An Ohio school district is gearing up for a surprising security upgrade for the new year: smart pepper spray. Beginning in the fall, schools in the Columbiana Exempted Village School District in Ohio will begin using devices called ‘Threat Extinguishers.’ Modeled after fire extinguishers, these are pepper spray canisters capable of firing “tactical grade” incapacitating chemicals up to 30 feet.
Encased in glass containers similar to fire extinguishers, the devices are tied to a notification system that immediately sends out alerts. In an emergency, students can break the glass and, apparently, use the spray to deter active shooters. The company’s official Twitter account claims the product “gives you a fighting chance when a gunman attacks our schools, churches, theaters, offices & gathering places.”
Company spokesperson Sam Fasone told Ohio news outlet, WFMJ:
When the can is removed from the cabinet, it can send up to a thousand text message and emails, plus calls authorities and then gives the location of which threat extinguisher has been removed. So when authorities roll up, they know where they need to be in the building.
Here’s the company’s explainer:
WFMJ reports that Ohio school officials met with parents before deciding to purchase the devices.
Threat Extinguisher’s blog explicitly references the Parkland tragedy as a motivating factor in developing and selling the weapons to schools. Since the shooting, schools across the country have begun working with weapons and surveillance companies to deter shootings. Schools in New York are considering face recognition that matches visitors against sex offender databases, while schools in New Mexico are considering gunshot detection audio sensors. Knightscope, makers of autonomous security robots, sought to partner with students to send their products to schools.
Schools are increasingly leaning on technology to address schools shootings, but it’s easy to see where things could go wrong. At any point, a student could simply open the Threat Extinguisher themselves as a prank or to attack another student. Falsone says the notification system would help alert teachers to who pulled the extinguisher.
“They are calling the authorities and letting every teacher know what they did. In the schools we are in, it’s just like pulling a fire alarm. All the consequences that are involved in making a false alarm,” he said.
WFJM reports the school district paid $25,000 for the devices.