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12/15/2008 12:00:00 AM

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Visitor Management Systems Become More Sophisticated

Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

Before 9/11, visitor management systems were relatively simple. In many buildings, it wasn't unusual for visitor management to consist of anything more than a clipboard and sign-in sheet.

Today, things are different. Visitor management policies have become more sophisticated. With that change has come a series of visitor management systems, which allow occupants to pre-register visitors, who are then given a badge which must be returned when they leave.

What's more, in many federal high-rises, or other buildings with many visitors, a dedicated visitor management station exists so as not to slow the entry of regular building occupants.

In some cases, visitors can have access controlled by floor, controlled by the credential they are issued when they enter a building. Updates in visitor management systems are making this task much easier.

As visitor management systems improve, and scanning solutions make it easy to scan a driver’s license or business card, and print a sticker that can be applied to an access control card, visitor management and access control are becoming interdependent much more often.

Visitor management software can also save the scanned identification so that upon the visitor’s next visit, an ID can be waiting. Software that is integrated with the corporate Intranet can allow occupants to log on right from their workstations and send a request for a badge or card that can be preprinted before a visitor arrives.

New software allows customization of the badges or cards, so facility executives can create visitor badges or cards that look completely different than those of the regular occupants. That way, visitors are easily identified. Also, the access control system can be programmed with permissions so that access to certain areas can be restricted for visitors. Of course, permissions can always be changed if a certain visitor is authorized to enter a particular area. That visitor’s card would just need to be reprogrammed.

Many access control systems already have visitor management modules included, but independent visitor management systems exist that can be integrated with an existing access control system. Getting them to work together is just a matter of matching the type of credential used by the occupants with a visitor management software program that will work with that type of credential.

For instance, if a driver’s license is scanned and a badge sticker printed, that sticker can usually be placed on a magnetic strip, RFID or other type of card, and that card can be preprogrammed by the access control system to identify the person as a visitor. Unless a special card has been designed to identify visitors, the card will look exactly the same as those carried by the occupants.

In addition to the software and integration with the access control system, competent, trained and dedicated staff is required to ensure the visitor management system’s success. It’s also important, in high-traffic areas, to make sure the person handling visitors isn’t also answering phones, receiving deliveries, distributing mail or performing other tasks. And, of course, the more user-friendly the visitor management system, the better chance that the policy will be successful.

Sources:
Weighing the Options for Access Control and Evacuation Strategies by Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor

De Facto Standards by Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor

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