You’re walking through your facility when you come across someone you don’t recognize. They appear to be busy, and their task looks legitimate, but you don’t know them. How do you respond? Do you ask them for a visitor’s badge? Do you call security and ask them to check the visitors’ log?
If you’re unable to take either of those actions — if your organization does not have a reliable visitor log or badging system that instantly tells you who a person in your facility is, it’s time to improve your visitor management system.
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What is visitor management?
First, some definitions. While a visitor management has some things in common with an access control system, the two systems are not the same.
- Access control is a system which selectively restricts access to your facility, or areas of your facility, depending upon a user’s clearance level. Access control systems apply to everyone who enters a facility, from the CEO to a visitor.
- Visitor management is a system which grants access to and monitors people who are strictly visitors.
These two systems can work independently, or the visitor management system might be part of a larger access control system. The trouble is that sometimes, access control gets more attention than visitor management, or a company decides that because they have an access control system, they don’t need to worry so much about visitor management.
A visitor management system, however, can help keep everyone in your facility safe. If there’s a fire or another emergency, a visitor management system can tell your security team who exactly is on campus. If a visitor causes a problem, a good visitor management system will let security instantly call up the name of the troublemaker.
Below are some tips that will help you set up an effective visitor management system.
Are there alternatives to security guards? Find out here.
Best practices for visitor management
Badges are one of the cornerstones of a good visitor management system. You need well-marked badges to show that a visitor is someone who is just on site temporarily. Their badges should be easily distinguishable from those of employees — maybe they’re a different color, for example. Yet this will only work if your company culture is that all individuals, employees, contractors, vendors, and visitors, must have their badges on and visible.
You should also have a consistent way of managing those badges. Some organizations print out new badges just for visitors, and some have a temporary sticker that expires after a specific amount of time. The best practice is that the organization requires visitors to surrender their badges when they leave the building, even if it’s just for lunch, and issue a new badge when the visitor returns.
Additional best practices are to not have the company logo on a visitor badge.This is because if a visitor leaves without returning a badge, your company’s name logo might grant site access to a criminal. You can use a generic and easily identifiable icon, if you need to put some identifying logo on it. Additionally add a P.O. Box number so that rogue badges can be returned anonymously. If a guest does walk off with a badge, you should contact them and ask them to return it. If they don’t, have a policy in the event of their return. But to track down badges, you need a working visitor log.
Keeping a Visitor Log
While a visitor log can technically be any list of visitors to a site, the best practice is that your organization keep a computerized log, not a written log. Written logs are unreliable, often-illegible, not easily searchable, and simple to steal or tamper with. You may also need copies of your log for liability purposes, and that’s much easier when your visitor’s log is computerized.
Your log should contain your visitor’s name, the date and time of visit, the reason for visiting or their contact’s name, and their badge number. You should also verify a person’s identity with a state or federally issued photo identification. You may also choose to include other information that will make them easier to locate in an emergency (such as a fire) or if they don’t return their badge.
More best practices for visitors
Your visitors might not work for you, but they should know your organization’s rules and they should be escorted by an employee or security while they’re at your facility — especially if they’re in a restricted area. This can be a review of policies such as the use of cell phones while driving on-site, taking photographs and protecting intellectual property, or even a no weapons policy. Consider using training software to educate visitors when they arrive on-site for the first time, or if a policy changes.
You should also have an easily monitored parking area for visitors. This will protect them, but also allow you to monitor their vehicles in case of theft. Consider using license plate recognition software to monitor vehicles as they enter and leave your site.
Best Practice: Why is policy review so important to security?
Why is visitor management so important?
There are multiple reasons for a quality visitor management system, including liability to investigations. Some examples are:
- If there’s a theft, you need to know who has been in your building to perform investigations.
- If there's a threat, like an active shooter, you need to be able to get everyone out of the building quickly and safely and account for them.
A well thought-out visitor management system, can help keep everyone in your facility both safe and accountable.
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