The Final Piece of the Security Puzzle?
Organisations risk compromising security by failing to monitor and limit visitor access, warns Vanquish Integrated People Solutions' operations director, Christian Berenger.
Ask any facility manager about their site's security precautions and it's a fair bet they will start by discussing manned security, followed by access control, CCTV and perimeter fencing.
Yet many overlook the significant security risks that are posed during working hours by the large number of authorised visitors to a typical commercial building.
Even in small, multi-occupancy commercial premises, the likelihood of everyone knowing everyone else is slim - and is compounded by the constant flow and ebb of visitors who are there for legitimate purposes (which typically include business meetings, collections and deliveries, and the provision of services necessary for building upkeep).
Dispensing with manual systems
Facilities Management (FM) providers are under a duty of care to secure the safety and security of everyone who is on-site, and failing to do so will usually also violate the terms of insurance policies.
Health and Safety regulations mean companies may face civil lawsuits if visitors are injured as a result of breaching any duty of care, whereas non-compliance will also leave them to criminal prosecution in the United Kingdom - with serious fines for any individuals who are deemed by courts to be responsible for acts of neglect.
When it comes to recording visitor attendances, most organisations continue to contribute unknowingly to potentially dangerous situations by relying on traditional pen and paper systems to record who is on-site at any given time. Indeed, it remains a common practice for visitors to be directed to a ubiquitous ‘signing in’ book and simply asked to record their name and time of arrival.
Paper-based systems may be quick and easy, however, they hinder security and are vulnerable by the very ease with which visitor information can be recorded erroneously or manipulated (indeed, even accurate information is often difficult to decipher).
Secondly, check-out times are not always requested or enforced, making it hard to account for everybody in the event of an emergency situation.
Finally, confidential information about visitors is readily accessible to anyone.
As important entry points into buildings, reception areas really do require robust and streamlined systems for mitigating security risks.
Moving to an automated Visitor Management software system removes the possibility of human error and streamlines security processes to re-establish reception as the first line of defence for employees and visitors.
The concept of self-service is at the heart of today’s systems and enables organisations to benefit from a semi- or fully- unmanned reception area.
Touchscreen terminals reduce the registration process to a matter of seconds, capturing detailed information whilst providing an opportunity to engage with visitors.
Simple step-by-step instructions verify whether the individual is expected and capture pertinent information such as name, company arrival time, reason for visiting and car registration number. Meanwhile messages can be configured to inform visitors of fire drill procedures and the identity the fire marshal and first aider on site for that particular day.
Once a visitor provides all required information, a badge can be automatically printed and an email notification alert pinged to their host, announcing their arrival.
The individual’s attendance is automatically uploaded to a central database, allowing managers to gain a clear and accurate view of exactly who is on on-site at any given time and to whom, or what task, they are assigned to.
Additionally, the visitor is automatically logged on to a live fire roll call so managers can instantly account for every individual in the event of an emergency and, importantly, the person they are associated with.
Should a fire break out, an automatic roll call report can be sent out to a designated printer of emailed to a fire marshal on the alarm being triggered so emergency services can determine exactly who was on site at the time of the incident.
Security through integration
Whilst a standalone visitor management system is a big improvement on any paper system in distinguishing visitors and why they are present, organisations need to adopt holistic approach to site security and consider how visitor management can be integrated with other systems on their infrastructure to tighten security.
Integration with access control allows visitor movements to be tracked and entry to sensitive areas restricted at all times.
Individual access levels can be determined by door, date and time so visitors only have access to areas they require.
Adding biometric terminals to the mix, such as hand or fingerprint recognition, also adds an extra level of security. The terminals work by recording and storing an algorithm of an individual’s finger or hand, with the same credential then used to automate the check-in process for repeat visitors and gain access to doors.
By combining biometrics and access control, managers can quickly track their whereabouts on site and pinpoint their exact location by referring to the data to see the last door they activated.
Security is maintained at all times. Even if visitors mistakenly fail to clock out properly on departure, the fact that the visitor management system is integrated with access control means they will be denied access after a specified time and date has expired if they attempt to return.
In addition to managing and safeguarding visitors, an efficient Visitor Management system can also help facilities organisations to better monitor and enforce Service Level Agreements with third party contractors.
Scheduling functions enable managers to enrol the entire lifecycle of a contractors’ planned visit in advance.
Looking at a multi-tenancy building again as an example, a contractor booked to carry out a repair on the centre’s air-conditioning system can be pre-registered into the system and this information shared with clients on site so they are fully aware of the impending visit.
Meanwhile the data generated provides a complete historical audit trail of all visits on site, from which managers can analyse the contractor’s performance over a period of time.
Using the data managers can quickly determine the last time the air conditioning system was serviced, who carried it out and when, and whether the contractor has kept to their service intervals.
Visitor Management isn’t a difficult process yet many organisations get it horribly wrong because they simply don’t pay enough attention to the threat posed by this group of people. Subsequently many have had to ‘make do’ with manual systems.
But visitors should not be overlooked. They provide a very real and imminent threat which needs mitigating from the moment they step through the front door.
Access Control, CCTV and manned security all have a role to play. Visitor management represents the final piece in the jigsaw to ensure there is no weak link in security.