The importance of Visitor Management in School Security
by Paul Kazlauskas
To help ensure the safety of your students and staff, we recommend that you badge every visitor to your school. According to Ken Trump, President & CEO of the National School Safety & Security Services, "visitor identification should be mandatory in all schools, visitors should be issued a clearly visible identification tag to be worn at all times that they are on school premises."
The most effective and fool-proof way to badge visitors is to implement a visitor management system (VMS). The electronic software tool helps make your school a safer place in many ways:
Visitor management stations act as a visual deterrent to unwanted guests. Having an area near the entrance dedicated to processing visitors doesn’t just give your school and its security protocol a professional look, it also serves as the first line of defense against guests looking to cause trouble. Visitors with bad intentions are far more likely to pause at the thought of entering a school with a staff member scanning a driver's license into a VMS than they are to be deterred by a simple notebook and pen. By projecting a more secure appearance, a visitor management station can help discourage many unwanted guests from even attempting to enter a school building.
Visitor management systems also have detailed reporting capabilities, making it possible to know when any visitor arrived and departed. A critical feature of a visitor management system is the ability to determine who, exactly, is at your school at any given time. Having these records helps to create an electronic paper trail, enabling school administrators to view who is or was on-site, what time they arrived, where they are going, and more.
Many visitor management systems can connect to online watch lists, which prevent access to certain potential guests. One of the most important parts of keeping a school secure is preventing incidents from happening. Proactive security measures help ensure that a school is taking steps to prevent security issues, not just reacting when an incident occurs. Linking to databases such as the National Sex Offender Public Database will help intercept potential trouble at the door, before a dangerous person even has the chance to gain access to the building.
Purchasing the visitor management system is just the start. In addition to implementing the tool and providing necessary training for operators and your entire staff, here are some visitor management policy tips to provide addional security:
- Funnel visitors to one entrance. A clearly marked single entrance, with access control restrictions on other doors, will help security protocol.
- Decide on a visitor authorization protocol. Determine who has the authority to approve visitors to the school.
- Document every visitor. Every. Single. Time. Even if you know the person.
- Require every visitor to wear a badge while on school grounds. It is not enough to simply document the visitor’s entrance to the building. Staff shouldn’t have to wonder who a stranger is, roaming their halls. If the visitor is wearing a badge, your staff won’t have to wonder.
- Identify which areas of the building are open to visitors. A comprehensive visitor policy should take into account which areas of the school building are open to visitors and which are not. This can vary by the type of guest.
- Choose how to identify visitors. Clearly identifying the type of visitor will allow anyone encountering that person to know if they are allowed to be in any given area. Parents, vendors, contractors, substitute teachers, student teachers, and temporary workers are all categories of badge titles to consider.
- Consider pre-enrollment. Pre-enrolling frequent visitors, like parents and vendors, into the visitor management system ahead of time will cut down on registration times. When that person comes back to the school again, their information will be found in the database and will not have to be reentered or have their driver’s license rescanned.
Now that you understand how a visitor management system will help school security and what security protocols to consider after implementing the system, the task now becomes selecting a software solution to implement. There are many facets to consider and here are 6 questions that school administrators should ask any vendor before purchasing a visitor management system:
- What is the cost to initially purchase – and what is the three year cost of ownership?
- Can I select specific features or do I have to buy the whole package?
- Will the visitor management system’s required equipment work with my district’s systems?
- How do VMS background checks work and what information does it tell?
- How much support is needed to keep the system working?
- How is the data in the visitor management system stored and protected?
What other ways can schools improve their visitor management protocol? Please join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
Want the latest, best security practices delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email address in the "Subscribe" area (on the left side navigation).
Download Free Whitepaper ›
Our exclusive "Guide to Choosing a Visitor Management System"
Posted on 3/22/2018