5 Ways that Visitor Management Systems Keep Your School Safe
Across the U.S., schools continue to invest in the safety of their students and faculty. The share of public schools that control access to their buildings increased to 97% in the past decade, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The use of security cameras and badge/ID requirements increased to 91% and 77%, respectively.
As positive as these trends might be, other data remind us that the work is never done. Most people believe school is less safe. Schools, universities, and other educational institutions must remain vigilant.
How Visitor Management Systems Work
Thankfully, technology continues evolving to meet the demands of school safety. Select visitor management systems are now capable of integrating a full complement of security measures, many of which you’ll recognize from your own experience entering and exiting schools:
- Tracking and monitoring who enters and leaves campus
- Limiting access to authorized individuals only
- Verifying identification and issuing visitor badges
- Alerting staff to unauthorized or suspicious visitors
- Keeping real-time logs of individuals present
- Replacing paper sign-in sheets with digital kiosks or apps
- Integrations with other systems, such as video surveillance
Given today’s challenges, few schools can afford to forgo the ability to control, track, and monitor visitors. These systems deliver a critical layer of security, especially in the following areas:
1. Instantly screen visitors with a driver’s license or ID card
Visitor screening at the point of entry can be a very effective means of keeping schools safer. For a visitor management system solution to screen visitors, it must integrate with background check systems and certain databases.
Typically, a school uses its visitor management system to screen for:
- Registered sex offenders
- Known or wanted criminals
- People on the auto-deny list
- Individuals with restraining orders
- Authorized/unauthorized caregivers
The screening itself takes place when the visitor checks in. Once they present a driver’s license, passport, or other form of acceptable ID, the system verifies their info against state and local sex offender registries, criminal records, and other databases.
What happens when the system finds a match? That depends on the solution. Verkada Guest will share the match with authorized personnel, at which point they can make the final decision to allow or deny entry.
2. Know who is or was on the premises at any given time
Another benefit of a check-in/check-out process at the point of entry is visitor logging. It doesn’t take long to imagine all the scenarios in which a school might want to verify who is currently on the premises and for what reason—or to look back at earlier logs.
Lockdowns come to mind, whether they’re drills or the real thing. Stopping people from entering and exiting a school is a part of most lockdown procedures, as is accounting for anyone who was on the premises before the event.
During incident investigation, the ability to verify who was on campus can come in handy for both school and law enforcement officials. In this and other scenarios, accurate and up-to-date visitor logging is a must-have.
3. Confirming custodial rights
The last thing that school staff, parents, and caregivers want is for a student to leave school with an unauthorized person. Apart from the potential liability associated with allowing a child to do so, there’s the inherent risk to the child.
Ideally, a visitor management system connects to the school’s list of approved guardians. That way, guardians can check in during pickup, conferences, and other events—all of which are automatically logged. This can help avoid issues that might otherwise arise:
- Potential harm or abduction
- Distressing custody disputes
- Violations of court-ordered restrictions
- Exposure of students to outside access
- Students leaving campus without permission
There is one other aspect of custodial rights worth noting. Every family’s situation is unique, and some may have complex custody arrangements. Verifying and respecting custodial rights can help schools and caregivers better navigate school activities, such as after-school activities and parent-teacher conferences.
4. Color-coded badge printing
If you’ve ever visited a school, you were probably issued a visitor badge. We’ve come a long way since the days of reusable plastic badges with no identifying information—the ones you clip awkwardly to a shirt pocket or lapel. Today’s visitor management systems are capable of issuing color-coded badges on the spot.
These visitor badges can be customized to include full name, color coding, and visitor type, depending on the school. Assuming the visitor management system has an integrated badge printer, schools can print visitor badges for authorized visitors right at the point of entry.
Color-coded badge printing serves a couple of important purposes. First of all, it creates a far more efficient check-in experience. It also allows faculty and staff to easily identify visitors at a glance, including the reason for their visit.
5. Enhancing security controls with camera integrations
One powerful way to enhance the benefits of a visitor management system is to integrate it with camera surveillance. Doing so not only adds another layer of security to the school’s overall posture but opens the door to additional functionality.
Let’s say, for example, that school administrators have cause to investigate the actions of a particular visitor to a closed on-campus event for students. In one place (the control interface for the visitor management system), those administrators can quickly verify that person’s visit in the log, and then find associated footage of their visit throughout the school.
In the case of Verkada, this can be done from a mobile device.
Additionally, integrated cameras outside the school can recognize people of interest and trigger alerts the moment one is captured on camera or decides to step foot on campus. This level of proactive surveillance can be incredibly effective in preventing—and even deterring—incidents.
Common Obstacles to Implementing Visitor Management Systems in Schools
The implementation of a school visitor management system can be challenging, especially for large multi-location campuses. Decision makers typically encounter a few obstacles, in particular:
Educational institutions often operate on tight budgets. The initial cost of implementing a visitor management system can be significant, depending on the hardware and software requirements.
Data privacy concerns
Educational institutions must adhere to various regulations and standards related to security and data privacy. Ensuring that the visitor management system complies with these regulations can be complex. Some systems make this process easier than others. Here’s how Verkada Guest handles data captured during and after sign-in.
Integration with existing systems
Many educational institutions already use various software systems for attendance, security, and so on. Integrating a new visitor management system with these existing systems can require the technical expertise, time, and effort of trained IT professionals.
Resistance to change
You might encounter resistance from staff, students, and other stakeholders who are accustomed to existing procedures. Onboarding staff, students, and faculty is one thing; convincing them of the benefits and the need for the system can be another, as they may perceive it as an additional bureaucratic process.
Prioritize School Safety Without Degrading the Visitor Experience
When implemented correctly, the benefits of a visitor management system—enhanced security and streamlined visitor processes, improved brand image, among others—are there. Let’s keep in mind that in most cases, people visit schools for perfectly normal reasons. To pick up their children, or drop off a forgotten lunchbox. For parent-teacher conferences and after-school activities.
While security vigilance is extremely important, so is the visitor experience. After all, schools are educational settings embedded within communities. They’re meant to be safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments. This is something to keep in mind when evaluating and implementing a school visitor management system.