Ask the Expert

For any office or campus environment to be truly secure, it is vital to keep out people with malicious intent. And that can be a difficult task in many situations, such as a busy corporate office or elementary school, where dozens of visitors come and go each day. Fortunately, there are ways a security director can increase the chances of stopping the bad guys at the door.

ISSUE: How should a company or school go about creating a visitor management plan?
SOLUTION:
Any organization that does not have a current visitor management plan in place should take the time to create and implement one now. It needs to be in writing, it needs to be shared with your employees, and it needs to be practiced on a regular basis.

When creating a plan, the first priority should be to address access points. Ideally, there should only be one entrance open to all visitors. Any other doors or docks should be kept locked to outside entry at all times or require the use of an access card.

Require that all employees wear a photo ID badge at all times while on the premises. After recording a visitor’s basic information— name and address at a minimum— from a government-issued identification card, provide the person with a temporary photo ID badge. There are visitor management systems available at moderate costs that can take a visitor’s photo and print an ID badge in less than a minute.

ISSUE: Visitor management is especially important on school grounds. How can schools manage guests and decrease the chance of malicious incidents?
SOLUTION:
Advise your employees to be vigilant about guests and to ensure that they are wearing an ID badge at all times. Ask them to challenge and question those not wearing one. Escort guests from the reception area straight to their destination so they cannot stray about the premises.

Intercoms may be used at entrance gates or loading docks to ensure that only scheduled visitors and vendors use an access point at appropriately determined times. Coupled with a camera, already a part of some intercom systems, this can be an effective tool to screen visitors to ensure that the people on the other end are who they claim to be.

The National Alert Registry estimates there are about 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. Each day, more than 700 children are reported abducted, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These figures make a good case for every elementary school to have a good visitor management plan in place.

The grounds should be locked during school hours so children cannot leave without an approved adult. All visitors and vendors should enter through one central access point. There also are background check systems available that can quickly compare a visitor’s identification with criminal and sex offender watch lists. If cleared, a temporary ID card (with picture) can be created quickly.

A visitor management plan should be an urgent priority for every business and school to integrate into their security procedures. Develop a plan, including technology solutions, with your systems integrator, write it down, and take time to share it with your employees so everyone is aware of and understands the new safety procedures.

READER QUESTION: I am overseeing the planning of a security system for our company’s new facility. It is a large office building that will have 20 to 24 cameras inside, along the perimeter and in the parking lot. We have a corporate network, so what would be a better choice for us as a recording device—a DVR or a network server?
SOLUTION:
There are some advantages and disadvantages to both solutions. The advantage to a network recorder is that you can take advantage of the investment made in the corporate network. Cameras can be added to the system using the network infrastructure. The storage of the video also can be managed using a server provided by your company. The disadvantage is that the video can use a lot of bandwidth and, if not configured properly, can slow down other applications. The other requirement is that the video storage server will need to be managed by someone internally. There is a lot of effort being put into the development of network video, and many enhancements and new offerings are still being developed. But network video is a viable solution and does work in the right environment.

Digital video recording is still a great solution. Most DVRs allow a combination of network and analog cameras. The big advantage is that the DVR can be installed and configured to work without much management. The DVR manages the storage of the video and allows the video to be accessed across the network from remote locations, similar to an NVR. DVR technology is a proven technology and can be used in most environments. One disadvantage is that DVRs are sized for a fixed number of cameras and adding additional cameras can be expensive.

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