It happened again….and this time it was University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when an active shooter came onto campus. In the aftermath, the university’s independent school newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, published the graphic below featuring the social media and text messages that were being communicated in real-time between students, friends and families during the event. As you read these messages, it’s hard to not feel the terror and fear these students and parents were feeling. There were so many unknowns and as the police reported, it took 90 minutes for the shooter to be arrested after he fatally shot an associate professor right on campus. That is a long time of not knowing what is going on or where the shooter is or if they have even been captured yet.
How Real-Time Intelligence Could have Helped
No matter which active shooter incident you review in hindsight - UNC, University of Michigan, or Nashville -the one common thread is the lack of situational intelligence. In every case, there were long periods of time where no one – including first responders - knew where the shooter was located either on the campus or in the building. This is the type of information that can save lives and stop active shooters in their tracks, but unfortunately it is not often built into a school’s emergency response plan.
This is where Omnilert's AI visual gun detection becomes a game-changer. Not only can it detect a brandished weapon in less than a second, but once verified, it can also provide real-time situational intelligence to all those that need to know. This is invaluable information to first responders who often enter a scene with no actionable information. A perfect example is the Nashville school shooting where police body cam footage showed first responders racing from floor to floor and room to room looking for the gunman. Omnilert Gun Detect could have been providing real-time location information to these first responders as the shooter walked past cameras throughout the building.
Situational Intelligence is More Than Just a Police Tool
Knowing where the shooter is at any given time is not only valuable for helping first responders resolve the situation as quickly as possible, but it can also help students and staff who are onsite during the event. Below are just a few examples:
- Having precise information on the shooter’s location can allow security teams to provide safe evacuation routes to those students and staff located in areas away from the shooter..
- Hours can be shaved off the time many students and staff are sheltering in place, often times in silence and fearing for their lives. For example, had UNC first responders been give the location of the shooter when they arrived on campus, it may not have taken 90 minutes for him to be apprehended.
- Ongoing alerts can be sent to the students and staff with location information of the shooters and guidance on what to do. For those in harm’s way, this can prompt them to take extra precaution and safety steps. For those not located near the shooter, they can be less afraid knowing that the gunman is not right outside their door. In so many previous shooting incidents, students and staff in the entire school were in lockdown, all fearing for their lives even though many were not in immediate danger because of their distance from the shooter.
The fear that came through those messages published by The Daily Tar Heel is something that is experienced far too often on today’s school campuses. With Omnilert, we can help ensure the best possible outcomes of an active shooter situation with a multi-step approach that includes real-time information such as situational intelligence:
Step 1: Detect the weapon. Omnilert Gun Detect can visually detect a brandished gun in less than a second. An alert is immediately sent with a video and image of the shooter and their location.
Step 2: Human verification. The instant a gun is detected, Omnilert Gun Detect sends an alert to a designated person/people to verify. This could be the school’s own security team, Omnilert’s professional monitoring service, or an outside monitoring service. If this team confirms the presence of an active shooter, all they need to do is press a button for a pre-planned automated response to kick in.
Step 3: Automated response. The average time a shooter is active is 8 minutes. However, the average time for someone caught in the middle of that to call 911 is 5 minutes. A lot can happen in 5 minutes and that is why it’s so important for a response to happen instantly and automatically. Omnilert Gun Detect does not get flustered or scared like most humans would in that situation. Once a weapon is verified, it goes into action instantly, carrying out all the actions that the school pre-planned. This could include calling police, locking doors, and setting the school in lock down mode. Police can rush to the scene armed with valuable real-time information such as what the shooter looks like, what type of weapon they have, where they are currently located, and which direction they are located or heading towards.
Step 4: Mass communication. Throughout an active shooter incident, communication on so many levels is key. Police need to be notified, staff and students need to be alerted and told to seek shelter or shelter in place. When the right information is communicated at the right time, the cloud of confusion can be removed during emergencies with vital information flowing to students and staff. For example, during the Michigan State University shooting, there was a delay in sending alerts to students as police rushed to campus, causing confusion on where to go and what to do and in some cases, sending students into the same area as the active shooter. Communicating to those on site should be automatic, instant and informative.
Unlike competitors, Omnilert Gun Detect has the capability to broadcast alerts and notifications to those impacted – beyond mass text, email, and voice to include mobile safety apps, social media, PA announcements and digital signage. In fact, the mass communications part comes easy to Omnilert. After all, more than two decades ago, the company pioneered the emergency mass notification market after an active shooting at Virginia Tech. Whether using Omnilert ENS or another like Everbridge, Raptor or Rave, Omnilert Gun Detect can activate these systems in seconds.
Putting It all Together for the Best Outcomes
Active shooter protection needs to include a full-scale robust response that never stops until the gunman is stopped. Detection and verification are only the first two steps in the process and while this is a great start, it must be followed up with a robust response and mass communication. And throughout every one of these steps, real-time information such as situational intelligence should be part of the process. Omnilert Gun Detect puts all these pieces together under one platform that is designed to save lives and ensure the best possible outcome in the event an active shooter ever comes on campus. Let’s ensure the messages of fear and confusion showcased in the UNC Chapel Hill incident don’t occur for anyone else.
You can learn more about Omnilert gun technology and protection from active shooters with these resources: