Texas communities received a reminder of the risks our schools face during a recent school shooting drill in San Antonio. During the drill, first responders and area hospitals practiced responding to a mass casualty situation in a high school. This worst-case scenario is a constant concern for school administrators, and they rely on high-tech options like shooter detection and enhanced surveillance to guard against it. And one of the most critical components of school security is visitor management.
A visitor management system for schools controls daily foot traffic while also speeding response in the event of an incident. Such programs allow administrators to keep tabs on who is on their campus at any given moment. Combining these systems with other components like surveillance, shooter detection, intrusion alarms and critical communications creates a streamlined response plan that can manage threats of any size.
The Basics of Visitor Management Systems for Schools
School entryways are always busy. Even after students arrive and class is in session, there will be parents, temporary employees, guest speakers and more stopping by the front desk. Many schools use outdated paper sign-in methods which can’t track these individuals as they travel through the school. This method, while low cost, is also low tech and can leave schools vulnerable to increased potential risks.
Electronic access control coupled with credentials doesn’t just control entry. It also allows schools to follow how people move once on the premises. This works by combining several components:
- Door locks and alarms. Doors fitted with magnetic locking mechanisms keep unauthorized individuals out of secure areas. Alarms on fire doors and alternative entryways prevent individuals from sneaking in the back. Meanwhile, primary entryways can be set to automatically unlock at a specific time, like when students arrive in the morning.
- Entry cards or apps. ID cards allow teachers and other personnel to move throughout the building and access restricted areas based on permission levels. In instances where administrators worry about the cost of replacement cards, they can go higher tech and use mobile apps instead. Once scanned at an entry point, the credential tells the system who entered and when.
- Video surveillance. IP video cameras allow administrators to add surveillance to even difficult to fit spaces. These cameras transmit images wirelessly, so administrators can review footage from anywhere. Sophisticated programs provide video overlays which can use existing system data to identify individuals on screen. Such overlays help in investigations of incidents, as footage is tagged and categorized.
- Critical communications. Call stations help administrators to act on suspicious individuals on premises from anywhere. These systems are also crucial in the event of an incident, as they are a direct connection to outside help.
Working together, the data from these individual systems flows into a visitor management database. The database offers a digital path based on the individual’s movements. Through integrated systems, school administrators can control access and react in the event of a breach.
Streamlining School Access Control Databases
The key is to maintain a comprehensive visitor management system without falling prey to information bloat, which is one of the most significant problems in any database. In schools particularly, turnover is high in both students and faculty, and there may be thousands of access passes in a given system, not to mention visitors who need temporary passes. Permissions in the database must be up-to-date to protect students.
For schools, there needs to be a way to integrate an alert system into visitor management which warns schools when a prohibited individual tries to access campus. A good way to do this is to integrate visitor management with other software like human resources databases. Through this integration, schools can automate the add/drop process for permissions.
We recently saw a good example of this kind of high-level integration in a recent case in a Tennessee elementary school. The school had integrated their visitor management program with the national sex offender registry. An individual accompanied someone else to register a student, and the system flagged him as a sex offender from Missouri. Employees monitored him until police arrived and arrested him. This event provides a sophisticated example of the usefulness of such systems, but it also works for everyday concerns.
The school should be able to establish alerts in the visitor management system for individuals who may be threats. These individuals may include disgruntled employees and anyone who’s threatened the school. The moment one of these individuals attempts to access campus, the visitor management system will discreetly alert school officials so they can call for help. This process allows for rapid intervention and de-escalation of issues.
A visitor management system for schools can automate tracking of visitors so administrators can keep an eye on everyone on a busy campus. It can alert them to issues immediately, which speeds response time in the event of an incident. Credentialing programs support visitor management by offering temporary access which can be revoked as needed. Combining school security resources is the best way to control hallway foot traffic while protecting students and staff.
3Sixty Integrated assists school administrators in developing solutions that automate many critical security functions, like checking in visitors and alerting authorities of incidents. Our expert engineers design with the safety of students and staff in mind, while minimizing academic disruptions. For more information, call (210) 504-1731 or fill out our contact form.