Visitor Management for Schools with Safety and Security Measures
Schools strive to make an everlasting impact on the life of students and their community. The common goals of teacher and staff is to deliver an education that will prepare students, so they can pursue their dreams and vocation. Nevertheless, other concerns related to safety and security are among the many topics regularly discuss at the table. For instance, the need to review industry practices related to emergency management and violence prevention. However, the challenge is to review these theoretical practices or guidelines and then find a practical way of implementing them to address the specific safety and security concerns that a particular school is facing. In some cases, the best course of action results in disagreement, and with good reason, each school is slightly different. Such difference of opinions may stem from unique characteristics such as, but not limited to, the community composition, layout of the building, financial funding, and school population volume. Despite such differences, schools are implementing some form of safety and security measures.
Percentage of public schools with various safety and security measures
According to the National Center for Education Statistics ("NCES") , during the school year 2015-16, across the United States school districts implemented various safety and security measures to defend and prevent against emergencies. Without question, security has been a major concern for school principals, and the data below shows their efforts and actions taken. For instance, the installation of metal detectors and locked doors has been an almost wide spread practice. Similarly, visitors are being required to sign in at the main entrance immediately after entering the school.
Additionally, the NCES data shows that some of the measures included: enforce dress codes, metal detector checks, security cameras to monitor live activity, and sniffing dogs. Additionally, faculty, staff, and students are required to wear badges or picture ID’s. The FAST-PASS 7 system includes a badge designer with the word processing power to create custom school badges that would include person details (e.g., contacts, expiration date, grade level, names, and other demographics) photo, and school logo. Moreover, passes can be designed for contractors, vendors, and visitors to help identify their visiting purpose. At the moment of printing a pass, all the information is then stored in a database. The advantage of storing this valuable information in a database is that it can be retrieved to provide valuable insight for event planning and staffing, fire drill preparation, investigative initiatives, reporting purposes, retrieve stored data when a visitor or vendor returns.
Schools have implemented several security systems to provide a safe environment for staff, teachers, and students. In part because the lower costs of technology have allowed the procurement and installation of several security systems in particular the wide spread of cameras across almost every main location of a school such as the auditorium, gym, stair cases, and entrances. More specifically, a few decades ago, the installation of close circuit television (“CCTV”) became wide spread, and these days CCTV are even more affordable and accessible because todays cameras have the ability transmit a live video feed over WIFI networks, thus eliminating the need for running cable from the camera back to the main CCTV room. Instead todays cameras, only need electrical power, according to specifications, at the location where they are being installed and descent WIFI signal to send a live video feed.
Visitors in a School
Anyone who is not a staff member (e.g., counselor, dean, principal or teacher), or a student of the school is considered a visitor. Therefore, upon arriving at a school, a visitor should report to the main entrance and sing in. During this time, the visitor would speak to a school staff member, where the visitor can explain their reason for visit, go through a screening process, and finally be denied or allowed to enter the school. If the visitor is denied, then they would be considered as unauthorized to be at the school, and they should be asked to leave the premise. Furthermore, in collaboration with the local police department and request assistance to escort or remove the unauthorized visitor. Alternatively, if the visitor is allowed into the school, then they should wear an identification pass, that would include a picture of the visitor, their name, and the pass should always be worn while in the school.
Policies for School Visitation
Policies are designed to provide specific or general guidance when encountering a situation. Likewise, policies provide steps to follow to ensure a consistent response. And when it comes to formulating school visitor policies, it is important to consider the situation, problem, and result that the policy should address. Therefore, rather than handling each visiting situation with instincts that can lead to inconsistencies. It is essential to have policies specifying visitation activity (Do’s and Don’ts) and while those policies would include several aspects such as visiting hours, allowed areas, and other conditions such as meeting regulations requirements, the following policy items should be considered when preparing a policy for schools visitors.
Sign in at the Entrance: Schools are not public places and the safety of students and staff should be guarded against potential risks posed by visitors. Therefore, to improve visitor management, all visitor should enter through a common entry point where they would be greeted and briefed on safety and security procedures. But also, importantly ask visitors to provide proper identification to verify their identity, ask about their reason for visit, and grant or deny them access to the school.
Categorized Visitors There are different reasons why a person may visit a school. For instance: book sellers, contractors, community representatives, invited speakers, parents and volunteers, talent scouts, temporary instructors, and others. The categorization is important because each reason for visit is different and this should help drive the decision when determining the visitors access level.
Specify Access to Areas: Part of visitor management at a school, includes specifying which areas visitors will not necessarily need access to and these should be classified as restricted areas. For example, the electrical room where power sub stations are harnessing high loads of amperes and voltage are too dangerous for an unqualify visitor to wander into. Furthermore, the policy should review and specify whether visitors are allowed to bringing cameras and small cell phones with camera functions into the school.
Wear Identification: Part of the visitor management while signing in at the entrance point, this would be the ideal place to issue a wearable pass to the visitor that would provide a visual indication so that school staff and students can recognize visitors and provide assistance should the need arise. More over the categorization and access level should determine the type of wearable identification for a visitor. Moreover, wearing a visitor pass would provide a visual cue for protecting sensitive areas that are off limits to visitors. The staff pass below is an actual example of a visitor pass template designed with FAST-PASS 7 and it illustrates the formatting ability to design a pass with different colors and font styles.
FAST-PASS 7 Visitor Management for School
Predators like to remain anonymous, but FAST-PASS 7 gives them an identity! The FAST-PASS 7 visitor management system acts as another layer of access control that can empower schools to identify visitors, determine suitable access, track their IN/OUT status within an educational facility or property, and store such activity with a date\time stamp. More specifically, the FAST-PASS 7 system has the ability to parse the data encoded from State issued drivers license, take a picture of the visitor standing at the desk, check the visitors ID against sex offender registry, and print a fully customized pass. Additionally, in some unfortunate cases, students or faculty members may be experiencing relationship challenges with a family member. In such cases, the FAST-PASS 7 can be configured to flag such individuals as “Deny Entry”. Upon their attempt to visit a student or faculty member, the system will display the photo of the “persona non-grata” so the school representative at the front desk can be informed, seconds later an email or MMS message can sent to notify the appropriate personnel and authorities to defuse any escalating situation.
At a glance, the new Dynamic Charts in FAST-PASS 7 will provide visual information with statistical standard chart types that include bar charts, pie charts, and histograms with auto color-coding and scaling to represent the data with proportionate size. As humans, vision is a dominant sense because we have the ability to take abstract information and derive relationships to uncover meaningful patterns in data.
Emergency Evacuation: In the event of an emergency, retrieve an electronic report to know which visitors are still on School? and on what area? and then send assistance to move them to safety.
End of Visit Status: Know when visitors are still on School and when they leave your school.
Proper Credentialing: Issuing visitor passes would allow contructions workers and employees the ability to quickly identify unauthorized visitors, and take immediate action to report them or escort them out of the restricted area.
Background Checks Against a Watchlist
The objective of background checks is to ensure safety and security for personnel within an organization. For safety and security reasons, these background checks are often performed to identify and screen potential risks that a visiting person may bring to a facility. To help with safety and security, FAST-PASS 7 provides the ability to perform a third-party background check of the person visiting a facility. For the third party watch list to work, the FAST-PASS 7 server will need access to the internet, so that it can access the third-party background check service. When the search is performed and if a match is found, then a list of records (i.e., names and photos) will appear. At that moment, the end user will have the option to make a comparison of the person standing in front and the matching records. If a match is identified, the end user will then proceed with the standard operating procedures defined by the organization.
Erci Moisa, MBA