Sonoran University Keeps Students, Staff and Patients Safe With Omnilert
Sonoran University Extends Campus Safety Leadership by Selecting Omnilert’s AI-Powered Visual Gun Detection Software to Keep Students, Staff and Patients Safe
Sonoran University of Health Sciences is a leader in the field of holistic and natural approaches to medicine and health sciences. The University’s campus spans across 8.5 acres with state-of-the-art facilities that include classrooms, study and library spaces, a medical center for Regenerative Medicine, laboratories, wellness areas, a cadaver lab, administrative offices, and an Institute for Botanical Research. These facilities serve approximately 400 students and 200 staff and faculty members as well as more than 14,000 patients that are treated annually at the University’s onsite public medical center.
Providing Protection for Students, Staff, and Patients Against Growing Rates of Gun Violence and Mass Shootings
With this many people walking through its buildings and around its campus grounds on a daily basis, Sonoran University has focused not only on becoming a leader in the medical field, but also a leader in campus safety. Starting back in 2017, the University has been paving the way for campus safety by leveraging emergency notification and response technology from Omnilert, which included innovative features such as panic buttons and automatic door locking. Leveraging this system has enabled the University to significantly decrease the time it takes to initiate an emergency notification and response in the event of a crisis, weather event, fire, medical emergency, system outage, or other safety situation. And today, nearly six years later, they are once again innovating in campus safety by expanding their security system to include cutting edge artificial intelligence (AI) powered visual gun detection technology.
As explained by Paul Collins, Senior Director of IT at Sonoran University, “While our ENS system with Omnilert has been widely effective for many years, we knew we needed to expand those capabilities in response to the rising rate of gun violence, particularly at educational institutions. We believe visual gun detection is the missing link in having the best system possible for keeping our students, staff, and patients safe while on our campus.”
Sonoran University also believes that providing protections from gun violence is becoming an important criterion for prospective students and even patients. “Students want to feel safe when they come to campus,” said Collins. “By layering this technology on top of our existing security system, we can help alleviate that concern.”
Choosing the Right Gun Detection Technology
Sonoran University evaluated multiple gun detection technologies to determine the best solution for their campus and their existing security infrastructure. They ended up choosing Omnilert Gun Detect – and not just because they were already using Omnilert’s ENS system, but because it offered the best and most flexible solution on the market. Key reasons they selected Omnilert Gun Detect included:
“It just works,” said Collins. “The initial Gun Detect installation was very straightforward and it integrated easily into our existing Avigilon system.” He also claims the day-to-day operations are extremely simple so they can just let the system run and do its job.
Unlike other systems that lock you in to their verification or monitoring services, Omnilert is very flexible and lets you customize workflows to your preferences. Sonoran University chose to manage verification themselves amongst a few staff members on campus who receive the alerts from the system in the event a weapon was detected. If at any given time the University wants to change that designated person, the system also lets them easily do that. Omnilert also features integrations with VMS and Access Control systems to support a wide variety of workflows and scenarios to respond to potential threats.
Omnilert Gun Detect is designed to learn from the environment it is operating in so it gets better and better at detecting weapons in each location in a short amount of time. According to Collins, “ We love that the system is constantly evolving itself and learning on its own.” The University claims the system has trained itself so well that the periodic false positives are very manageable. “False positive are really no big deal,” said Collins. “Once we started reporting them early in the initial implementation phase, the system just learned on its own and they steadily started decreasing.”
Because Omnilert Gun Detect integrates so easily with existing security systems, it was able to extend the functionality of the established Sonoran University safety operations. Added Collins, “It worked seamlessly with our current video camera system from the start, which meant we did not have to rip everything out and install new cameras. This made it quite cost effective.”
An Always on Gun Detection System with Near-Instant Response
The Sonoran University campus consists of three main buildings and its medical center, each with multiple entry points. Most universities are open campuses which can be difficult to secure, but Sonoran University with its medical center accepting between 100-200 patients per day from the general community, there are even more challenges involved for its security program. To ensure all of these buildings are kept safe, the University strategically integrated Omnilert Gun Detect software with cameras both inside and outside each building.
How does the system work if there is a threat? Below is an example of the sequence of events that could take place if an active shooter incident were to occur on the campus:
1. An active shooter walks up to a university building with a weapon visible; or is seen inside a building brandishing a weapon in view of a camera.
2. In under a second, Omnilert Gun Detect can identify the gun and send an alert to the designated group of people at the University. The alert sent would contain a still image, video clip and details of the location and camera.
3. If the potential active shooter threat is confirmed, they can then initiate a series of actions at the touch of a button that can include:
- Calling the police
- Sending real-time intelligence to first responders that includes information on the number of shooters, what they are wearing, and where they are currently located
- Locking the doors to slow or stop entry
- Sending emergency notifications to people on campus
- Sending evacuation routes to people inside the building that leverages where the shooter is so they can identify a safe path out of the building
The key to this pre-planned sequence of events is that it gives emergency response teams advance warning before shots are fired, delivers precise information on the location, and a photo and video of the potential shooter.
Looking to the Future
Today, the University has completed its first phase of deployment of Omnilert Gun Detect and will continue integrating Omnilert Gun Detect into additional cameras throughout the campus over time. In the future, the University also has plans to expand its campus, and they intend to make Omnilert Gun Detect part of that expansion.
Sonoran University sees Omnilert’s gun detection technology as an important piece of its overall security strategy where they have layered capabilities to ensure a safe and secure campus. When asked what their advice would be to other Universities, Collins replied, “Every educational institute needs to have a plan and processes in place in the event of an emergency. With Omnilert Gun Detect integrated into our existing security system, we can ensure that the right plan and action unfolds the way we need it to because every second counts.” As Collins pointed out, “The key is having the response and notification processes figured ahead of time, so that we don’t have to think in a moment of crisis. We are now equipped with the capability to not only identify a weapon in less than a second of it coming into view, but once verified, we can also initiate our planned response a second later.”
Why Every Second Counts
According to the FBI, most active shooter incidents are over within five minutes. Clearly, every second counts and if first responders can arrive faster and people alerted earlier, then the best possible outcomes can be achieved.
Universities can’t predict when, and if, violence will strike, but the data points to an alarming trend of record level school shooting incidents throughout the U.S. Sonoran University’s long-term commitment to providing the safest campus possible is an example to all schools that the power of technology, combined with preventative planning, makes a difference.