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By Terry Swanson

Maintaining a secure facility starts with having a secure entrance, which is why many organizations are turning to visitor management solutions to help stop unwanted guests from gaining entry. Pen and paper sign-in sheets just don’t cut it when it comes to keeping accurate logs and validating visitor identities to ensure that everyone who enters a facility is supposed to be there. However, the marketplace is more crowded than many organizations may expect when searching for the right visitor management solution. Here are some key features to consider when selecting a visitor management tool.

Facial Recognition And ID Screening

Visitor Management Solutions
(Photo: Adobe Stock / zephyr_p)

With visitor management solutions, organizations can establish standard procedures for every guest that comes through their doors. This starts with each guest presenting a photo ID. Robust visitor management systems will be able to scan IDs against national sex offender databases and government watchlists as well as active legal injunctions and custom-banned visitor lists an organization may have in place. Systems that use facial recognition in conjunction with the personal information provided on the ID often have fewer false positives, meaning there is less manual intervention needed from someone at a front desk. This creates a secure and streamlined check-in process while identifying potential issues before they gain access to sensitive areas.

It is important to note that in some states, facial recognition software is banned, so it is crucial to find a solution that enables that option to be turned on or off depending on where a facility is located.

No Proprietary Hardware

Every facility entrance is different, which means flexibility is a must. Some visitor management systems require organizations to purchase proprietary hardware along with the software. This can limit where visitor check-in stations can go due to space limitations and even restrictions like the length of a cord that needs to be plugged in. What’s worse, if that proprietary hardware malfunctions or breaks, the software can become useless, meaning organizations are back to using pen and paper for checking in guests. Organizations should look for solutions that have no proprietary hardware requirements to take advantage of the flexibility to leverage hardware they already have, like tablets, laptops, and barcode scanners, and create a check-in process that works best in their environment.

Self Check-In

For facilities that anticipate a large number of visitors regularly or for a special event, self-check-in options can help streamline the process, reducing crowds and headaches. Anticipated guests can be sent a self-registration link ahead of their visit to complete the check-in steps before they arrive. They can also use their mobile device rather than the devices set up at a facility further simplifying the check-in process.

Multi-Site Insights

Some organizations need to manage multiple sites, and while they want every site to be secure, they don’t want to inconvenience guests by requiring check-ins at each facility if they need to visit multiple sites in a single day. Visitor management systems that offer multi-site insights enable organizations to conduct the check-in process once and see that the individual has been cleared when they visit other sites.

Visitor Management Solutions
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Monkey Business)


Mass Notification Integration

While many visitor management solutions have robust visitor screening capabilities, they do not always have the same robustness when it comes to sending alerts. Some solutions offer text and email alerts when a visitor is flagged, but those can be easily ignored or take too long for someone to notice and respond. Others will only alert the person at the front desk, leaving it up to them how to deal with a potentially volatile situation. The ability to integrate with a mass notification system can expand alerts to reach a wider audience with a greater variety of alerting methods, including audio and visual. Specific groups like security teams can receive alerts quickly, so they can intervene before issues escalate.

In addition, mass notification integration can also help keep permitted guests safe while visiting facilities. Once they check in, visitors can be automatically enrolled to receive alerts during their visit. This helps keep them informed if an incident arises during their time at a facility.

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Digital Record Keeping

One of the main advantages of a visitor management system is the ability to maintain digital records of guests rather than relying on paper and clipboards. This makes logs more accessible, gives organizations leaders into how many guests are in their facilities at a given time, and can be used during or after an incident to help keep track of who is in a building.

Additional Tools

Some visitor management solutions offer additional tools to help further enhance facility safety, like ways to manage safety drills. Being able to digitally plan, schedule, and assign safety drills helps facilities create records they can use to demonstrate compliance. It also helps minimize confusion by providing a single, easy-to-access source of truth for what drill to run, when to run it, and what steps need to be taken for it to be considered complete. This can help keep people prepared in case of an emergency and adds value to the visitor management system.

Facility threats can come in many forms. Being able to identify potential threats at the door provides a first line of defense to keep facilities and the people inside safe from harm.

Terry Swanson is the president and CEO of Singlewire Software.

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Facility Executive Magazine