3D Laser Scanning Provides Critical Insight in Active-Shooter Incidents

3D laser scanning is widely recognized as the fastest, most comprehensive way to document the aftermath of a crime or crash. Increasingly, agencies are also taking a proactive approach to scanning, using the technology to capture comprehensive 3D data in schools and other buildings to prepare for active shooter incidents and other emergencies.

Laser Scanning Captures Reality

Forensic investigators recently tested this approach in an active-shooter training at a local high school. Prior to the SWAT training exercise, investigators scanned the exterior of the 179,000 square-foot school with a long-range Leica ScanStation laser scanner and most of the interior with a Leica BLK360 imaging laser scanner. The scanning began around 9:40 a.m. and was finished by 1:08 p.m., which included moving the equipment from one station to another to capture all the data.

Back in the office, investigators united, or registered, the data from both scanners, including 10 exterior and 16 interior scan worlds with Leica Cyclone point cloud processing software. They then created a dimensionally correct, photorealistic 3D digital reality environment using the free Leica TruView software.

The next day, two SWAT teams were deployed to stop three “shooters” inside the high school for the training exercise. Fire rescue personnel were also on scene to treat the “injured” staff and student volunteers. SWAT performed a tactical rooftop entry and “killed” one suspect who was holding students hostage. In the end, two shooters were “killed” and one arrested.

During the onsite debriefing, SWAT and command staff saw firsthand the value of 3D visualizations in active-shooter situations. The visualization software combined millions of point cloud measurements with panoramic photography to provide an accurate, comprehensive and immersive 3D experience. As if virtually standing in the scene, users were able to walk or fly through the digital environment and quickly extract highly accurate measurements and angles on-the-fly.

The TruView made the SWAT team feel like they were back in the school. What they saw on the screen was exactly what they had seen in the hallway.

Actionable Information Saves Lives

The laser scanner’s 3D reality capture and the TruView visualization provided actionable data that in a real emergency could save lives. Having a detailed layout of all rooms and objects, potential obstacles that might need to be bypassed to get to the victims or suspects, and what objects or structures could be used as cover is crucial information. The data could be used to determine, for example, how long it would take to get from the front door to a classroom where kids had barricaded themselves and were trapped. If the SWAT team needed to clear the room, they’d also know exactly what that classroom looked like.

Since reaction time is key in active-shooter situations, the agency’s goal is to upload the Leica TruViews to a server so first responders can log in and immediately access the data anytime, anywhere on any laptop. Data from other schools and important buildings will be added as available.

Whether deployed to capture the aftermath of crime and crash scenes or to prepare for future possibilities, high-definition laser scanners are becoming standard equipment for law enforcement. The ability to safely, quickly and accurately capture reality and create a true color, extremely detailed, rich, vivid and immersive 3D environment is invaluable.

To learn more about how laser scanning can assist your agency with active-shooter training and preparedness, please contact us.

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