K-12 Access Control’s Weak Link: Visitor Verification

Most access management systems can also track guests at little or no additional expense to a campus or district.
Published: May 10, 2011

Many schools have done a good job of credentialing employees and verifying and tracking access. Unfortunately, in many cases, visitors have been overlooked.

More than half of districts utilize identification badges for staff and personnel, while upwards of 16 percent provide them for students. More than 85 percent require all visitors to sign in and receive a badge. Eighty-five percent of schools use manual sign-out processes for parents picking up students; however, 11.5 percent have no identification system in place.

Remember Your Low, No-Cost Options
While funding issues will continue to affect some school safety initiatives, significant security program improvements can be made with little or no cost. They include visitor management (controlling access through measures involving sign-in/sign-out and requirements to display identification), staff IDs (visible badges or uniforms that identify school personnel); and student pick-up areas and documented procedures that address student and guardian accountability. A closed campus policy also helps. With this type of policy, all exterior doors are closed and locked when the facility is occupied, requiring visitors to enter through the main entrance and sign-in at the main office.

The good news is that most brand name security management systems that track employee access also have sophisticated visitor management systems.  As a result, visitors can be managed with little additional investment.

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With a visitor management system integrated with badging and access control systems, schools can effectively institute rules for visitor oversight. Operators can assign access control privileges to authorized guests and verify that guests are tracked to a particular location. No longer must they use manual system or paper-based visitor logs.  Now, schools can track visitors, schedule their activities and maintain a database for reporting purposes.  

They can also maintain a list of people who are not allowed into a facility, whether for security, guardianship/custodial rights, personnel restrictions or other reasons. The visitor management system can require a photo and/or signature from the guest, and the school can compare these items to stored information. All visitors can be screened against a banned parties list.

Guest Pass Systems Provide Soft Benefits
Visitor management systems can also reflect a positive image. Check-in can be much faster. Systems can automatically send an E-mail to the visitor’s host, including photo, upon arrival or departure. They can print on-the-spot labels, photo IDs or generic visitors’ badges. These solutions can even define color codes for the badges based on the visitor’s status.

When the school expects a large group of visitors, administrators can preload their names and information, as well as have the badges waiting for them when they arrive. This streamlines movement in and out of the lobby. This can be seen as a public relations tool because visitors who are not kept waiting become happy advocates.

With a visitor management system, schools can now provide the same access control to guests that they do to employees in an easy-to-use, automated manner, thereby increasing security and convenience for all.

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