How to perform contact tracing with visitor management systems
District leaders can use their preexisting visitor management system solutions for school contact tracing in addition to their intended use, which includes checking visitor backgrounds for criminal offenses and creating detailed records of all approved visitors.
While some systems can now receive software upgrades specifically for contact tracing, not all solutions have this option, but many models feature reporting functions that school officials can access and pull together manually to keep everyone in their buildings safer even if the process takes longer.
“Prior to shutdowns, a school in Johnson City, Tennessee, became aware of a COVID case and used their visitor management system to perform school contact tracing,” says Jim Vesterman, chief executive officer at Raptor Technologies, a provider of school safety software and sign-in systems for visitor management. “They went back into their visitor logs and found out when this person entered and left the building, who else was in the building at the time and what their destination was.”
Creating contactless solutions
Schools can also make their visitor management systems contactless by reconfiguring the system setup and overall layout at check-in. “Usually visitors have handed their IDs at check in to a school employee behind the main desk who runs the ID through a scanner, which is a standard piece of equipment on visitor management systems,” says Paul Timm, a board-certified Physical Security Professional, a credential provided by ASIS International, a professional organization for security professionals. “Schools should put that scanner in front of the desk instead of behind the desk so that the visitor can place it in themselves.”
Likewise, if an ID is printed for the visitor, visitors should create the ID badge themselves rather than the check-in employee. The device that prints out ID information should therefore be located in front of the desk.
“We advocate leaving the backing on the ID’s sticker and sliding it in a holder that hangs on a sanitized colored breakaway lanyard,” says Timm who is also president of FEA (formerly RETA Security), a firm that provides school security consulting services.
K-12 leaders can alert visitors of this new procedure by hanging posters outside school buildings at the entranceway and alert families on parent notification systems. “As a parent, I would be really glad to know what procedures are going to look like instead of being surprised when I get there,” says Timm, a nationally acclaimed expert in school security.
He continues, “We have to pay attention more than we used to and there are tools that allow us to do this.”
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