As more and more businesses reopen their doors, they’ll need to take extra precautions in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Apart from social distancing guidelines and occupancy limits, businesses need to implement proactive measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, responding to outbreaks, and monitoring ongoing compliance. What follows is an introduction for the two primary ways for doing so: occupancy management and contact tracing.
As the name suggests, occupancy management encompasses the many ways that businesses control the number of people present in their spaces. Occupancy management helps businesses reduce liability while ensuring that all employees and visitors comply with occupancy thresholds.
Contact Tracing is used by businesses and public health organizations to alert people who might have come in contact with a person infected with a virus, such as COVID-19. Contact tracing is one of the primary methods public health organizations use to limit the spread of infectious disease. By contacting people who have been exposed to an infectious disease, public health organizations can instruct them to quarantine, educate them about what to do next, and identify other individuals that need to be alerted about potential exposure.
Increasingly, businesses and other organizations are using video security systems to support occupancy management and contact tracing. For example, video security systems can be configured to send alerts when capacity thresholds are exceeded. Stored footage and facial recognition capabilities can be used to assist and automate contact tracing, as well.
While posting signs and instructing staff on how to enforce these protocols is important, managing occupancy across multiple high-volume locations requires a more scalable solution. To meet these needs, while keeping pace with ever-evolving capacity guidelines, video security systems for occupancy management should have most or all of the following features:
- People Counting: Monitor the number and frequency of people in an enclosed space or area in real time.
- Crowd Notifications: Configure cameras to automatically send instant alerts when the number of people detected in-frame exceeds a predetermined threshold. Learn more about Crowd Notifications.
- High-Quality Video: Accuracy is important for effective occupancy management and contact tracing, which is why high-resolution cameras are so important. In Verkada cameras, for example, advanced computer vision technology can detect and compare people and faces in frame. This capability enables a broad range of functionality that’s useful in occupancy management and contact tracing, including People Analytics.
- Real-Time Motion Plotting Heatmaps: To help guide faster, more targeted response to occupancy issues, some security systems use Motion Plotting. These systems display motion as a heatmap in real time, showing where occupancy is most concentrated.
- Historical People Heatmaps: Retrospective data around people-based activity in certain locations can be useful in knowing which locations are prone to crowding, or which might need enhanced cleaning and sanitation. People Heatmaps, for example, can provide a view of historical people-based activity.
- Face Search and Recognition: Especially useful for contact tracing, face search and recognition allows you to pull up all people sightings by name, location, and other filters in a single view.
- Custom Door Schedules: Another method for managing occupancy is to control gate and building access based on the number of people allowed inside. Look for systems that allow you to set custom door schedules for this purpose.
Additional Considerations When Evaluating a System for Occupancy Management
To keep people as safe as possible across all locations, while limiting the spread of infectious disease, your occupancy management system must be accurate and scalable. Consider the following capabilities during the evaluation phase, as each one can significantly enhance occupancy management and contact tracing efforts:
- Multi-Camera Playback: Access to footage from multiple angles provides far better visibility. When conducting contact tracing, for instance, multi-camera playback can ensure highly accurate facial recognition and identification.
- Searchability: To effectively monitor occupancy and conduct efficient contact tracing, security admins need the ability to drill down into footage by location, date, time, name, and other filters. This kind of granular searchability can save a tremendous amount of time and effort.
- Person of Interest Alerts: Instead of poring over hours of footage to find a person of interest, be it for contact tracing, incident response, or otherwise, security pros can use person of interest alerts to deliver real-time alerts when a specific individual is detected onsite. If we know, for example, that Jane Doe tested positive for COVID-19, we can use person of interest alerts to track her movements and build a more thorough list of people who she might have exposed to the virus.
- Cloud Networking: Security systems built on cloud networks make data visualization available anywhere, anytime, regardless of whether IT is on site or remote.
- Data Retention and Storage: How will security system data be retained, and how much storage is required to do so? Note that video footage retention may be more limited than just the license plate data itself, which takes up less space when stored.
- Pricing Model: How much of the functionality that you need for occupancy management and contact tracing is available out of the box? Will you incur incremental charges for the software and security enhancements you need?
What are the four steps of contact tracing?
Contact tracing is conducted in the following sequence:
- The infected or potentially infected person is notified.
- An interview is conducted to understand who else might have been exposed.
- Other people exposed by this person are located and notified.
- All exposed contacts are monitored and checked up on.
Video surveillance can provide visual evidence and confirmation throughout the four steps of contact tracing. The interview in step 2, for example, can be supported by a review of security camera footage that might reveal a more complete picture of where that person went and who else might have been exposed.
What are digital contact tracing tools?
There are a number of tools used during contract tracing, including case management (for things like notifications, alerts, and messaging), medical monitoring (video chat, for example), and proximity tracking (to automatically alert someone when they’ve been close to a person with COVID). Learn more about each of these digital contact tracing tools from the CDC.
How can physical security tools be used on school campuses to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Most schools and university campuses already have some kind of security system in place. Fortunately, many security systems can also be used to control occupancy in enclosed spaces throughout campus, limit large indoor gatherings, and in support of contact tracing—as detailed above. All of these capabilities are useful in helping to identify and mitigate outbreaks.
How are retail stores using video security and surveillance for social distancing?
Throughout much of the pandemic, retail stores have remained in operation. To maintain social distancing, many retailers use a combination of signage, floor markings, and staff training. However, many retailers have turned to their video security systems to more closely control occupancy in a given space by sending alerts and restricting access when certain thresholds are exceeded.
Using Video Security to Monitor and Manage Capacity
Effective occupancy management has a lot to do with getting a complete picture of the situation. The same goes for contact tracing. At any given time, where is the concentration of people the highest? Where could additional thresholds be implemented to help prevent the spread of disease? And in case of an outbreak, who else has potentially been exposed? Capturing this information and making it available from a remotely enabled dashboard, in real time, contributes to a far more scalable occupancy management and contact tracing model.