School visitor management refers to the gathering of information from visitors and then tracking their whereabouts within the school. The purpose is to document the information and limit visitor access to only persons who have a need to be there. There are different methods for documenting this information including manual logs and computerized systems. For many schools, this process is manual and consists of a clipboard and hand written visitor stickers. While this is better than nothing, there are technologies today that offer much more in an effort to keep children safe and enhance productivity.
Since September 11, 2001, many companies and government agencies enhanced building security by including access control and documenting visitors. The most defining event illustrating the need to enhance school security worldwide occurred in Beslan, Russia on September 1, 2004. A group of mostly Chechen terrorists took over a school and held more than 1,100 hostages for three days until Russian security forces stormed the building. A severe firefight ensued and ultimately over 350 people died, including 184 children. Shortly afterwards, Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok issued a policy letter to all U.S. schools listing “a closed campus approach to limit visitors” as one effective measure of enhancing school security. Since then, several new computerized visitor management systems have been introduced to meet this need.
Computer Visitor Management
In addition to physical barriers limiting school access to one point, schools have discovered the need to improve their process for recording who is entering and exiting the facility. The basic clipboard method is limiting because it is slow and provides little information other than name and time.
Several computer based systems are available that provide a wealth of information to enhance both security and front office efficiency. Many systems have a kiosk type environment where a visitor essentially checks himself in much like the clipboard method, but the system has the ability to record much more information quickly. This additional information can include a photo of the visitor, the reason he is there, to what location he is going, a time stamp, and more.
Some systems allow school administrators to deny entrance to certain people, such as area sexual predators or parents with custody issues. Other advance options exist to do background checks, scan driver’s licenses, and frequent visitor check-in with Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs). Other systems are controlled by an office person who enters the pertinent data and then prints out a visitor badge.
Costs Can Be Reasonable
There are several computerized school visitor management systems available on the market that vary in cost. A popular and inexpensive system is offered by Ident-A-Kid Services of America. The Complete Campus Security Solution (CCSS) system software is provided free to schools, includes toll-free technical support, and offers a wide variety of inexpensive hardware options. CCSS is currently used by over 5,000 schools.
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