Safety & Security

School Security Technologies

School Security Technologies

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HID GLOBAL

School security can be difficult to ensure, particularly in districts spanning dozens of school buildings that house tens of thousands of students and host a large number of visitors on a daily basis. The solution is a universal, mandatory system for creating and managing IDs for students and staff — as well as visitors.

Today’s K-12 schools serve large populations, and they also serve as shelters, command centers and polling places, among other community functions. Security is a critical design consideration for these campuses, and should be continually reviewed and scrutinized from the design phase through construction and use. Scrutiny has been even higher following recent tragedies such as the Newtown massacre, which led to the introduction of hundreds of new bills related to school safety. Whether they pass or not, each piece of proposed legislation is an indicator of the nationwide focus on improving and ensuring school security.

It is important to know the identity of each person that is on campus. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Primer on school safety says optimal security requires that no one shall enter a school without supervising staff or the use of appropriate access control devices, and also suggests that card access systems greatly simplify access control while also eliminating problems associated with lost keys. One way to improve security is to badge not just staff and students for on-campus identification, but visitors, as well. This can be done with visitor management software rather than a paper-based badge and visitor log that may leave school districts vulnerable to security risks. The latest software solutions also offer the opportunity to analyze visitor trends and patterns, and to quickly flag visitors who are either not allowed on campus, or who need to be handled differently than typical campus guests.

One of the biggest advantages of visitor management software solutions is that in the event of a fire or other emergency, they provide a way to quickly assess who is still in the building and determine whether anyone needs to be found and evacuated. Visitor management software also enables administrators to create and manage badge templates by category. They create and manage all of the user accounts for the employees who will be operating the badging software in each building, and can also set up and manage an automated, scheduled employee import process. This ensures that the visitor list is always updated. Finally, today’s visitor management software also manages all setting and options on each badging station from the central administrator console.

Visitor management systems can be implemented on a PC at the lobby reception desk or another entry point. They are easy to use, and training can be completed in an hour or less. Today’s systems automate the entire visitor registration process, including gathering information from the visitor such as a driver’s license or other government ID, screening the visitor against any internal and/or external watch lists, and creating a badge for the visitor to wear on campus.

Visitor Management

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HID GLOBAL

Who Are You? It is important to know the identity of each person on campus. One way to improve security is to badge not only staff and students, but visitors, as well. Today’s ID card systems significantly increase security for a school’s students, staff, parents and visitors. The addition of visitor management software further enhances campus security and improves convenience when integrated with the school’s access control system.

Some school districts also use their visitor management systems to issue a warning alert to the lobby attendant. Within seconds, the attendant will know whether a visitor who is checking in is listed as a registered sex offender, and an automatic e-mail alert can optionally be sent to other school administrators and/or security personnel. Besides sex offenders, the visitor management system can also flag other individuals or organizations that schools have predetermined should not enter the building. The results of this screening process are displayed in just two seconds if there is a match. The combination of sex offender database screening and other flagging mechanisms makes it easier for schools to ensure that proper controls are in place to monitor all visitors and protect those who are on the campus.

Districts can also use visitor management systems to manage the identification of parental custodians who are authorized to drop off and pick up children from campus. As an option, the school can print and issue permanent barcoded ID cards for parents and caretakers, rather than temporary visitor badges. This simplifies guest sign-in and check-out, further expediting the student drop-off and pick-up process.

There are other considerations for optimizing visitor management solution deployments. The first is integration with the school district’s access control system, and ensuring that both systems operate in concert with each other. This enables school lobby attendants to easily and safely provide temporary proximity credentials to guests through the visitor management system, rather than the access control system. Lobby attendants don’t have to be familiar with the access system in order to provide temporary card privileges to visitors.

When visitor management is integrated with the schools access control system, all information entered into the visitor management system during check-in is seamlessly passed to the access control system. A proximity card for the visitor is activated in the access system using the information entered into the visitor software. Then, when the visitor leaves the facility, they are checked out by the visitor lobby system and that card is automatically deactivated. If visitors inadvertently leave with their cards, the facility is still secure, because the visitor software passes the expiration date and time to the access system. The access card will no longer be valid after the specified date and time. If the card was stolen, it could not open anything.

Integrating visitor management with access control eliminates the problems of having a supply of live cards at the reception desk for those who have forgotten their ID badges. The visitor system also has a record of all visitors who have been provided an access card, so there is a complete audit trail, including information about the dates and times when cards were active.

Today’s ID card systems significantly increase security for a school’s students, staff, parents and visitors. The addition of visitor management software solutions further enhances campus security, and improves convenience when integrated with the school’s access control system. Visitor monitoring and management ensures that all guests are authorized to be on campus, and officially checked in. With the latest visitor management software, schools have access to a variety of valuable analysis, reporting, flagging and alerting capabilities, as well.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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