Creating a Secure Space
The missing piece of the puzzle is a Visitor Management System
- By Debbie Pendleton
- August 01, 2021
Children are a society’s most precious asset, from them comes
a future head-of-state, captain of industry, or the inventor of
the next revolutionary technology. These great ambitions
start in the classroom with dedicated teachers who not only
teach the basics but instill a sense of responsibility and personal
value in each child. For teachers to carry out their mission, a
safe and secure space is of paramount importance. Many K-12
schools have installed surveillance systems, consisting of cameras
with analytics and other sensors. While surveillance cameras provide
a level of deterrence, these solutions cannot tell you who is in the
facility or where they are at any given time. The missing piece of the
puzzle is a Visitor Management System.
Administrators have a critical need to know the identity of each
person on campus, which is best done with a VMS that makes it easy
to quickly flag visitors who either should not be on campus or need
to be handled differently than other campus guests.
Today, a visitor management system is no longer an extra security
feature; it is an integral part of a tailored K-12 security plan that keeps
students, teachers, administrators, staff, and visitors safe. Plus, managing
school entrances and lobbies is more challenging than ever,
especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now along with ensuring
a secure campus, administrators are asking front-desk personnel to
screen school personnel and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms, a task
that takes time and could lead to further spread.
Enhance Campus Security
Adding a visitor management system helps schools enhance campus
security while simultaneously improving convenience by integrating
software with the school’s access control system. With the correct
visitor monitoring and management solution in place, schools can
ensure that all campus visitors are authorized to be there, and have
been officially checked in. At the same time, schools can build an
historical visitor database that enables valuable analytics along with
the ability to create reports, flag people who are not allowed on campus,
and alert campus administrators and other stakeholders when
there is a visitor issue.
In addition to knowing who is in the school, a VMS offers additional
functionality that further helps protect students. A VMS can
officially manage student restrictions via an automated import from a
student management system or internal watch list to ensure the student
goes home with an authorized guardian. A VMS can also help to
standardize policies and procedures throughout a school district and
ensure that information is shared throughout each school.
Let’s take a closer look at how a visitor management system
improves the safety of everyone in a school and lets students concentrate
on learning and growing.
Know Who Wants Access
Controlling who can access a school building is the first step to ensuring
the safety and security of students and teachers. Relying on paper
forms and logs exposes school districts to dangerous vulnerabilities.
While this method of keeping track of visitors is perceived as quick
and easy, it provides little security and presents a number of problems,
including illegible or false names, unprotected personal data
and difficulty enforcing check-out times.
A VMS replaces the paper and the hassle, and with a quick scan of
a driver license, schools get the complete picture of the visitor. This
method not only ensures data accuracy but data validity, so schools
can be assured that they know exactly who is requesting entrance. A
VMS also leverages the scanned data to instantly check the visitor’s
name against internal watch lists that may contain information about
restraining orders, parental rights issues and fired employees.
In addition, with a push of a button or an auto-trigger, a VMS
provides real-time, online screening of the Sex Offender Registries of
all 50 states. In this implementation, the VMS can issue a warning or
an alert to an attendant so that, within seconds, he or she knows if a
registered sex offender is trying to check in. Additionally, the system
can send an automatic email alert to other school administrators and
to security staff or the police.
Know Where they Are
It is easy to see how a VMS streamlines a school’s visitor check-in process
while offering an increased level of security. Once the vetting process is
complete, a VMS offers several options for printing badges, from simple
nametags (if the visitor will be chaperoned during the entire visit) to temporary
identification cards that allow a visitor to access specific parts of
the school. The badging process not only identifies the visitor but helps
track their whereabouts inside the school and keeps a record of who is
actively in the building in case of a lockdown or an emergency evacuation.
Streamline visitor check-in and badging by pulling information from past
visits, importing visitor lists, and pre-printing badges for events.
A particularly valuable VMS feature is the ability to integrate with
the school district’s access control system, so that all information
entered into the visitor management system during check-in is seamlessly
passed to the access control system.
With this approach, an access card for the visitor is activated in the
access system using the information entered into the VMS. Upon the
visitor’s departure, he or she is checked out by the visitor lobby system
and the associated card is automatically deactivated.
Most systems support seamless integration with leading access
control systems to assign temporary access credentials during sign-in
to limit access to specific areas. For example, a badge issued to maintenance
personnel will allow access to specific areas of the school that
are off limits to a badge issued to a delivery driver or to a parent.
Keep Track of Students Too
The benefits of implementing a VMS go beyond vetting visitors and
providing appropriate credentials. A VMS that links to a student
management system or an internal watch list can officially manage
student restrictions, such as restraining orders and non-custodial
parent issues, and manage tardy students and early dismissal requests.
In addition, schools with a visitor management system can ensure
that only authorized parental custodians are dropping off and picking
up children from campus. This is done by optionally printing and issuing
permanent barcoded ID cards for parents and caretakers — rather
than temporary visitor badges — simplifying guest sign-in and checkout
while streamlining the student drop-off and pick-up process.
Know Before They Get There
A new trend in visitor management is remote pre-registration and
pre-screening prior to a visitor leaving their house. The COVID-19
pandemic ushered in the increased use of Web-based registration
forms that are completed off-site and submitted to school staff for
vetting and approvals. One major advantage is the ability to process a
visitor without contact.
Many visitor management systems integrate barcode or QR code
scanners so an attendant can simply scan the e-visit pass (either
printed or displayed on a mobile device) from a distance to capture
all visitor registration information and instantly print a visitor badge.
This function takes the burden off of staff to gather information onsite
makes the entire process easier and more efficient.
VMS have evolved with the need to keep people safe and healthy
by offering new capabilities for pre-entry health screenings, temperature
screening, and automated credentialing and admittance. A VMS
with built-in pre-entry health screenings are designed to easily
administer an electronic daily COVID-19 survey as required by many
state health departments based on guidance from the CDC.
This functionality lets people register and answer health-related
questions before they reach the front door, taking the burden off of
attendant, allowing for minimal contact, and expediting the admittance
In addition to facilitating entry rules and regulations, most visitor
management systems provide customizable reporting options that
deliver timely information on compliance data used to satisfy liability
and risk management policies.
Albert Einstein said “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken
joy in creative expression and knowledge” in their students. Teachers
and students need to feel safe and secure in their classroom to awaken
the joy of learning.
By adding a visitor management system, schools foster this safety by
enhancing school security while simultaneously streamlining the visitor
registration process. With the correct VMS in place, schools can
ensure that all visitors are authorized to be there, and have been officially
checked in. At the same time, schools can build a historical visitor
database that enables valuable analytics along with the ability to create
reports, flag people who are not allowed on campus, and alert campus
administrators and other stakeholders when there is a visitor issue.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.