The time is a little after 8am on a typical school day and the hallways are clear and quiet. In the classrooms, your teachers are steady discussing new subject matter as your students listen and learn at their desks. In the office, administrators are working diligently to complete their daily tasks.
At this very moment, how secure is your school campus from an unauthorized visitor?
School safety and visitor management have been hot topics for years. But since the tragedy that took place in Connecticut late last year, the spike in searches for effective solutions for keeping schools safe and tracking on-campus visitors have, not surprisingly, gone through the roof. What we find surprising is not as many schools as you might think actually have a sound visitor policy in place. Those that do seldom have more than a small directional sign that courteously [yet ineffectively] requests campus visitors go the office where they sign a logbook and are (sometimes) presented with a handwritten badge to wear.
At PlascoTrac, our regional sales managers visit hundreds of schools a year. That should mean hundreds of guarded doors, ID scans, and specific visitor badges. But in reality, feedback from our team indicates that we find that only about 30% of schools really follow a valid and strict visitor check-in procedure (a procedure where schools actually ask for your ID, scan it, and present you with a visitor badge). Another 30% have you voluntarily sign a logbook, and most shockingly, 40% don’t do anything at all.
So what are some best practices when it comes to securing your school and knowing exactly who is visiting on your campus? Check out the following “safe school” tips and consider the best way you can carry out these ideas at your school.
1) Implement a Strict Visitor Policy
The first step in securing your school is implementing a procedure that every visitor who walks through your door has to follow. Develop that policy based on your school’s set up and unique situation, and then stick with it.
One of our customers, Harry D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin, IL, has a very strict and effective visitor policy:
“We buzz visitors into the building and monitor the cameras as they come in. They then have to go straight to the main office to sign in, get scanned, and receive a visitor pass from the system.” says Regan Smith, a Supervisor at Jacobs H.S.
It would be ideal to have a single entrance for visitors to come in and out throughout the day. This door should be guarded by a staff person who stands inside the door ready to check in visitors. Take a cue from Edwin G. Foreman High School, in Chicago where everyone is stopped at the door and you will not get in without a valid photo ID:
“Visitors must have a photo ID and are liable to be searched,” explains Mr. McClenty Robinson, the Assistant Principal at Foreman. “They are asked to sign in right there at the door with security.”
If you have a gate and can take it a step further, keep it locked during slow hours and manned to stop visitors before getting into the school. For more visitor management tips, read about the extra security steps being taken by this school district in Pennsylvania. (full article)
2) Be Prepared For The Complaints
Be prepared for visitors who may not like this more strict policy. Some will complain the policy is “too extreme” or makes the school like a prison, or that it takes too long, or that the office gets too crowded, or any number of objections. Make sure to take the time to explain to them that your policy is in place to protect everyone, including them.
“A few parents might complain [about the extra security measures],” says Smith. “But most are appreciative that we are going through all this. We help them understand that it’s all to keep their kids safe.”
3) Obtain a Visitor Management System
After you have established a procedure, the next step is procuring a system to help you sign in and track every visitor on your campus. Gone should be the days when it is sufficient to have everyone sign a logbook and then receive a generic or handwritten badge. A visitor management system will allow you to scan your visitor’s ID, classify visitor type, capture and store a photo, enter the location he or she is allowed to visit, and print a temporary badge that contains all of these details. At the same time, you can also check against the registered sex offender database and/or set up custom watch lists to flag unwanted visitors.
PlascoTrac offers a visitor management solution that gives you an extra level of security to keep your students and faculty safe. Manage who is coming on and off your campus at any given time with PlascoTrac Visitor. Additional information on PlascoTrac Visitor designed specifically for K-12 Schools.
“With a Visitor Management system like [Hero Visitor Manager], the badge prints with the date, time, picture, destination and who they are here to see and we can keep a record of this information,” says Robinson.
He feels the issue with generic visitor badges is you can get them anywhere. Some one could actually be walking around with a fake badge that he or she carried in. At any point during the day every visitor should have been tracked in the system and be wearing a badge. If someone is walking around your school that you don’t recognize or they aren’t wearing a visitor badge, you know to question that person and ask him or her to check in with security or at the office.
Keeping the students and staff at your school safe is no doubt a top priority. We hope the tips shared here have been helpful to you, now please share with us. What is your school or district’s visitor management policy? Let us know in the comments section below.
For additional resources and tips, check out the following articles regarding school security from American School & University.