What to Look for in a Visitor Management System — And What to Avoid
Looking to invest in an electronic visitor management system? Here’s how you can convince hesitant stakeholders.
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As more school safety grants are approved and schools are trying to decide where best to invest the money, improved visitor management is being considered in many districts.
In our 2017 Campus Safety access control survey, we asked our readers if they had recently adopted new or upgraded their visitor management system(s). Of our K-12 respondents, 58% said they had or had and were also considering adding more within the next two years. Check out this article’s slideshow for these and additional survey results.
Having total control over who comes in and out of your school is essential to keeping students and staff safe. That’s why we spoke to Raptor Technologies CEO Jim Vesterman about visitor management best practices and things to consider before updating or implementing an electronic visitor management system(s).
Even though change is the only constant in life, at least according to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, it is the thing that scares many of us most. Whether it be in our personal life or work life, change can be hard to handle and it is the single biggest challenge Vesterman sees when schools are trying to implement a visitor management system.
“The vast majority of schools in America use pencil and paper to manage the people coming in and out of the schools. And when you go to change that process, everything from locking exterior doors to moving from a pencil and paper process to an electronic visitor management system, the change in process is usually the biggest, single obstacle,” he says. “At the end of the day, implementing a visitor management system is pretty straight forward and pretty quick… So it’s not that hard to actually implement. It’s really about that change in process.”
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Visitor Management System
If your school or district isn’t afraid of change and is considering a new or upgraded electronic visitor management system, there are a few questions you should ask yourself and your potential vendor(s):
- Can they serve a district your specific size?
- Will they be a good partner?
“They should look around and see or ask a vendor [if they can] serve a district my size and in my state. Some are three school districts, some are 300 school districts. I think that’s the single most important question,” Vesterman says.
Next, instead of just looking for a solution, he recommends looking for a partner.
“Not just a vendor who is going to offer up a system but rather a partner who is going to help them through policy implementation, who’s going to help them with world-class technical support, who’s going to help them with communication to parents and staff members, etc.,” he urges. “Really a partner through the entire life of the system.”
Common Mistakes Schools Make When Implementing a Visitor Management System
For schools that have already implemented a visitor management system, Vesterman says two common mistakes he sees are policy implementation and lack of communication to stakeholders.
“One is to not be prepared in terms of what your policies are regarding visitor management. So, how are you going to handle a parent or a vendor that is a sex offender? How are you going to deal with custody issues?” he says. “Not having in place a set of policies, procedures, rules and actions that you will use once you do implement [a visitor management system] can put you off on a rocky foot.”
The second most common mistake Raptor sees is a lack of communication with stakeholders beforehand. Schools must communicate with parents that they are implementing a new system that will require a specific process if they are to visit the school. It is also vital to communicate with staff and educate them on how the system works.
How to Convince Stakeholders That an Electronic Visitor Management System Is Necessary
For many school districts, buy-in from stakeholders for implementing new or upgraded security features is a common setback. If your district is looking to implement an electronic visitor management system but certain stakeholders are hesitant to invest, Vesterman recommends going to a nearby district that has converted from pen and paper to electronic and ask them about the benefits.
“Ask them why they like it. I think most districts will say it’s a big positive change for them,” says Vesterman. “At Raptor, we have 98% annual customer retention. Once people switch away from pencil and paper, they very much like it and they will continue with electronic visitor management systems.”
Since its inception 17 years ago, Raptor has converted 26,000 schools from pen and paper to electronic visitor management. Vesterman estimates only 40,000 of the 133,000 schools in the United States have done so, meaning an estimated 90,000 schools still have not converted.
“The market is turning but there’s still a long way to go,” he says. “You could write down my name or I could write down your name and [schools] would never know. School security consultants say every time they go in to a pencil and paper school, they write down ‘Mickey Mouse’ or ‘Beyoncé’ or something crazy and they are never stopped.”
The common fear of change goes hand in hand with fear of the unknown. Electronic visitor management systems ensure you know who is coming in and out of your school at all times — something that is essential to keeping students and faculty safe.
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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!