked with Video Insight, a Houston-based video management software company that centralized the storage of video footage used across its campuses. So when Panasonic acquired Video Insight, school officials simply transferred the job of updating and expanding their security system to the Japanese electronics giant. That meant new digital HD cameras and access to more powerful analytics software, including Panasonic’s facial recognition, a tool the public school system’s safety department is now exploring.
Denver, where some activists are pushing for a ban on government use of facial recognition, is not alone. Mass shootings have put school administrators across the country on edge, and they’re understandably looking at anything that might prevent another tragedy.
Safety concerns have led some schools to consider artificial intelligence-enabled tools, including facial recognition software; AI that can scan video feeds for signs of brandished weapons; even analytics tools that warn when there’s been suspicious movement in a usually-empty hallway. Recode has identified about 20 companies that have sold or have expressed interest in selling such technology to educational institutions.
On its face, facial recognition seems like it might help keep kids safe; in a promotional video by Panasonic, a Denver public school official argues that the company’s AI could be used to prevent potentially dangerous people — like students expelled because they brought a weapon to school or someone barred by a restraining order — from entering a school campus (though the public system has not yet implemented the tool). Most schools appear to be thinking about facial recognition as a way to regulate entry onto a campus, creating databases of people who have previously been flagged.
But facial recognition and similar software have also been suggested for more routine tasks at school, like taking attendance and investigating code of conduct violations. And critics add that it’s not apparent that this software works as advertised, and, with relatively few trials in schools, there’s no real guarantee it will actually make students safer.
High-tech security software could make students feel policed and surveilled, and research has already demonstrated that facial recognition can be inaccurate, especially for people of color and women, as well as other groups. (Those findings were confirmed by a National Institute of Standards and Technology report released Thursday.) Meanwhile, legislation explicitly regulating the use of these tools remains scant, and some critics worry that the sensitive data that facial recognition systems create could ultimately be shared with law enforcement, or a federal agency such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Facial recognition is biased, broken, and it gets it wrong. It’s going to put a lot of students in danger, especially students of color,” warns Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director and founder of a legal nonprofit called the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “We know that this technology will get it wrong quite a bit, and we also have no evidence to show that it has any public safety benefit whatsoever, especially in the grandiose scenarios that proponents put forward.”

Companies market facial recognition as a safety tool
Here’s how the tech could work in a school setting. Facial recognition technology compares images or videos of people entering or within a school building, with a database of already-known individuals and near-instantly confirms their identity, usually for the purpose of alerting security staff or automatically admitting someone into an area.
That database could include a school’s current staff and parents who have been approved to enter a school; it might also include particular individuals a school does not want on its premises, such as expelled students, former employees, registered sex offenders (or those listed on other court-administered databases), or other people school officials might decide to deem suspicious (and have an image of).
Which means that to make use of these tools to preemptively stop a violent event, school staff would have to already know that a person was potentially dangerous and unwelcome on campus — and flag them in the system.
It’s important to note that school shooters are often not previously banned by school staff. Systems like these, though, could theoretically allow a school official to flag a student for any reason, or no reason at all (and regulation of these tools isn’t clear, more on that later).
Compared to expelled students or other people deemed threats, schools appear to be more apprehensive about entering sensitive data about the entire student body into a facial recognition database. That’s part of why, when Lockport School District in New York announced that it would install a facial recognition tool, the state’s department of education called for the plan to be put on hold. The school district and state education officials have since been going back-and-forth over rules for implementing the system to ensure the database will only be used on flagged, non-students, and not students themselves.
Ultimately, we don’t know how many schools have made use of a facial recognition-based tool (Wired found eight public school systems), but it’s not clear that any of the systems deployed at schools thus far have yet stopped a violent event. Mike Vance, a senior director of product management at RealNetworks — which currently provides schools recognition software for free or at a discounted rate — said he’s aware of one school that set up an alert on a person who had expressed general plans for a school shooting in the surrounding area (that person didn’t show).
Another school, Vance said, set up an alert on a student who the school administrators had reason to believe would threaten the school’s safety (that student didn’t show, either). He added that, generally, RealNetworks’ system is not used for recognizing students.
While Vance says that RealNetworks directs schools to its guidelines for best practices, he emphasizes that the company can’t control, and can’t access or see, how schools are actually using the tool.
Importantly, there’s no one type of company that might bring facial recognition to a school. While it’s possible the technology could require installing new, higher-quality surveillance cameras, some can function as a software extension of a school’s existing security infrastructure. Some companies may produce facial recognition software themselves, but not always. For instance, the Oklahoma City-based security firm TriCorps has deployed a Panasonic facial recognition tool, called FacePro, at a school in Missouri. Panasonic also appears to offer facial recognition to schools directly, as in the case of Denver Public Schools. (Panasonic did not respond to a request for comment.)
“Facial recognition is becoming more broadly available and often as a new function in already established CCTV/[s]ecurity products,” explained Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the New York Civil Liberties Union in an email to Recode. “School districts could unwittingly purchase face surveillance tools without even knowing about it.”
He said the NYCLU had spoken to at least one school district that bought a biometric tool but “wasn’t aware of the functionality.”

Beware of “mission creep”
Facial recognition could do more than notify officials when people suspected to be dangerous enter schools. For school officials, that might seem like more bang for their buck, but critics worry that excessive use of the tool could turn into surveillance of students. “We don’t have a single example of a costly and invasive surveillance tool that’s deployed that’s only used for the thing we’re told it will be,” Cahn said.
Mike Vance, RealNetworks’s product management senior director, says that schools are using facial recognition to preemptively enforce child custody agreements. He gave examples of schools that have set alerts in their facial recognition systems on birth parents who have been barred by court order — or other legal processes — to make contact with a child. (He’s not aware of any cases in which a school has caught a parent in this way.) Wired reported that a facial recognition system was even used to check whether a student believed to have run away from home had shown up at school.
There’s particular worry that facial recognition tools could be used to police and investigate student behavior. The superintendent of one New York school district considering the technology floated the idea of using it to enforce codes of conduct, according to the Buffalo News. That’s concerning to critics who point out that facial recognition can be especially inaccurate when applied to people of color, and women with darker skin, in particular (you can read more about bias in facial recognition here, here, and here) and could worsen the school-to-prison pipeline.
“[F]acial recognition technology will necessarily mean Black and brown students, who are already more likely to be punished for perceived misbehavior, are more commonly misidentified, reinforcing the criminalization of Black and brown people,” wrote NYCLU organizer Toni-Smith Thompson last year. “That will happen even as facial recognition algorithms get better at correctly recognizing people’s faces.”

Facial recognition is already being used to take attendance, an application that would presumably require a database of identifiable information on every student at a school. In the US, at least one company, Face Six, sells attendance-taking facial recognition to educational institutions. The technology is in about two dozen educational institutions (including both in the US and elsewhere), a number its CEO says reflects a “mix” of private and public schools, as well as universities.
Facial recognition-as-attendance is also popping up abroad, including in China (though its use there may be curbed). Orahi, a startup that works in India, appears to be using Amazon’s controversial facial recognition tool Rekognition to automatically take the role on school buses and in schools. (Amazon did not respond to a request as to whether it’s sold Rekognition to other startups that work with students or at schools.) In Sweden earlier this year, a municipality was fined after a local school tested using facial recognition to track student attendance, in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); a similar tool in Australia also sparked backlash.

Facial recognition isn’t the only AI-based security tool schools are using
Another increasingly popular application of AI is weapon detection. The idea is to use AI to understand the image of a weapon (like a handgun or an assault rifle), and then alert school staff anytime a corresponding item is recognized in a security video feed. “At a very simple level, we are going out and sourcing images and videos of guns [and] of guns being pulled in a variety of scenarios, [and] different types of weapons, like knives, guns, and rifles. And we’re just collecting as many data points as we can about what a gun looks like or what a weapon looks,” explains Trueface CEO Shaun Moore.

Moore says he isn’t aware of a violent event that his software has stopped yet, though he emphasizes that it’s early. But the technology is growing more widespread. Another company, Actuate, says its system is in use at “almost a dozen private schools and school districts.” ZeroEyes, another gun-detection service, says its tool is being used at eight locations and is closing contracts with 30 more, most of which are schools.
“The way to think about how this type of AI works is that it can recognize the shape of a gun in the same way that a human can, but it can’t understand the context,” explained Actuate’s chief product officer and cofounder, Ben Ziomek, in an email. “If an object looks like a weapon to a human in a few frames, our system will mark it as a weapon.” The system could theoretically flag prop firearms used for a school play, or certain replica toy weapons.
But while the technology is sometimes sold in conjunction with facial recognition, it still comes with risks. SN Technologies, which is offering weapons detection in addition to facial recognition to Lockport public schools, said that during one test its system falsely flagged a walkie-talkie pointed like a handgun. Several of the companies admit that their systems could produce false positives — while also claiming high accuracy rates — and emphasize that school security staff are responsible for checking that the software has flagged a real weapon.
“We just want to help that person make that decision faster,” Moore said. “It’s very difficult to monitor that many camera feeds in real time.”
“[W]e’ve had incidents where students were brandishing mock weapons used for a school play,” explained Ziomek. “An off-site team would have called law enforcement because the weapon looked completely real, but the security staff on-site knew the context of the situation and gave the students a firm talking-to rather than calling the police.”
But critics say these systems shouldn’t necessarily be trusted. “When you add on all of the visual noise of being in a school with hundreds of people in moving around — and all these things in motion — and no static background, there are a lot of different everyday objects that will end up setting it off,” Cahn said.
There are also other, AI-based tools that schools can purchase, like a “self-learning analytics” feature sold by the Canadian security-technology firm Avigilon, a company owned by Motorola Solutions. The company explains that its AI studies video feeds collected by cameras throughout a school and learns normal patterns of traffic. That means it can flag unusual activity — like a lot of motion in a hallway at a time when it’s normally deserted.
The company also sells an “appearance search” feature, which is on track to be used by Florida’s Broward County School District, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (it’s already in other schools). For instance, with a school safety official could observe a video of a person that appears in a classroom at 2 pm, and search to see where else that person has appeared on a school’s video feed, based on characteristics of their face, their clothing, and gender, among other factors.

The US has been slow to regulate facial recognition systems
Facial recognition requires creating databases of sensitive and personally-identifiable data — immutable information about our faces — that we may not want schools to possess. For one thing, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s Cahn is doubtful school officials are prepared to keep such information secure and protected from hackers.

But, like other critics, he’s also worried about whether these systems will be used to target undocumented students and students of color. “Many school districts have a history of working hand-in-hand with law enforcement to create the school-to-prison pipeline, so we certainly can’t trust that schools will push back against a request from law enforcement,” Cahn said. “But even if these schools were to oppose [law enforcement], they simply don’t have a legal mechanism to block the government from getting a court order to obtain this data.”
According to the agency’s website, ICE considers schools “sensitive locations,” meaning that they’re not supposed to be targeted for enforcement activities unless officers are led to the location by other “law enforcement actions,” there are “exigent circumstances,” or prior approval is obtained from a “designated supervisory official.”
It’s worth noting that some schools already have agreements with police departments to share access to their live video feeds. For instance, the Suffolk Police Department in Long Island, New York, operates a program called “Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry (SHARE) where officers can remotely access school security video feeds. The system is meant to be used in an emergency (like an active shooter situation), and already uses a license plate identification system that can also determine the make and color of a car that’s parked on campus.
The county’s police chief, Stuart Cameron, told Recode that the department is exploring facial recognition technology (like it would explore any tool). If it does choose to adopt facial recognition, he says there’s no reason why the department wouldn’t use the tool in the conjunction with the SHARE program.
Meanwhile, laws that clearly apply to these tools are few and far between. Federal regulation governing facial recognition nationally doesn’t exist yet, though it’s possible existing privacy or education laws — like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — could be applied to certain applications of the technology. Still, the US Department of Education told Recode that it hasn’t issued any specific guidance regarding facial recognition.
On the state level, Illinois and Texas have both passed biometric information privacy laws that appear to require consent before using facial recognition. RealNetworks’s Vance says his company notifies schools of this legislation.
Vance also points to a 2014 Florida state law that explicitly bans the collection of biometric information from students. Moore, of Trueface, told Recode that his company has held off on deploying its facial recognition technology in schools because it wants to wait for more clarity regarding regulation.
Meanwhile, at the local level, a city spokesperson for Somerville, Massachusetts — one of the first US cities to ban facial recognition — says that law includes the city’s public schools. However, a legislative aide who worked on San Francisco’s facial recognition ban told Recode the law would not directly apply to public schools (meaning schools could technically buy a facial recognition tool), but that the city’s ban means that San Francisco police couldn’t use or receive information the system might collect.
This overall legal patchwork has left many, including the very companies selling these technologies, desperate for clearer regulation. “Having federal guidelines or federal regulations around facial recognition would be a really good thing for the industry to make sure we’re all playing by the same set of rules,” Vance, of RealNetworks, said.

Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News

Robots, Drones Among Startups in Verizon’s 5G First Responder Lab

Robots, Drones Among Startups in Verizon’s 5G First Responder Lab
See the full article HERE.

Robotics and aerial drone startup companies were among those chosen by Verizon to participate in the company’s “Cohort 3” for the 5G First Responder Lab. The startups in the Cohort 3 group will focus on developing artificial intelligence for weapon detection, geo-intelligence, autonomous security, and smart cities solutions, powered by Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network, the company said in a statement.

The startups were announced at the company’s #OCR2019 event, a three-day public safety seminar hosted by Verizon and Nokia, where technologies for public safety were showcased in live simulations for first responders and government officials. The event included a series of six realistic crisis scenarios that let industry and government stakeholders experience firsthand how advanced technologies can work under pressure in a crisis.
Variety of startups
The five companies chosen for the cohort were:

Edgybees, which augments live video feeds captured from any camera, human input, or other data sources to provide clarity on operational environments.
Ekin, which is developing software and hardware with AI to make modern cities safer and smarter.
Knightscope, which develops autonomous security technologies through self-driving technology, robotics, and AI.
Lumineye, which provides wall-penetrating radar sensing to help first responders identify people through walls.
Zeroeyes, which develops a life-saving active shooter system that uses AI to actively monitor camera feeds to detect weapons.

“As our final cohort of the year, we’re excited to welcome Cohort 3 to the 5G First Responder Lab,” said Nick Nilan, director of public safety product development at Verizon. “The innovative technologies developed and fostered by Cohorts 1 and 2 will make an incredible difference in the market, and we can’t wait to see what Cohort 3 develops during their time in the lab.”

The company’s 5G First Responder Lab has brought together 15 companies in three separate groups (cohorts) that work at Verizon’s 5G Lab in Washington, D.C., to develop public safety solutions. Previous cohorts have focused on advanced imaging, drones, virtual reality training, and education for public safety and smart city technology. The company has also set up similar 5G labs that focus on other areas, including a robotics lab in Boston.

“We’re excited for the great things ahead with Cohort 3 and look forward to finishing the first year of this program strong,” said Nathanial Wish, co-founder & CEO, Responder Corp. “Each cohort has brought a wealth of innovation to the table, ultimately helping to create advanced solutions with potentially life-saving technologies that are built on Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband.”


Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News

ZeroEyes: Kieran Carroll outlines capabilities of weapons-detection system built on existing cameras, AI

ZeroEyes: Kieran Carroll outlines capabilities of weapons-detection system built on existing cameras, AI
Watch the video interview HERE.

Written byDonny Jackson
21st November 2019

Kieran Carroll, vice president of operations and government affairs for ZeroEyes, explains how the ZeroEyes is able to leverage existing camera system and the company’s artificial-intelligence-driven solution to identify firearms and immediately alert key personnel of a potential threat before bullets are shot. Carroll spoke with IWCE’s Urgent Communications Editor Donny Jackson yesterday during the Operation Convergent Response (OCR) 2019 event in Perry, Ga., that was co-sponsored by Verizon and Nokia.

Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News

‘We want to make a difference’ | Vets show off artificial intelligence meant to stop active shooters before shots are fired

‘We want to make a difference’ | Vets show off artificial intelligence meant to stop active shooters before shots are fired

Author: Laura Geller
Published: 3:32 PM EST November 15, 2019
Updated: 11:13 PM EST November 15, 2019

STERLING, Va. — A group of veterans inspired by the need to keep schools and public spaces safer have created a new technology they say can detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

Active shooter situations have played out across the country – a gunman opened fire inside a Florida high school, shots rang out at a Texas Walmart and multiple people were shot to death in an office building in Virginia Beach.

The nation’s most recent school shooting happened Thursday morning – when a 16-year-old high school student in Santa Clarita, California, opened fire in the campus quad, shooting five classmates and killing two.

RELATED: Virginia Beach mass shooting survivor recalls finding one of the first victims

RELATED: 2 students killed, several hurt in Southern California high school shooting

What if the gun was detected early – so early, the shooter was never able to get inside to hurt anyone? The technology to do that exists, and only WUSA9 was there when it was tested in Northern Virginia.

During the drill, former Special Operations Naval Officer Kieran Carroll played the role of an active shooter while former Navy SEAL Mike Lahiff monitored the action and the technology.

Lahiff is the CEO of ZeroEyes, and also a father of four.

“Look at Sandy Hook, Parkland, it’s terrible,” Lahiff said. “It’s hard to talk about, gets me choked up, any normal human being it should, and that’s where we want to make a difference.”

To do that, Lahiff’s team, which includes seven Army and Navy veterans, thought about what they learned in the military and how it could be used in an active shooter situation.

ZeroEyes is made up of veterans and tech specialists



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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans

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The team at ZeroEyes includes Army and Navy veterans



“If we could get in sooner, right to the location as soon as possible, decrease that response time and mitigate the threat, then you could get first aid in there sooner and now you could start saving lives,” Lahiff explained.

ZeroEyes uses artificial intelligence to detect guns in real time. The system hooks into existing security cameras, and if it recognizes a gun, it will highlight the weapon and spit out an alert. The alert is similar to an app alert you get on your phone or computer. Depending on the setup, that alert goes to the police or to administrators on site to decide what to do next.

Below: ZeroEyes shows off how its technology works in a live-action demonstration.

ZeroEyes shows off its gun-recognition technology in action


The team has trained for a lot of scenarios with police departments. They’ve trained the A.I. with multiple shooters, different types of guns, and even in one scenario where the shooter changed clothes to blend in. They can track movements and send updates as the gunman passes different cameras.

“So now we can send a keyframe image of what that shooter looks like, what type of weapon they have – is it a pistol is it a rifle — and their location,” Mike told us.

The alert is similar to an app alert you get on your phone or computer. Depending on the setup, that goes to the police to the administrators on site to decide what to do next.
Diversified, a systems and media technology integration company, hosted the demo. The company wanted to check out ZeroEyes for its clients and for use in its offices.

“In a setting like this, we have people working, we don’t have people at the entrances and exits always, or even at the front desk area, so this removes the human element from catching a perpetrator and it provides that automatic notification,” Bill Aheimer, director of Diversified’s electronic security solutions division, said.

Aheimer took us through what would happen after an alert goes out.

“What we would do is, we would notify via public address system where the location of the shooter is and where the best entrances and exits are and so people would know then where to exit the building. Since we don’t have an active guard force, the call would go to 911,” he said.

In a school system, the alert would likely go to a school resource officer and school administrators through an app. That’s the scenario officials from Manassas City Public Schools, who also came to see the technology demonstration, were most interested in.

School leaders and companies watch as vets show ZeroEyes A.I. system



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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.

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A group of veterans demonstrates technology to detect guns and send out alerts before shots are ever fired.



“Everything we have now is, ‘What do we do when the shooter is inside the school?’” Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Manassas City Public Schools Andy Hawkins said. “We’re looking for some type of, for lack of a better term, sort of an electronic fence around our schools.”

But not everyone views this new technology in a positive light. The ACLU of Virginia has expressed concerns about ZeroEyes.

“We do not believe any such tech should be deployed by any government agency, and particularly in schools, without a very public process in which people in the community have a chance to weigh in and ensure that they are comfortable with the limits on privacy that they are accepting and understand and support the policies that will guide the acquisition, storage and use of personal information about them (where they go, what they do, etc),” Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga told us. “At a minimum, police agencies and other public agencies should not be able to buy or deploy this kind of technology without approval of the appropriate elected officials.”

We asked Hawkins about those issues.

“We want to be very transparent,” he said. “We want the public to know. But I think the overriding, the majority of the parents would want us to be able to identify bad guys as soon as possible to protect their children while they’re in school.”

Below: ZeroEyes takes questions during a Q&A about its gun recognition technology.

ZeroEyes Demo and Q&A


Hawkins hopes parents remember that, in an emergency, every second counts.

“I think if these shootings continue across America and we continue to see our children slaughtered like they have been throughout this country, that there will be more calls for ways to identify and to stop these guys as much as we possibly can,” he added.  “Just think about how many lives that we could save in the schools.”

Right now, a ZeroEyes system running on 25 cameras costs about $15,000 a year. There are competitors offering similar products as well. According to Lahiff, there are millions of cameras out there, so if they’re all working to stop active shooters, that’s fantastic.

Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News

“Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Military Service” with Former Navy SEAL Rob Huberty

“Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Military Service” with Former Navy SEAL Rob Huberty
See the full article HERE.

A hero is a common person with an uncommon desire to succeed. A hero is willing to face a challenging task even when fear arises. A hero does this not to better his/her position but does so with the best interest of all to improve his/her world. A hero shares the ideals of a superhero even though he/she may lack physical strength or monetary resources.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Huberty. Rob served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for nine years. During this time, he led both Navy SEALs and foreign forces during training and combat missions. He also serves as a board member for Climb for the Fallen, a non-profit organization dedicated to memorializing fallen US service members. Rob holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a BA in Political Science from the University of Arizona. Rob is currently COO of ZeroEyes, an artificial intelligence (AI) gun detection system for real-time weapon detection and alerts. ZeroEyes is for use in various locations including schools, airports, tourist attractions, hospitals, and commercial buildings. The object is to “Stop threats at first sight, not at first shot.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us Rob! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was raised to be a leader by my parents. I played team sports throughout my childhood, and I was regularly a team captain. I learned that I should always strive to make the world a better place. Perhaps I also believed too much in movies depicting honor or the stories of superheroes. Initially I wanted to be a lawyer like Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, making the right choice no matter the consequence. After college, I applied to law school. However, I changed course after the tragedies on September 11, 2001. I felt called to action. I wanted to be Batman, but since superheroes do not exist, I decided to join the SEAL Teams to serve my country.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I wanted to take what I have learned from my life experiences to solve difficult problems. I find that there are few events more devastating and difficult to prevent than mass shootings. Offering thoughts and prayers after the fact is not enough. We need solutions to prevent such tragedies. I have not seen even small steps in the right direction. I feel like we can leverage technology in a very meaningful way. We need to use the tools we have access to in a similar manner to prevent mass shootings. Cameras have become ubiquitous in our world, but we only use them after a tragedy.
I helped build ZeroEyes to provide a solution. Using our expertise from the SEAL teams of active shooter situations, we have created a working Artificial Intelligence model. We effectively use every existing camera to create more eyes on target. We have a computer monitor every camera 24/7 with no loss of attention. These cameras can detect an exposed gun in under a second. As soon as a weapon is spotted, an alert is sent to administrators, school resource officers, police, and 911 dispatch.
Our interface allows people to see a map of the school and to know exactly where the shooter is in real time with three effects: 1) The opportunity to prevent the shooting if the shooter is outside the school by locking the school doors before a shot is fired. 2) The opportunity to move students away from the shooter towards safety and avoid danger. 3) The opportunity for first responders to go to the shooter without hesitation, preventing further violence from occurring as well as render first aid much faster, saving lives.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I was a U.S. Navy SEAL for nine years. I served as a sniper and team lead in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
In the SEAL Teams, I discovered a sense of purpose, but unfortunately, I also experienced great loss. I lost many friends in my time in the SEAL teams, but on one particular mission, my friend, Kevin Ebbert, was killed by an enemy sniper. As a group, we planned the mission, so we all feel responsible for his death. I have analyzed what happened time and time again, but ultimately, I cannot get him back. I can only hold my friend in my heart the rest of my life. With time, I have learned to forgive myself for my mistakes. Yet, when the anniversary of his death occurs, those feelings inevitably resurface. I have to remind myself to appreciate all that I have been given. Kevin was a talented SEAL and a compassionate person. After completing this particular deployment, he intended to leave the military to become a doctor and a father. He was never given the opportunity to realize these dreams. I have been, and I cannot take them for granted.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
I was surrounded by heroes on a daily basis, but they did not appear the way Hollywood might portray heroism. Heroes are flawed. Heroes are human. I believe that the most accurate description of courage or heroism occurs when a person experiences fear but confronts that fear anyway. I have also heard courage described as when a person always pursues the butterflies in his/her stomach because the best things in life are always followed by butterflies.
Adam Olin Smith is one example of the many heroes I knew while serving in the SEAL Teams. Adam was a true brother. He would never leave you alone regardless of consequences. I believed that he lacked one attribute, self-preservation. The rule in the Teams is that if someone gets hurt, win the fight. Only after the fight is done can you help those who are hurt. First you must address self-aid, then buddy- aid, and finally corpsman aid. I do not think Adam had the discipline to leave a teammate in harm’s way. He would jump in to his own detriment. He never left anyone alone in a fight. Adam was all in, all the time. He died in a helicopter crash on September 21st 2010. I think of Adam in moments when I need to be a better teammate. I strive to show the selflessness that Adam showed to his teammates.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
A hero is a common person with an uncommon desire to succeed. A hero is willing to face a challenging task even when fear arises. A hero does this not to better his/her position but does so with the best interest of all to improve his/her world. A hero shares the ideals of a superhero even though he/she may lack physical strength or monetary resources.
Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?
No. A great example of heroism that I observed was when I worked as an operations manager at Amazon. I had many people who reported to me. I found many of the best workers were female. I was curious as to why, so I would ask them to share their story. They were often quiet, and I wanted to hear their voice. The best workers I found were mothers who were providing for their families when circumstances were difficult. Many times, they were victims of drug abuse and domestic violence, or they were generally overcoming difficult times. I saw mothers supporting these families on their own. They showed up each day without fail or complaint. These single mothers worked the hardest because they knew they could not fail. They exhibited “ordinary” heroics that the world needs.
Further, I am in awe of my wife on a regular basis. She selflessly provides for our three girls. She gives them every ounce of her soul, only looking to provide them great experiences.
Based on your military experience, can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) The golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
2) A true leader should lead by example. If you exhibit curiosity and you are willing to do the tasks that are difficult or undesirable, your actions will be followed. My mentor in the SEAL Teams, John Faas, was a hero to me. He was a senior member of an exclusive unit. He was a Chief at SEAL Team 6, but he was going through sniper school with me. He was a class leader, and on the first day he split up the cleaning assignments. He chose to clean the toilets. I never stopped seeking his advice after I saw his actions that day. He was part of the team that died in Extortion 17. I vow to treat every day as if I were a new guy in the teams, the way he did, willing to help the team by doing the most undesirable tasks.
3) Calm breeds calm; excitement breeds excitement. Stay calm under pressure, and show excitement to motivate a team. People will mirror your actions. The people I was awed by in combat were the ones who were calm over the radio. You could not even tell that they were in danger, even when they thought they would die. It made everyone else calm and allowed the rest of the team to do our jobs effectively. It was infectious. Excitement is equally infectious. There are specific times when excitement is important to rally a team towards a common goal.
4) Learn to accept the mistakes you make in life. Learn to love yourself and accept your failures. I still struggle with this each day.
5) In all forms of communication- be brief, be brilliant, be gone.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?
The military taught me incredible lessons. There are few places in the world that give so much responsibility to people so young. The repercussions are real. I learned attention to detail, but through the losses I experienced, I gained an incredible perspective about what is truly important in life. It is easy to get caught up in minutiae that does not matter. I know not to sweat the small stuff. I learned almost everything is the small stuff.
I learned the qualities of good leadership, and I learned the qualities of bad leadership. I was enlisted, lowest on the totem pole. This perspective is absolutely incredible. Many leaders have not actually done the unenviable tasks. I know when I ask difficult tasks what it actually takes and what it actually means. I know not to take people for granted.
The military taught me to deal with things that are “unfair.” This was an incredible lesson. Many times over, I wondered if my bosses were tyrants. Did they understand what they were asking? I wondered if situations were unwinnable. I learned they were both unfair and unwinnable. I fought through them anyway, with no finger to be pointed. It was better to fight than assign blame. I learned that often my bosses were doing their best but were terrible at communicating the reason “why.” I saw amazing people make flaws time and time again. They concealed their fear and covered it with bravado. I learned to be able to tell the difference.
I learned to accept my own failures. I had a deployment where a few team members were killed. We had a tyrant for a commanding officer. He demanded perfection and was a micromanager. We hated him. He blamed himself for our team’s losses. We saw him deteriorate in front of us. Despite our dislike of his style, we understood he was doing what he thought was best for our team. People reached out, but he built a wall around himself so strong that he could not be reached. He took his own life on our deployment. I learned that you need to listen to hard truths, even when you are sure you are right. Your people are always the most important asset. If someone has the courage to bring truth to power, you must listen.
I learned persistence. When you fall, get back up every time. Try. Try. Try. Success follows failure… many, many failures.
These are incredible lessons that are critically important in the business world. I just need to take it one step further. I pursued my MBA in order to be able to apply these lessons in a meaningful way. “Leadership” without technical expertise is not enough. When you combine these lessons with technical knowledge, it is an incredibly powerful force in the business world.
As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?
Scarred might not be the right word, but the experiences I had in the military are certainly a part of who I am now. I live with these experiences every day. I struggled more than I thought I would while transitioning. I attended Wharton for my MBA after leaving the Teams which did give me some time to adjust. However, the business world holds different values. Finding the right place can be challenging.
I left the military to be with my family, but I also want to have a mission and achieve meaningful goals. I have struggled to find this without taking risks. I want to be connected with the people around me.
I have found the most useful tools are fairly simple.

Exercise every day. I will go for runs with my family.
Get direct sunlight for 30 minutes in the morning. I do this by exercising outside.
Practice mindfulness. I meditate for 10 minutes each day.
Practice thankfulness. Tell one person each day what they mean to you.
Share your story. It will resonate with others.
Be authentic. There is no reason to please others if you cannot please yourself.
Help others. Teach others what you have learned.
Read books and learn. You will be more interesting and open minded.
Go to bed early. Practice good sleep routine.
Take risks. Dare greatly.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
ZeroEyes is working to make schools safer from active shooters. We believe by giving warning before shots are fired, we can be a part of the solution. Instead of offering thoughts and prayers, we can offer a proactive step to curb mass shootings.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Lead by example. Teach your team at every opportunity. Your team will solve the problem you bring up every day. Invest in your team and be enthusiastic.
What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Lead by example. Be honest and authentic. It is ok to be tough and demand performance, but you must be compassionate. Care about your people. Success will follow.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My earliest and most significant mentor is my oldest brother, Brian. I wanted to emulate the things he did my entire life. I learned the “right way” to do things by observing his actions. I was competitive with his achievements. When I had surpassed his feats, I thought he would be jealous of my success. Instead, I found that he cheered me through each event. I realized that I was flawed in wanting to gloat.
Brian taught to appreciate the Isaac Newton quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Stan Lee and Spiderman taught me that, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I believe that my experiences have been extraordinary. The onus is on me to change the world for the better. I can do this through three ways.

Raise my daughters to be great citizens.
Mentor those who need help.
Our jobs take up most hours in the day. Find a mission and turn it into a job.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to treat each other better. It is as simple as that. Stop shaming people on the internet. Stop playing politics. Put your phone down and live in the moment. We cannot live in the past, and we cannot live in the future. Try to enjoy every moment of life, both the good and the bad.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Let your heart be broken.” I was told this by a Jesuit missionary. He said that when he would help a village, sometimes gangsters would destroy or steal his hard work. He said it was heartbreaking, but he did not stay discouraged for long. He did not keep his heart guarded. He did not put armor around his emotions. Instead he let his heart be broken. It made the joys of life better. Life is better lived if you have your heart exposed. Love openly.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Yvonne Chouinard- Founder of Patagonia
He founded a company based on needs and solving problems. He never thought he would get rich. He stands for his people. He is changing the world. He has shown how to run a truly ethical business. He is authentic to himself. He is a self-proclaimed “dirtbag” meaning he is a climbing bum to this day.
“I believe that we should laugh at life. It is all a joke. I think comedians are incredibly smart and find the details that make every situation funny. They make the struggle of life a little bit better.”
— Jerry Seinfeld
Thank you for all of these great insights!

Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News


written by Lauren Wellbank September 25, 2019


More schools are looking for ways to keep students safe from gun violence on campus, leading many districts to turn to technology for help. Companies like ZeroEyes, a Philadelphia-based security firm, are offering school districts a new way to monitor what’s going on in their classrooms, hallways and common areas: using artificial intelligence (AI).
Integrating AI with Existing Systems
AI isn’t a new technology, it’s the foundation behind many apps and voice-controlled devices; however, installing it in schools to protect students and staff from the threat of gun violence is new.

“Weapons are detected by software that works off of existing cameras,” Rob Huberty, chief operating officer at ZeroEyes, tells Parentology. He explains that the software they run is programmed to detect the types of guns typically used in mass shooter situations.

The weapon needs to be exposed (not hidden in a backpack or under clothing) for the AI to pick it up. If a gunman makes it into the building with a concealed weapon that external cameras don’t detect, interior cameras act as a second line of defense and identify the weapon as soon as it’s uncovered. From there, the system will send a series of alerts with photos and the location of where the weapon was spotted.

Officer Deborah Murillo, Mt. Holly Police, and Rob Huberty review ZeroEyes footage.
(Photo: Sheryl Raskin/ZeroEyes)

School Shooter Security AI — Always Working
ZeroEyes is constantly scanning. According to Huberty, that means it’s searching for threats 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

“If a weapon is detected the school security officers (SROs), school administrators, and 911 dispatch are alerted,” he says. These alerts are sent out in real-time, which means the master control area doesn’t need to be monitored in order for the threat to be detected and the authorities to be alerted.

False alerts are rare, but also manageable, and can quickly be taken care of by a set of human eyes. Once an alert is sent out to the three parties, the photos are immediately reviewed. This makes dealing with false alarms a quick and easy process for administrators.
Privacy Concerns
The technology behind ZeroEyes is different than some other technologies being deployed. Earlier this year a New York school district was the target of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) investigation after they announced they’d be using facial recognition software. This type of software works by profiling individuals and assessing a threat level based on a number of variables, whereas software like ZeroEyes focuses on targeting weapons.

As the 2019-2020 school year starts, many districts are starting fresh with new technologies and security systems. ZeroEyes is just one of the many options on the market right now, but the industry continues to be a growing field thanks to the rising concern surrounding the threat of gun violence in American schools.
AI School Shooter Security — Sources
Rob Huberty, chief operating officer at ZeroEyes

Posted by Rob Huberty
ZeroEyes in the News

These Businesses Say They’ve Got What You Need to Survive a Mass Shooting

These Businesses Say They’ve Got What You Need to Survive a Mass Shooting
See the full article HERE.

Lori Alhadeff is haunted by the fact that she did not send her 14-year-old daughter to school with a bulletproof backpack. The mother of three had wanted to buy one but never got around to it. By Feb. 14, 2018, it was too late. Her first child, Alyssa, was fatally shot trying to hide under a classroom table at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. “I wish to this day that I did give that protection to Alyssa. It could have saved her life,” Alhadeff says. “Obviously, I regret that.”

After the massacre, which killed 16 others, Alhadeff bought bulletproof backpacks for her two sons, who are now 14 and 12. “I have peace in my heart for my two boys, at least, that I’m doing everything in my power to protect them,” says Alhadeff, who won’t let her sons go to school without the backpacks.

With more than 69 people killed so far in mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019, thousands of Americans like Alhadeff are seeking security through an explosion of products marketed to those scared of being shot or of losing loved ones to gun violence. Backpacks that double as shields are sold by major department stores, including Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond. There are bulletproof hoodies for children as young as 6; protective whiteboards and windows; armored doors and anchors designed to keep shooters out of classrooms; and smart cameras powered by artificial intelligence that alert authorities to threats. In Fruitport, Mich., officials are building a $48 million high school specially designed to deter active shooters, with curved walls to reduce a shooter’s line of sight, bulletproof windows and a special locking system.

In 2017, U.S. schools spent at least $2.7 billion on security systems, and that’s on top of the money spent by individuals on things like bulletproof backpacks, the IHS Markit consulting firm reported. Five years ago, in 2014, the figure was about $768 million, IHS said. But school shootings haven’t decreased in frequency, and critics of the growing industry in bullet-resistant items say the only beneficiaries of these so-called security measures are the people making money off of them.

“These companies are capitalizing on parents’ fears,” says Shannon Watts, a mother of five who founded the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

In September, as students were returning to school, Sandy Hook Promise, a gun violence prevention nonprofit led by family members of Sandy Hook victims, released a video that used biting satire to highlight the bulletproof industry and the country’s failure to prevent mass shootings. It shows cheerful children returning for classes and using their new clothes and back-to-school supplies to save themselves and others from a shooter. One boy shows off his new skateboard, then uses it to smash a window and escape; a girl demonstrates how her new socks can be used to tie a tourniquet; another uses her jacket to lock a set of double-doors. The message is clear: these shootings should be prevented before kids get to the point of using tube socks to save classmates from bleeding to death.

But with efforts at gun control legislation stalled as the Senate refuses to take up a House-passed bill that would require background checks for private gun sales, even critics of the booming security industry concede it’s unlikely to slow down. “There’s not a parent in the country who isn’t worried that their child will be the next victim of gun violence,” Watts says.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 330 mass shootings—in which at least four people other than the shooter were injured or killed—so far this year in the United States. This summer alone, 31 people were killed in back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio and another 10 died in attacks in Gilroy, Calif. and Odessa, Texas. In the aftermath of each tragedy, companies saw striking growth in profits. “It’s a business fueled by fear,” says Sean Burke, president of the School Safety Advocacy Council, which works with school districts and police departments.

TuffyPacks, an online retailer selling ballistic shields that are inserted into backpacks, reported up to a 500% increase in sales after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton in early August, which coincided with back-to-school shopping season. “Every time shootings occur, we see spikes in sales,” says TuffyPacks CEO Steve Naremor, 63, of Houston, Texas, who insists his company’s $129 inserts are no different from other safety equipment, like fire extinguishers and bicycle helmets. Guard Dog Security, a competing company that sells bulletproof backpacks that weigh up to 4.5 pounds and can cost up to $299, couldn’t keep up with the orders. “They were selling out faster than we could get it back in stock,” says Yasir Sheikh, its 34-year-old CEO. Sheikh—who like Naremor declined to disclose revenue figures—launched his company in 2009 but didn’t see a huge demand until Sandy Hook.

The demand that follows mass shootings prompted Vy Tran, 25, to quit her job and use $100,000 in savings and retirement funds to start selling homemade bulletproof hoodies. Her company, Wonder Hoodie, began as a side business, which she launched after her next-door neighbor, a mother of two, was shot dead in their Seattle neighborhood during an attempted robbery in 2016.

Panicked after the killing, Tran says she searched online for body armor to protect her mother and younger brother, but the products she found were either too expensive or too heavy. So Tran, a health and safety consultant, decided to make them herself, using Kevlar that she ordered online. Tran was making an average of one or two hoodies a week until 58 people were killed at a Las Vegas music festival on Oct. 1, 2017 in the worst mass shooting in modern history. Sales spiked, and there were suddenly 10 to 15 requests pouring in every day.

Vy Tran in one of her bulletproof Wonder Hoodies
Courtesy: Vy Tran

“I couldn’t keep up with the orders,” says Tran, who hired a team to help her. Wonder Hoodie has since fulfilled almost 1,000 orders for hoodies that cost up to $600 and weigh up to 9 pounds.

It’s not just young and new CEOs leaping into the growing field of gun safety products, and the merchandise isn’t all body armor. Chris Ciabarra and Lisa Falzone of Austin, Texas, launched Athena Security, a smart camera system, after they sold their first tech startup for $500 million in 2017. Athena’s software detects 900 different types of guns and can send an alert and video feed to law enforcement if it senses a threatening movement, like someone pointing a gun, according to Ciabarra. More than 40 schools, malls and businesses in the U.S. use Athena’s software, which charges $100 a month for each camera it monitors. Since schools and malls typically have 100 cameras building-wide, Athena could make more than $100,000 a year monitoring just one school. The weapons detection program has been installed in one of the two New Zealand mosques where a suspected white supremacist opened fire in March, killing 51 worshippers. After the massacre, New Zealand’s prime minister banned assault weapons. But that’s not likely to happen in the United States, says Ciabarra. Even presidential candidates during the fourth Democratic debate Tuesday night couldn’t seem to agree on how to manage assault weapons. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg clashed on the best way to get the weapons off the streets, whether by banning the sale of assault weapons or also instating mandatory buyback programs.

“We’re not going to change the law and forbid guns. It’s not going to happen,” Ciabarra says. “People will have weapons.”

A teacher takes part in an active shooter drill during a firearms course for teachers and administrators in Commerce City, Colorado on June 28, 2018.
Jason Connolly—AFP/Getty ImagesA

When Mike Lahiff, a former Navy Seal, launched ZeroEyes, a competing gun-detection system based in Philadelphia, he and his team of fellow veterans saw it as a continued service to the country. Lahiff, a 38-year-old father of four, hopes the U.S. will find a way to reduce gun violence and put him out of business. “If the active shooter problem goes away, and that’s the end of the company, then great,” he says, “that’s a win for me.”


While mass tragedies spark surges in sales, most of the bulletproof products on the market today, including backpacks and hoodies, would not withstand the force of the assault-style weapons commonly used in high-casualty attacks. Killers used assault-style weapons in the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings, as well as in El Paso and Dayton. The products would, however, protect against most handguns—the weapon of choice in the majority of U.S. gun murders in 2018, according to newly released FBI data. Handguns were used in nearly 65% of the roughly 10,000 gun murders that year, while rifles were used in about 3% of the cases, statistics show.

But spending hundreds of dollars on a hoodie or backpack is not a viable option for many people, particularly those living in lower-income neighborhoods plagued by gun violence. In St. Louis, for example—which has the highest murder rate among major cities in the nation, according to FBI data—more than 65,000 people are living below poverty, and the median household income is about $44,000, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Even across the nation, many Americans are not prepared to handle a sudden expense of $400 or more, like replacing a broken car engine or visiting an emergency room without insurance, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve. Nearly 30% would have to borrow or sell something to pay for the expense, and 12% would not be able to cover the expense at all, the report says.

Bulletproof whiteboards and backpack inserts at the Hardwire factory in Pocomoke City, Maryland, on March 1, 2018.

Bulletproof products may make consumers feel safer, but they may be putting people in more danger, according to school safety experts like Michael Dorn, a former police chief for the Bibb County School District in Georgia who’s now the executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that advises schools on security. Dorn worries that in a shooting situation, students with bulletproof backpacks may expose themselves to greater risk by standing in place and holding up their packs for protection instead of running away. “A focus on the armor could result in death because people don’t focus instead on things they need to do like lock a door,” says Dorn.

The products may also be distracting officials and parents from focusing on long-term solutions to gun violence, like adequate training and stronger gun laws, critics say. School districts investing in these products are doing so, in many cases, knowing they’re not real fixes, according to Ken Trump, a school safety expert and president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services. “They rely on the hardware, the technology, the gadgets, so they can focus less on the human side,” he says.

Researchers have found some evidence that so-called red flag laws, which allow courts to take guns away from potentially dangerous people, may help stop mass shootings. A recent study by the University of California Davis School of Medicine cited 21 cases in which such a law in California was used to help prevent potential mass shootings in the state. The measure exists in 16 other states and Washington, D.C.

Rather than buy body armor or conduct active shooter training drills, school officials and parents should focus more on early intervention strategies, including student-threat assessments and better student supervision, according to gun control advocates and safety experts. Dorn, who has an 11-year-old son, says he wouldn’t let his child carry a bulletproof product to school, even if it was free. “I teach him how to be alert and react rather than rely on something that’s so statistically unlikely to do any good,” he says.

Alhadeff knows the backpacks she bought for her sons are only the last layer of protection. To improve safety in other ways, she launched a national nonprofit, Make Our Schools Safe, and won a seat on the local school board, where she’s pushed for legislation to make schools safer. In February, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy enacted “Alyssa’s Law,” named for Alhadeff’s daughter, which requires every public elementary and secondary school in the state to install a silent panic alarm button. When pressed, the alarm would immediately alert local law enforcement, reducing emergency response times. On Oct. 4, a bipartisan version of the bill was introduced in Congress.

“Before the shooting, my biggest fear was whether my children would do well on their tests,” Alhadeff says. “It’s sad and unfortunate that our society has come to this.”

Posted by Rob Huberty