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Visitor Management Systems occasionally go down. What is your back-up plan?

Wednesday, March 04, 2015  by Paul Kazlauskas

An electronic visitor management system (VMS) is an extremely useful tool to document and track visitors that come to a facility. The VMS provides numerous benefits such as database searching, reporting, accuracy, speed of sign-in, and the inclusion of a photo for better identification. However, what happens to your visitor security when the lights go out or the system goes down?

Your visitor management system can be immune to power outages and interruptions. Having the right visitor management back-up plan in place will prevent you from being caught in the dark. A healthcare facility, office building, or school still needs to operate even though the visitor management system may be down. Visitors still need to be identified and tracked. Security shouldn’t take a “vacation day” because the electronic system isn’t working. What is your security backup plan?

A manual visitor management product is a quality and fool-proof back-up to the computerized system by providing visitor identification and tracking. The main difference is the visitor has to sign themselves in. Manual systems are low-cost and require minimal training of staff and visitors. There is little or no overhead to make these systems work as a back-up. Most of the time all you need is a pen and a writing surface. A manual system can still identify, track, provide confidentiality, be portable, and allow for visitors to sign themselves out. In addition, manual sign-in systems could incorporate expiring badge technology so the visitor pass changes color overnight to prevent reuse. These types of badges are “valid today, void tomorrow” and don’t need to be collected from visitors as they leave the building.

There are many great reasons why your facility may have an electronic VMS. It is important to note that these systems occasionally need support or won’t work when the power goes out. Having the right manual back-up system in place is a perfect example of being “better safe than sorry.”

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What schools should ask before purchasing a Visitor Management System

Monday, March 02, 2015  by Paul Kazlauskas


School security is serious business. In light of some horrifying incidents over the past 15 years, schools across America have made the security of their students and staff a top priority. Schools need to know who is in their building and stop unwanted visitors from entering their facility. Visitor Management Systems (VMS) are the #1 tool used by administrators to record who is, or was, in the school at any point in time and provide documentation of any particular visitor’s whereabouts. Here are some questions that administrators should ask any VMS vendor before deciding on a system to purchase…

What is the cost to initially purchase – and what is the 3 year cost of ownership? Visitor Management Systems have obvious initial costs that include the software, equipment (such as cameras & printers), and badges that visitors will wear while on school grounds. It is important to realize that some components to a VMS have recurring fees and expenses that may not be so obvious. For example, some software licenses have annual fees after year one. Equipment such as Driver’s License Readers or access to a Predator Screening Database could come with yearly fees as well. How many visitors do you see on a daily/monthly/yearly basis? You’ll need visitor badges for all those people too.

Can I select specific features or do I have to buy the whole package? Many VMS vendors offer “1-stop shopping” where you can get all your software, system components, and visitor badges in one purchased “bundle”. That convenience is efficient for your time, but is it efficient from a cost perspective? If you don’t need all the features a VMS offers, you may still need to pay for them if they are considered part of a particular “bundle”. It may be better, from a financial perspective, to pick a vendor that allows you to choose only the features you plan on using while allowing the flexibility to upgrade should the need arise in the future.

Will the visitor management system-required equipment work with my district’s systems? This is a very important aspect to consider because it could mean the difference of thousands of dollars. If the new VMS equipment does work with your district’s existing systems, there shouldn’t be any additional costs for infrastructure upgrades. However, if the existing systems need to be upgraded to work with the new VMS equipment because it is proprietary, the school will have quite a larger investment to make overall than in the first scenario. Search your options to see if commodity equipment can be purchased from a third-party in an effort to keep costs down.

How do visitor management system background checks work and what information does it tell? Many visitor management systems can do a quick background check on visitors entering a school. This service isn’t always free and the fee-per-check should be identified before implementing it because the costs add up quickly. Will you be conducting a background check on every visitor that enters your school? If not every visitor, how do you decide who gets a background check? Two more important points to consider are the kinds of information uncovered by the background check beyond “is this person a sex offender” and what will the school do if a potential visitor shows up on a banned list?

How much support is needed to keep the system working? Does a school staff member need to monitor the VMS for it to work efficiently for your visitors? Dedicating a staff member to its use, even if it’s only a part-time para-professional, is an important consideration because that person could be accomplishing something else with their time. In addition, how reliable is the VMS system itself? If the software goes down every so often, which school employee is going to be the point person to work with the vendor’s support team when things aren’t working properly?

How is the data in the visitor management system protected? Protecting the privacy of all types of visitors that come into a school is critical, especially since the majority of them won’t be sex offenders or other types of criminals. Visitor Management Systems store the visitor information either on hard drives or in the cloud. That data needs to be protected and should be encrypted with password-protected systems. The school is liable for the protection of the data they collect and the process should be taken very seriously.

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The importance of a visitor management system in healthcare facilities

Friday, February 27, 2015  by Josette Lumbruno

Did you hear about the visitor who entered a restricted hospital room without a visitor badge?

You didn’t? Great! That means the hospital was following correct visitor management protocol.

With today’s health insurance premiums and medical expenses, we are often more concerned with the cost of healthcare than the safety and security of the patients who receive it and the professionals who provide it.

There was a time during my younger years when the doctor would make a house call to treat a family member who was sick. Just seeing that black bag was comforting, knowing that its contents would make things “all better.” As life would have it, times change, and so does the process for seeking medical attention. When it comes time to visit a medical facility, we want to be sure the facility is well equipped to handle any security issues that might arise.

This is where having a visitor management system in place to quickly identify who is and who is not allowed in the healthcare facility (or on a particular floor) becomes imperative. There is a vast assortment of visitor management products and systems to choose from, including very high-tech access control systems, electronic fences, biometrics, cameras, visitor management software, and visitor registry books. Depending on your budget, flow of traffic, and priorities of where and when to badge, there is a product out there for you.

Remember: the question is not, “Do I need a visitor management system?” The real question is, “Which visitor management system do I need to protect all the people who come and go in my healthcare facility on a daily basis?”

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How budget-strapped schools can still afford quality security

Tuesday, February 24, 2015  by Paul Kazlauskas

School budgets are tight all across America. Although resources are declining, requirements are not. This is especially true in the area of security. If a tight school budget is stopping you from implementing a visitor management procedure, there are ways to get around this school funding issue. Here are some ideas that can help your school afford a visitor management procedure for better school security…


What you can do for yourself

… with help from your PTO/PTA (or other parent groups)
Have your visitor badges paid for by the PTO. Each visitor pass can be printed with “Proudly sponsored by the PTO”. This bit of branding re-enforces and publicizes their commitment to the local school.

Hold fundraising events to raise money for visitor passes (e.g., car washes, bake sales, etc.). For other creative fundraising ideas, visit www.ptotoday.com/fundraising
 
… with help from your COMMUNITY
Have your visitor passes paid for by a local business. Each visitor pass can be printed with “Proudly sponsored by ABC Company.” This works particularly well with local sporting goods companies that may provide sports gear to the school or for music companies that provide instruments and lessons. It re-enforces and publicizes their commitment to your school.

… with help from your SCHOOL
Inquire into other areas of your school’s budget for funds, such as facility, building, office supply, or safety budgets.

… with help from your TOWN
Inquire into other areas of your town’s budget, such as Public Safety, Police (School Resource Officer), or the District. Each visitor pass can be printed with “Proudly sponsored by ABC Town Police Department,” for example.


What's available on the web

Pursue government grants and available school funds for security. Here are some helpful links to get you started:

Official government sites relating to grants

  • Official site of the U.S. Department of Education. Learn about grant opportunities, get tips on how to apply for grants, and read about the latest news on the education industry. http://www.ed.gov/index.jhtml
  • Grants.gov is your source to FIND and APPLY for federal government grants. Managed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.grants.gov/
  • Department of Homeland Security State Contacts & Grant Award Information. See your state's homeland security contact and click to view homeland security grants. https://www.dhs.gov/dhs-financial-assistance

Information and grants searches relating to schools

General information/tips

  • Find a grant. This site’s goal is to make life a little easier for those who devote their time to searching for education grants and identifying new school funding opportunities for their organizations and schools. http://www.grantsalert.com/
  • This site helps grant seekers, grant makers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public better understand the field of philanthropy. Get instruction on funding research, help with proposal writing and tools for locating prospective funders. http://foundationcenter.org/
  • Read about the latest news on grants and government funding for safer schools. http://www.eschoolnews.com/funding/
  • Title I ("Title One") is a set of programs set up by the United States Department of Education to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. Title I appropriates money for the education system for prevention of dropouts and the improvement of schools. 

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School visitor procedures - how to inform parents & school staff about what is expected

Friday, February 20, 2015  by Paul Kazlauskas

Schools occasionally have a hard time getting visitors to comply with their manual sign-in or electronic registration protocol. Parents, in particular, might not feel the need to comply because their children are students and they don’t consider themselves “visitors”. Parents may consider themselves more welcome than the average visitor. So, parents (your most common visitors) and school staff (who will enforce this process) need to know what is expected of them.

Below are some sample communications that could help ease the transition to a new visitor sign-in process.
____

To PARENTS
We are instituting a new visitor sign-in protocol to improve security. You will now be required to stop by the office upon arrival and sign yourself into our new visitor pass registry book.

1. Complete both the badge and the “sign out stub” by listing your name, your destination, the date, your initials and your time of arrival (“time in”).
2. Remove the badge and stick it to your clothing in a visible location. Our school staff has been trained to look for badges identifying all visitors to insure our protocols are being followed.
3. Before you leave the building, please return to the office to sign yourself out, locating your initials and sign-out stub. List your departure time (“time out”) on the stub and return your badge.

In the event of an emergency, it is critical that everyone in the building be accounted for. Careful and conscientious observation of visitor sign-in/sign-out procedures will better enable the school to ensure the safety of all building occupants, including students, employees, school staff, and visitors.

Thank you for your cooperation and support.
____

To SCHOOL STAFF
We are instituting a new visitor sign-in protocol to improve security. Visitors will now be required to stop by the office upon arrival and sign themselves into our new visitor pass registry book. This new system will provide an identification sticker to be worn by all visitors, along with an automatic confidential log for our records.

Visitors will be required to visibly display their identification sticker, and to return it to the office upon departure. We will also ask visitors to sign out in our new registry book. The registry book is portable and will help us account for all building occupants in the event of an emergency.

Please be aware of visitors/strangers, and instruct anyone you see without an visitor pass to return to the office to sign in. Contact the administration if proper procedures are not followed by that individual.

Thank you for your cooperation and support.
______

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Data Management, Inc.

P.O. Box 789
Farmington, CT 06034

Phone 1.800.243.1969
Fax 1.800.428.1951
or 1.860.677.6767

www.datamanage.com
 
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