7 visitor policy basics to keep your school safe
by Paul Kazlauskas
To help ensure the security of your students and staff, we recommend that you badge every visitor to your school. According to Ken Trump, President & CEO of the National School Safety & Security Services, "visitor identification should be mandatory in all schools; visitors should be issued a clearly visible identification tag to be worn at all times that they are on school premises."
School security is serious business and visitor identification is just one element that administrators have to consider when developing a school visitor policy. Please see our 7 visitor policy basics to help keep schools safe and secure.
1. Document school visitor traffic using visitor management software.
Visitor management software (VMS) is an electronic version of the visitor sign-in sheet (or visitor log book) that has been used in facilities for years and is being implemented more frequently in schools across the country. While more expensive than a traditional sign-in log book, visitor management software offers a more efficient and full-proof sign-in process. It is the most secure way to sign in visitors that come to your school and a very affordable way to improve the visitor management and security of your campus. Document every visitor. Every. Single. Time. Even if you know the person. See our past blog post to learn about what kinds of information should be captured for every visitor. Visitor management software allows you to:
- Know who is in the school at any day/time.
- Provide a standard way to register visitors.
- Print professional-looking visitor badges that include critical information.
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2. Require every visitor to wear a badge while on school grounds.
It is not enough to simply document the visitor’s arrival at the building. Your staff won’t have to wonder who a stranger is, roaming their halls, if the visitor is wearing a visitor badge. Some visitor badges change color overnight to prevent reuse. These extra secure visitor badges provide a visual alert to the security staff or employees that a person’s presence should be questioned.
3. Distinguish between kinds of visitors.
The electronic visitor management system mentioned above will provide your guests with a visitor badge to clearly identify them as such. Clearly identifying the type of visitor will allow anyone encountering that person to know if they are allowed to be in any given area. Parents, vendors, contractors, substitute teachers, student teachers, and temporary workers are all categories of badge titles for schools to consider using.
4. Publish visitor policy content on your website.
A school website is the perfect place to communicate your visitor policy to the public. Such messages include:
- Visitor responsibilities – this includes the visitor sign-in policy of the school, if a visitor should wear a badge while on school grounds, and any requirement to check out when leaving the building.
- Directions for getting to the school
- Where to park
- What entrance to use
- Regular school hours and after-hours policies
- In-facility cell phone policy
- Special restrictions of certain areas of the school
5. Direct visitors where to go.
School visitors should be welcomed as long as their reason for being there is legitimate. Funnel visitors to one entrance. A clearly marked single entrance, with access control restrictions on other doors, will help security protocol. Upon entering the school building and getting registered by the visitor management system, the visitor should be directed – or, better yet, escorted – to the room, area, or people that they are there to see.
6. Train teachers and staff about the school’s visitor policy/procedure.
Decide on a visitor authorization protocol. Determine who has the authority to approve visitors to the school. Once you’ve created a school-wide visitor policy, it is imperative to train your staff. Training and periodic drills will ensure your security staff, teachers, and other employees are familiar with and confident in the security policies in place. This training includes a clear set of guidelines that covers how employees are supposed to act. Topics include everything from what to do if they see an undocumented visitor to what to do if they see a fellow co-worker violating a procedure. A comprehensive visitor policy should also take into account which areas of the school building are open to visitors and which are not.
7. Consider pre-enrollment.
Pre-enrolling frequent visitors, like parents and vendors, into the visitor management system ahead of time will cut down on registration times. When that person comes back to the school again, their information will be found in the database and will not have to be reentered or have their driver’s license rescanned.
What additional security components and other ideas should be considered when developing a school visitor policy? Please join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
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Posted on 3/19/2019