15 Considerations When Buying an Electronic Visitor Management System
Visitor management is now a necessity. Taking these factors into consideration will help you select the right solution for your organization.
In today’s world, it is more important than ever to be able to keep track of who visited, when they arrived, when they left and who they were there to see. Visitor management systems have become very popular in recent years as an important part of an overall security plan. The coronavirus pandemic has added the need for contact tracing.
If you do your homework and consider the following points, you’ll buy the right system for your campus.
1. Paper logs don’t really work.
Not only is there no electronic record, is the information legible and correct? How many signed as Mickey Mouse? Who forgot to sign out? What do you do with the paper logs? And, how much time would be required to look for something? Sales people love to scan the log looking for visits from their competitors. The list of visitors in the log is a big privacy concern that can cause a lot of bad things to occur.
2. Electronic visitor registration systems usually scan the visitor’s driver’s license, state ID card or military ID card.
The information you need to capture is automatically saved in the database. This can include information such as name, address and date of birth. Also saved is check-in time, who they are there to see and the reason for the visit. ID scanners are available to read the 2D bar code on the back of most ID cards or that use optical character recognition to scan the fields of data printed on the front of the ID.
3. Photo in database and on the visitor badge.
The ID card scanner can obtain the visitor’s photo from the ID card and save it in the database. Or, you can capture a new photo with an attached web cam. It is a good security practice to capture and save the photo image. Optionally, you can print the photo on the visitor badge.
4. “Who to see” database.
It is important to connect to or import a database of people the visitor is there to see. It is much faster to pull Thomas Cunningham from a list than it is to type it. Plus, if the names are typed, there will be no database consistency as you will have Thomas, Tom, Tommy entered. Examples of “who to see” are employees or students.
5. Barred list and sex offender database checking.
Another key consideration is having an internal barred list. This prevents people who aren’t allowed on the property or adults who do not have child custody. Good visitor registration systems can check a sex offender database. This is a very important feature for K-12 schools.
6. Speed is a need.
Not only do you not want to slow the guest-screening process, you are also making your first impression on the visitor. You should be able check in a visitor and print a badge in 15 seconds or less. The simple steps are scan ID card, select person to see and hit print.
7. Visitors must check in AND check out.
In today’s security conscious world, you should not have a willy-nilly process. You should require that visitor badges to be returned upon leaving. This way, you have an electronic record of when the person left, and you won’t have people trying to come back with the same visitor badge.
8. COVID-19 considerations.
While a variety of driver’s license scanner options are available, some new technology includes contactless driver’s license readers, allowing visitors and guests to simply present their ID to the scanner without interfacing with an employee or touching any peripheral devices. This is especially important in today’s world, as facilities look to improve visitor tracking but minimize personal contact.
You may want to have the visitor label printer on the counter and facing the guest so they can remove it themselves. The visitor lanyard and backer can be also placed so the guest can pick it up themselves.
There are temperature tracking integrations available to validate and track the temperature information.
The electronic visitor system can be invaluable for contact tracing. You can generate reports of who visited, who they saw, and when they arrived and left.
9. What kind of visitor badge should you print?
Labels are by far the most used badge in visitor systems. However, labels tend to fall off, be worn under a jacket and generally are not that visible. A good option is to put the label on a reusable backer that is on a visible lanyard. You will be requiring the return of the badge, so you simply peel the label and re-use the backer again and again. A red VISITOR lanyard makes guests easily recognizable.
10. Time-expiring visitor labels.
A good option is time-expiring labels that bleed through with VOID after 24 hours. This prevents a visitor from returning the next day. If you do not want to pay the extra money for time-expiring, print the valid visit day on the label.
11. Label printer.
Most visitor systems come with a direct thermal label printer. These are compact and inexpensive. No ribbon or toner are needed. The only downside is they only print in black. There are some small color label printers available for those who want to print color photos or color code the badges.
12. Door access control integration.
Some systems can integrate with door access control systems. You may want to issue a card that can electronically open doors. An example of a person receiving this type of credential is a repair person who needs access to one area. First, you register the visitor using the visitor software. Then, you assign a generic proximity card to the visitor. The proximity card can only access the given room for a given time.
13. Do you want a kiosk visitor registration system?
Visitor systems are usually PC-based and are operated by front desk personnel. However, there are also kiosk-based visitor systems available. The intent of a kiosk system is to allow for self-check-in to reduce the time required by your personnel. However, this typically reduces the security that a visitor management system brings, as it doesn’t validate the person’s identity before checking them in the way an employee would by checking an ID. A kiosk system also eliminates the ability to have an accurate barred list. Furthermore, many facilities mention that front desk personnel end up spending a lot of time walking guests and visitors through the check in process anyway or assisting them with issues and questions, eventually causing the process to take even more time than an operated system. As facilities are considering systems for security but also keeping health and hygiene top of mind as well, systems that involve heavy guest interaction and lots of contact may not be ideal.
14. What about the cost?
You only have a certain budget to spend, and there is probably no need to go with the most expensive option. A system with the features listed in this article should be very affordable.
15. Local support for the system.
Do you want to spend time trying to install and learn the system? What happens if the system malfunctions? The system makes a vital first impression of your organization. It cannot be down for very long. Having a local dealer perform the installation and training is faster, easier and better. And, having local support that can remote in to diagnose and fix, or even come onsite, is an important thing to consider.
Tom Stiles is the executive director of the Identification Systems Group (ISG), which is an association of 30 identification dealers serving the U.S. and Canada. To find your local ISG dealer, visit, www.IdentificationSystemsGroup.com.
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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!