When an Excluded Visitor Creates a Disruption

If you’ve established a visitor control process for your business, school, or church, good for you. Being aware of who is entering your premises and making sure you keep people who don’t belong there from getting in is one of the best ways you can ensure the security and well-being of the people you want to protect.

Whether you use technology like SafeVisitor or have some kind of manual system or list that identifies people who should be denied access, eventually you’re going to encounter a situation in which someone who’s on that list will demand entry. How you and your front desk staff react will make a significant difference in how the situation will play out -- whether the unwanted visitor leaves on his or her own, or whether things escalate to the point of violence or arrest.

The most important thing you can do is plan and train before the situation occurs. If you haven’t prepared for the inevitable moment when you need to inform someone that he or she can’t come in, you or your staff won’t know how to act effectively. The wrong actions can quickly turn a simple disagreement into a traumatic event.

Part of that training will be strategies for staying calm and dealing with the individual in a polite manner. Someone who is being refused access to your premises is likely to become angry, highly emotional, and even agitated. If they’re met with anger and yelling from your staff, that response will quickly escalate. It’s also a wise idea to have a backup person nearby who can respond right away if it’s clear the unwanted visitor is becoming agitated.

The visitor may not be aware that he or she isn’t allowed in your facility, so the first step is to gently and politely explain that they cannot come in because of your policies. Your employees shouldn’t make it seem as though they’ve made that decision on their own. Instead, they can say (for example), “The school district has a policy that people who have been placed on the no-visit list cannot come into our school, and your name is on that list.” They can also explain who the visitor can contact with questions or to obtain more information.

 Some unwelcome visitors may be on such a list because of domestic violence or custody issues, such as a noncustodial parent illegally trying to contact his or her child at school. They may be aware that such contact is prohibited, but in their anger and frustration, they’re willing to take a chance. It’s also possible that their name is on the list as the result of human error. It’s important that the person at your front desk not try to resolve the issue on his or her own, because that can create a distraction and shift the visitor’s anger to that person. Give the individual the contact information, ask them to leave, and allow them to take care of it.

Visitors who are angry may begin to raise their voices or yell at your front desk staff in an effort to intimidate or frighten them. Often, they’ll create a disruption to gain sympathy from onlookers or in the hope that your staff will let them in to avoid an embarrassing situation. Train your staff to hold their ground and contact security or law enforcement if the level of anger increases. The same is true of an unwanted visitor simply refuses to leave.

 If the individual appears to have a serious mental health issue, is incoherent, or appears likely to become violent, your best strategy is an immediate call to law enforcement as a precaution. While police officers and paramedics will tell you that dealing with individuals who have mental health issues is one of the more unpleasant parts of their jobs, they do have training and experience that you and your staff probably lack. First responders would rather you err on the side of safety than risk having a situation become more dangerous.

Finally, teach your front desk staff to trust their gut. When a visitor’s presence or actions make them feel uneasy, there’s probably a good reason for it. It’s better to call for assistance early in the process than to find themselves in a situation that quickly worsens.

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Visitor Management: How Well Do You Trust Vendors in Your Facilities?

You take pride in the way you control access to your building. Your employees wear badges that double as access cards. When salespeople show up, they’re required to sign in and have to be escorted back to an office. Your receptionist is a tiger when it comes to enforcing those rules.

 So who just walked past your office? Oh, it’s the fire extinguisher guy, doing his monthly inspection. Takes him a couple hours to work his way through the entire building. Or maybe it was the Bobby the plumber, who’s here to fix the leaky valve on that urinal. Could have been the guy who restocks the vending machines -- you’re always amazed at how much candy and how many soft drinks your team goes through in a week.

 You make sure employees are identified and you keep an eye on those occasional visitors. But to me, it looks like maintenance and other service people wander anywhere they want without a second thought on your part. Oh sure, your receptionist would never let them past her desk without getting a signature and clipping on a visitor’s pass, but once they’re in the building, nobody pays much attention.

 Does that make you nervous? Not really? You’re giving these people who you may not know all that well unlimited access to your entire building. They stroll into important areas, past tables and desks loaded with proprietary and confidential information, and around cubicles where employees leave purses and expensive technology. They’re free to interact with any of your employees. They have access to restrooms, stairwells, and other out-of-sight places.

 You’ve known Bobby for better than a decade. He’s the most reliable plumber you’ve found, and you hope they guy never retires. Bobby brought a helper today. You don’t know his helper, but Bobby would never hire anyone unreliable. If you knew more, you’d learn that the helper attends Bobby’s church and was hired at the pastor’s request because he needed some guidance and support. He’s 23 and has already done four stints at the county jail. Handful of thefts, narcotics … stuff like that.

 The fire extinguisher guy is pretty quiet, but very diligent and efficient. You haven’t noticed that he has an eye for the ladies, particularly the young, friendly pair in customer service. You trust that the fire safety vendor has vetted him thoroughly, but their bargain background check missed that arrest for a sex offense that his attorney pleaded down to a lesser charge.

 If you looked in the empty cases the vending machine guy wheeled back to his truck, you’d notice they’re not always empty. He hasn’t taken anything really valuable … well, not yet … but he thinks it’s okay to help himself to things. What your employees assume they’ve misplaced has actually been stolen, and it’s been happening for years.

 What kind of screening do your vendors perform when hiring someone? How often do they take a closer look at their existing employees? If you can’t answer those questions, you have no idea whether your business and your employees are safe from those friendly service people. You’re simply assuming that your vendors are as careful about hiring as you are, and I think that’s a pretty dangerous assumption.

 So what can you do to protect yourself? First, find out exactly what your vendors and service providers are doing to ensure their employees deserve your trust. If their vetting process does not make you completely comfortable, perhaps it’s time to initiate a process of your own. One possible approach is to use our SafeVendor visitor system, which requires vendors to register before they enter your facility and allows us to perform a background check so you know if there’s a reason to be wary. It also issues badges and tracks who’s in your facilities (which is handy if an emergency occurs).

 Second, give serious thought to limiting access for those vendors or service people. That may involve assigning an escort to bring them to the area where work is being performed and possibly even remaining with them while they handle their tasks. Or it may be that you allow them to occupy specified areas for specified time periods. If the plumber is making a repair in the first-floor men’s room, he shouldn’t have any reason to be upstairs.

 Letting vendors and maintenance people wander freely through your building is like creating a big safety net and cutting large holes in it. You and your employees deserve better.

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Metal Detectors Aren't a Magical Safety Solution

There are no two ways about it: school shootings are terrifying. Students, parents, teachers, and communities are horrified by the thought of someone violating what we’ve always thought of as one of our safest spaces by firing a weapon with the intent to kill.

Criminologists point to statistics confirming that the number of such shootings really isn’t on the rise, noting that schools continue to be among the safest places for young people. Still, given the explosion of media and social media coverage, the average person can’t be faulted for thinking America faces some kind of violent new epidemic.

After this spring’s highly publicized incidents in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas, and another in Noblesville, Indiana -- not far from our company’s offices -- there’s been an outcry calling for “hardening” school buildings to thwart potential shooters. In particular, many well-meaning people have insisted that the best solution is to place metal detectors at the doors of all schools. Indiana’s Governor recently made hand-held metal detectors available to all of the state’s schools at no cost to the districts.

Metal detectors have their place in security, but they’re not the foolproof or magical solution many advocates believe them to be. First, metal detectors are personnel-intensive devices. To provide adequate protection, they have to be staffed any time anyone enters the building. That not only includes the times when large groups of students are arriving for school, but throughout the day, and for high schools, into the evening and weekends.

If the swim team arrives for practice at 5:30 a.m., somebody has to be there to scan the members and their gym bags. If practice for the spring musical runs all evening, someone has to be there to scan all the participants. The same goes for sporting events. If there’s any gap in scanning, it creates an opportunity for someone to smuggle a weapon into the building and place it in a locker or other location for later access.

Not only do trained people have to be on hand to perform the scans, there has to be an established process when the detector identifies a suspicious person or object. Who will be responsible for frisking students or searching their bags? Will that interfere with the flow of students coming into the school?

Nor are all weapons made of metal. Even with every door protected by a metal detector, students could bring weapons made of wood, plastic, or other materials without detection. That creates a false sense of security.

Finally, if metal detectors placed at building entrances create a crowd of students who are waiting outside to get into the building to be scanned, that crowd becomes what’s known as a “soft” target. It would be easy for someone on the school grounds or in a nearby vehicle to open fire into that crowd with a weapon and inflict mass casualties. That individual wouldn’t even need a gun -- choosing instead to mimic the actions of terrorists in Europe and elsewhere who have simply driven vehicles into crowds.

It isn’t that metal detectors are inherently bad. But they’re not a panacea that will eliminate school shootings. Parents and others want a simple, easy-to-implement strategy to secure their children’s schools, and such an option just doesn’t exist. If it did, law enforcement officials would be leading the movement to use it. The fact that you don’t see police departments and law enforcement experts pushing for simple solutions like metal detectors is that they know better.

Effective school security encompasses several components, many of which can’t be purchased from suppliers. One of the most important is awareness of the hazards and having systems for alerting the authorities to potential threats. In nearly every major school shooting, we’ve later learned that the shooter had made threats or shared plans in advance, yet that information was never passed along to those responsible for security. Schools need a means through which people can safely report concerns about individuals.

In addition, it’s important to address visitor access. In the Parkland incident, the shooter was a former student who had no reason to be in the school, yet he easily gained access to commit his violent act. Would the outcome have been different if he had to obtain access to the building through the office and obtain a pass? Any answer is just speculation, but it’s worth thinking about.

Students and teachers need to be protected, but demanding simple solutions isn’t going to provide safety for everyone. The real answer is replacing rhetoric and social media chatter with thoughtful planning by professionals.

Learn more about school safety best practices.  Contact us.

How a Warrior Views Your Facility

I’m a former big-city violent crimes detective and my wife is also a retired police officer. When we go out to a restaurant, we enter into a little competition that’s so instinctive neither of us notices it’s happening. We both try to grab the seat with the best view of the entire restaurant and its doors, and the loser of that little battle remains just a little uneasy throughout the meal.

If you’ve ever been dining in the neighborhood coffee shop and several uniformed cops come in to grab lunch or dinner, you’ll notice that most walk right past the “prime” tables and take those in the far corner of the room. I’ve conducted many training sessions for law enforcement, and invariably, the first to arrive instinctively take seats in the back corners of the room.

All that behavior is related to what some call a “warrior mentality.” Training and experience combine to heighten awareness of place, environment, and activity. At meals when my wife gets the better seat, I might notice her attention shift for a moment, which tells me that something out of the ordinary has caught her eye. Maybe a couple at another table is in the early stages of what appears to be an argument. Maybe someone who seems out of place has walked in the door and is looking around suspiciously. No matter the reason, her senses have shifted to a higher level of awareness, so she’ll be quicker to react if something happens.

Once that warrior mentality becomes ingrained, you can’t shut it off. Even when I’m sitting in church, I always know where I am in relation to the emergency exit that’s closest to the kids’ area. If something were to happen, I’d be through that door and next to my kids in a heartbeat. When most people go to the mall, they’re looking at displays of merchandise. I’m watching the people around me, looking for anything that just doesn’t seem right.

Some might think that’s a paranoid approach, but it’s not based on imaginary threats. I’ve seen and experienced enough to know that there are real threats out there, and it’s been my sworn responsibility to protect the community from those threats. It was that way when I carried a badge and it’s at the heart of why our company exists.

Adopting a warrior mentality can help you in two different ways. First, it will improve your own protection. If you practice enhancing your awareness of everyday situations, it becomes a habit. You may never encounter a situation in which your personal safety is threatened, but if something does happen, you’ll have more time to prepare and react. People who lack that kind of awareness often freeze in an emergency because their minds are focused on processing what they’re seeing. They think “what should I do?” when the warriors among them think “what needs to be done?” and then do it.

The second way a warrior mentality helps is that it will give you a framework through which you can evaluate the security of your facilities. Whether you’re responsible for an office, a warehouse, a middle school, or a suburban church, spend some time walking through the building and thinking about how a threat may present itself. Then ask yourself how you or anyone else would behave if that threat were to happen. How would they get out, and where would they congregate once outside?

Next, look at the building the way someone who wanted to carry out that threat might do. If a shooter wanted to target a large group, which door would he enter? If someone wanted to steal from your employees, how easy would it be to do that? If an estranged husband wanted to reach his wife who worked or worshipped in your facility, what’s there to deter him?

Once you start looking at facilities through those warrior eyes, you’ll begin to rethink how you do things. For example, your church may want to present a welcoming image to attendees and visitors, but do you really need to leave six exterior doors wide open all Sunday morning? Would it be better to funnel traffic through a couple of entryways and have a “greeter” or two stationed at each who’s eyeing the folks who walk in? A simple deterrent like that may make someone who plans to cause trouble think twice.

You can invest in all sorts of security systems, but one of the most powerful and effective is one you were born with: your eyes. Train them to see like a warrior, and those for whom you’re responsible will be much safer.

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Is your security toolkit complete?

One of the things that separates law enforcement professionals from average civilians is how the two groups approach a situation. When the average person walks into a building, his or her attention tends to be focused solely on the destination or the purpose for the visit. But when a police officer enters the same building, he or she instinctively scans in every direction, looking for any potential threat sources, mapping out escape routes, and evaluating what’s happening.

Similarly, when businesses or organizations talk about security, they tend to talk about specific things. Maybe we need cameras. Or a badge system. Or a stronger door. But when those of us who have worked in law enforcement talk about security, we take a more holistic approach. That’s because true security encompasses many different elements that work together in a synergistic fashion. Any one of those elements offers some protection; multiple elements work together in ways that provide a much higher level of safety.

When I’m asked about how a school, a company, or another organization should approach facility safety, I suggest they develop what I call a security toolkit. Just as your toolkit at home includes a variety of devices to help you perform an even wider variety of tasks, your security toolkit should include multiple items that address many different aspects of security. What are the tools that belong in your kit?

Start with a Security Assessment. Invite a professional consultant or local law enforcement to walk through your facility, identify potential vulnerabilities, and make recommendations.

Create a Policy. A security policy explain the reasons behind security, everyone’s responsibility, and the steps to take when something goes wrong, such as who is authorized to dial 911. When people aren’t sure how to approach a situation, that policy provides guidance.

Threat Assessment Team. Create a group from your organization (and possibly pair them with representatives from local law enforcement). Give them the responsibility to think about and identify the threats your organization might face and steps that could be taken to address them.

Background Checks. You won’t be surprised that the head of a background check provider advocates background checks, but it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent problems. A resume tells you how someone wants you to think about them, but a background check can share what they don’t want you to know.

Visitor Management. If someone doesn’t belong in your facility, you shouldn’t let them in. If you do allow them to visit, you should know where they are and what they’re doing. Formal systems like SafeVisitor help, but you can also use policies such as ensuring that visitors are always escorted through your facility.

Anonymous Reporting. After most workplace shootings, we hear that someone knew that something wasn’t right, but they were afraid to say anything. So provide ways that employees can call attention to strange behavior or situations without having to identify themselves. An employee who jokes about bringing a gun to work probably isn’t kidding around.

Integrated Communication. Have the equipment and processes in place so decision-makers and first responders can communicate clearly in an emergency situation.

Training. The training your team needs depends on your situations and activities. For example, if your team members travel frequently, make sure they know how to protect themselves on the road. Also provide training about domestic violence awareness, so employees can recognize when there’s a problem and so the entire team knows how to protect victims.

Hardware/Construction/Renovations. This is the physical part of your toolkit, eliminating and minimizing vulnerabilities by using technology and physical alternations to your facility. No single approach is right for every organization. Make your choices based upon the vulnerabilities your assessment identifies.

Finally, your security toolkit should also address what you’ll do if your security is breached. We’ll hope that your security toolkit prevents that from happening, but it’s wise to have a plan just in case.

Contact us for more information on creating a security toolkit.

Active Shooter: Facility Security Starts Far From Your Front Door

It never ceases to amaze me how many organizations establish “security” for their buildings by stationing a sleepy security guard or a doorman with a clipboard at the entrance. If someone who was planning mayhem … such as a shooter … shoved past the front desk, about the only defense that guard can offer is to yell, “Hey! You can’t go in there!” Then he might call his boss to see what he should do about it.

Even worse, those glorified hall monitors rarely pay attention to what’s signed on those clipboards. I could write “Charles Manson” for my name, and nobody would blink. Nor do most verify my credentials or check to see if I belong there. If I were a domestic abuser who wanted to get to my estranged spouse, all I’d have to do is claim I had a meeting with one of her co-workers (whose names I would know from conversations). I might have to wear a visitor’s badge, but that’s about it.

I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but we live in an era in which workplace and school shootings happen often enough that most earn just a quick spot on the news feed.

Take April’s shooting at YouTube’s headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. Nasim Majafi Aghdam simply walked into a courtyard in the company’s complex and opened fire on people she apparently didn’t know, wounding three before turning the gun on herself. She evidently had grievances with the company’s business practices, and these three just happened to be in the wrong place when she walked onto the property looking for someone to punish.

What’s to stop someone who’s unbalanced and has a gripe with your company or one of your employees from doing the same?

If you truly want to protect your students, your employees, your customers, or anyone occupying your facilities, you need to recognize that your front door is your point of last resort. It’s your last opportunity to control access to the facility. You may not be able to stop someone with criminal intent, but you can slow his or entry and alert authorities. Once the individual crosses that barrier, it’s too late. Even if the police arrive within a couple minutes, it’s likely that the damage will have been done.

So you need to shift your thinking. Instead of asking, “What do we do when someone enters our building?,” you need to ask, “What can we do to keep the wrong people out of our building in the first place? How do we make it clear that our location is unwelcome?”

Most people think of those as security decisions, but they’re really policy decisions that should become a central part of your organization’s culture. “Keeping our people safe” should be one of your organization’s guiding values. Finding the best way to do that then becomes the responsibility of everyone from the very top down.

There aren’t any one-plan-fits-all building security approaches, so you need to approach your situation with the specifics that make sense for your organization and facility. It may be a visitor management system, some kind of mandatory prior authorization for visits, moving the front line of security from the front door to the entry drive, creating an open-door policy in which victims of domestic abuse can feel comfortable sharing their concerns, holding a tabletop exercise to see how you’d handle specific scenarios -- the list of potential elements is endless.

We don’t need to be paranoid, thinking that everyone is out to get us in every manner imaginable, but we do need to be practical and realistic. We need to give serious thought to potential threats and ask ourselves what we can do to head each off. We need to invite first responders into our facilities and ask what makes them nervous, because they constantly have to assess risks as part of their job. They immediately notice things you’d never think about.

Employers and building managers don’t blink when they’re asked to install sprinkler systems, extinguishers, alarms, and other elements of fire protection. They don’t hesitate to identify shelter locations to protect employees and visitors during times of severe weather. So it’s no stretch to expand that thinking into protecting everyone from someone who means to do harm. Real security starts with intelligent thinking.

Learn more about Security Assessments

School Active Shooters: Getting "Left of Bang"

There is so much noise these days about how to make schools safer.  The vast majority is counter-productive and pushing schools in the wrong direction.  Watch the following active shooter webinar by experts from law enforcement, Secret Service and school security as they walk you through a process of understanding that school active shooter incidents have predictable behaviors.

Please contact us for more information or request a consultation.

Register for live SafeVisitor demo

 

Active Shooters: Stop Reacting, Start Preventing

Every time there’s a shooting at a school or a workplace, the arguments begin. We need more police officers stationed in the buildings. We need to arm teachers or encourage employees to carry handguns. We should invest in smokescreen systems or bulletproof partitions. Everyone should hide from the shooter. Everyone should run from the shooter. Everyone should confront the shooter.

We’re having the wrong argument. Once someone who intends to do harm is inside your school or your business, all you can do is react. And at that point, it’s too late. Whether you run, hide, fight, or something else, your school or business is going to be the site of violence and possibly death, permanently transforming the lives of everyone involved.

Instead of focusing on reacting to a shooter or other intruder’s presence, what we should concentrate on is keeping that shooter out of the school or workplace. If a shooter can’t get into your facility, he or she can’t cause mayhem.

We can learn from the professionals we trust to protect some of the world’s most important people: the U.S. Secret Service. The image that springs to mind is the agent who jumps in front of a would-be assassin, taking a bullet intended for the President, but the Secret Service puts far more effort into making sure people with bad intent don’t get anywhere near the individual they’re protecting. They’ll react if they have to, but far more of their time and energy goes into prevention.

In preparing, we first need to get past the myth that these shootings are random events triggered by someone’s temper or someone who just “snapped.” The FBI has studied shooting extensively, and says “these are not spontaneous, emotion-driven, impulsive crimes emanating from a person’s immediate anger or fear.” The reality is that most of events are not impulsive; they’re coldly and carefully planned.

There’s a parallel in domestic violence cases. The popular “wisdom” is that people who commit violence against family members were “pushed” into it or were “triggered” by something the victim said or did. As a former violent crimes detective, I can tell you that’s nonsense. There’s a discernable pattern that offenders follow. When law enforcement and the judicial system know that pattern and intervene in the early stages, there’s a marked reduction in homicide and other violent acts. (Another reason domestic violence is important to mention is that it’s actually been related to 54 percent of mass shootings.)

Prevention involves several components. Staff members need to be able to recognize the signs and behaviors that usually precede a violent act -- like the threats and other behaviors that have been observed before 85 percent of school shootings.

We have to create a culture in which people aren’t afraid to report suspicious behaviors. Too many people are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or accusing someone who may be innocent. After most shootings, we hear that the shooter showed signs of being dangerous, but nobody was willing to speak up. Similarly, we have to share information. For example, school leaders need to be in regular conversations with local police. Police in one community need to talk with the county sheriff and their neighboring departments. And all parties to be trained in assessing threats through the use of lethality indicators.

Training is one of the most important components, and it can’t be a one-and-done approach. One of the best kinds is the “tabletop” simulation in which multiple parties gather to discuss a simulated scenario. For a school, the simulation might involve the building administrators, the superintendent, the head of security, and representatives from the local police and fire departments. An outside facilitator narrates a scenario, and everyone discusses their role and how they would respond. (I’d also recommend involving the head custodian, who knows the building inside and out, and who will have a practical approach to identifying flaws in the other participants’ responses.)

If you really want to protect the occupants of your buildings, don’t waste time in philosophical arguments over what they should do if an intruder is present. Instead, do everything you can to keep that intruder from getting in there in the first place.

Learn how SafeVisitor strengthens your access control.

Making Sure Your Building is Safe No Matter Who is There

When we think about safety, we tend to only think about people that come into our schools on a regular basis. This includes parents, bus drivers, teachers, or janitors. We get their backgrounds checked on a regular basis; however, we don’t always think about other people that may periodically enter our buildings . Why don’t we always think about the HVAC workers? Or the vending machine suppliers? Or even the cafeteria food delivery truck driver? All of these people could have interaction with or access to children, so why don’t we think to make sure that they are who they say they are, and that they can be trusted inside our schools?

With SafeVendor, this problem can easily be fixed. SafeVendor is a part of SafeVisitor Solutions that allows vendors to enter any facility using the SafeVisitor system and manages all of the re-certification background checks. This means that each vendor will only need one background check, and it will work in any school or building that is protected by SafeVisitor Solutions. This can save organizations significant money because instead of having to conduct background checks on their vendors or construction workers multiple times a year and for different projects, they can conduct one comprehensive background check annually.


Why not use SafeVendor for all of those vendor visitors and increase your safety at a  reasonable price? Take a look at https://www.safevisitorsolutions.com/safevendor/ for more information about SafeVisitor and SafeVendor!

 

WA State Police WATCH Volunteer Background Checks

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Are you a school or a not-for-profit in the state of Washington that is mandated or relies on the WA State Police WATCH Background Checks?  Do you have one or several people assigned with the tedious and time consuming task of collecting handwritten paper forms, deciphering sloppy handwriting, and then manually entering  info into an online system? Are your volunteers then entered into an Excel spreadsheet or database to remind you in 1 or 2 years to ask them to complete this task all over again?

Sound like a lot of work?  And in full transparency, any manual process that includes such a high volume of data entry is fraught with opportunities for mistakes.  One keystroke error can be the difference between a convicted sex offender being tagged or being allowed to volunteer.

Until recently, there was no other option. However, SafeVisitor Solutions has worked with the WA State Police to integrate WATCH background checks into our background management system.  Schools or organizations that receive the WATCH background checks for FREE, will continue to receive them for FREE.

SafeVisitor is the ONLY visitor management system with an integration to WATCH.

How does this integration work?

1.      Adopt SafeVolunteer.

2.      We enter your WATCH login credentials into our software.

3.      Volunteers (vendors, employees, student teachers, etc.) click on a link, enter their                        information online.

4.      Results are returned to your team.

5.      Any potential records have links back to WATCH.

6.      Volunteers with no records are automatically approved and receive an approval email                 along with a SafeVisitor ID Badge.

What are the benefits to organizations using this integration?

·        Reduce Errors.  This will reduce or completely remove data entry errors that result from             deciphering handwritten forms.

·        Paperless.  No more collecting handwritten forms and having to store the PII data.

·        Reduces Labor.  No more entering thousands of requests for background checks

·        Reduces Volunteer Management.  The onboarding of volunteers AND rechecks are 100%           automated.

·        Automates Background Check Program.  Volunteers can now submit a WATCH                           background check 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.

·        Free Your Team for Other Projects.

SafeVisitor also provides many unique opportunities for organizations that rely on the WA State Police WATCH background checks.  WATCH is a statewide search, so it is very limited considering that most volunteers have traveled outside of Washington for business or pleasure, or they live near a state line and may routinely travel to other states as a normal part of their day.

Consequently, there are additional screening options available in SafeVisitor to enhance the WATCH background check:

  • ArrestAlert.  SafeVisitor is the ONLY visitor management system with ArrestAlert.  We               have an integration with 80% of the jails in the U.S.  ArrestAlert works two ways:
  • Part of the background check.  We query the jails across the U.S. to determine if there are any additional arrests aside from where a person has lived or worked.
  • Real-Time Monitoring.  SafeVisitor can provide real-time monitoring of volunteers, employees, vendors, or any classification of visitor.  You would receive a real-time alert if one of your volunteers (or other classifications) is arrested and booked into a jail.
  • National Criminal Database Search.  SafeVisitor uses a criminal database the contains records from throughout the United States.
  • Federal Criminal District Court Search.  Most state criminal databases do NOT contain criminal records from federal cases.  This is important since we have a proliferation in the number of criminal cases being tried in the federal courts.  Why?  Because of the use of the internet to commit crimes such as identity theft, child solicitation, child pornography, etc.

Would you like to see a 30 minute demo of SafeVisitor and the WATCH integration? You can register here for a 1:1 demo.

How Our Emergency Button Helps Put the 'Safe' in SafeVisitor How Our Emergency Button Helps Put the 'Safe' in SafeVisitor

There is no such thing as an emergency situation that is calm, relaxed, and easy to deal with. As it is part of our name, we try and make all situations including emergencies as safe as possible.  While it may seem like a simple feature within our system, the emergency button nonetheless plays an important role in maximizing safety.

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The emergency button can be found on every page of our SafeVisitor software at the top left corner. One click of this button will do the following:

It will alert all personnel that are chosen to be included on the Emergency-Notify List . This list can vary but may include security guards, principals, administrators, and/or local law enforcement. The notification is not simply an alert stating but will also include information as to where the emergency is located. In addition, if the check-in process has started, the notification will include a picture and any information regarding the individual attempting to enter.

Just recently, this button was useful for a school attendant. A disgruntled parent entered the lobby of a school building and was causing a problem while refusing to leave. The attendant simply clicked the emergency button, and help responded within minutes to resolve the situation. This specific situation was fortunately never life-threatening, but a more serious scenario could easily have occurred in which case, the emergency button could have saved lives.

Our hope is that the emergency button never needs to be utilized, but we certainly realize its necessity. While it may not seem like much of a difference compared to picking up a phone and calling for help, time is a major factor in emergencies. As we strive to be have a fully comprehensive visitor management system, this button is just one way that SafeVisitor works to create a safe and secure environment for you.

For more information on SafeVisitor, click here

 

How to Protect Yourself at Work

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Since the most recent church shooting in Texas my inbox has been flooded with emails from friends, prospects, clients, and even casual acquaintances all asking the same question:  how do I protect myself at work?

This year alone we have seen several high profile workplace or church shootings related to domestic violence.  So what is happening?

Sadly, this is not a new phenomena.

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.  I was a young police officer in Nashville, TN, and we used the funding to start the largest law enforcement-based Domestic Violence Prevention Unit in the U.S.  It became an entire detective division of our police department.

I learned very quickly that domestic violence was a huge workplace problem.  Think about it, domestic violence had always been a hush, hush problem that was to be kept behind closed doors.

In the early 1990s, there were very few states that had even criminalized domestic violence.  Seriously.  Of course if it was a felony assault, then law enforcement could intervene and prosecute on behalf of the victim.  But since more than 70% of domestic violence is reported as a misdemeanor, this provides few options for law enforcement intervention if the victim does not want to prosecute.

As Nashville shouldered the responsibility for prosecuting domestic violence offenders and providing safe options for victims like shelters, we were also flooded with cases of stalking that were disrupting the workplace.

Why should we be shocked?  If communities do a better job of protecting victims, then those that harm them have to work a little harder to find them.  But where is the one place they almost always will be able to find them?

Work!

However, most of our workplaces are no match for these sophisticated manipulators.

After September 11, 2001, our organizations spent money to beef up security to protect ourselves from foreign terrorists when it was the domestic terrorist that posed the greatest risk to us.

Paul Dvorak, SafeVisitor Advisory Board Member & a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent, has spent his entire career creating safe perimeters for dignitaries like President Bush and United Nations Representatives.

Once a person of danger gets inside the perimeter, it is very difficult to protect yourself or others.  Paul talks of controlling how close people can get to high value targets like the President, and how anybody that gets within arms reach has gone through an extensive background check and security screening process.

How does this apply to my workplace?  Well, there are 5 things that every employer should focus on. Listed in order of importance they are:

  1. Controlling the Flow of Visitors.  Many of your employers think they are doing this with a clip board at the front desk or a security guard at the door.  This does not work.  You need a visitor management system that can ensure your different levels of visitors have received proper vetting before they are allowed into your facility. If an employee discloses they are going through a divorce or has taken out a protective order on a spouse or partner, then that person who represents a perceived threat could be placed on an Excluded Parties List to keep them out of the workplace and away from you and your peers. What are the key components of a quality visitor management system? It is one that:
 
  • Scans Government Issued ID.  Validates and confirms identity.
  • Mobile ID’s for Frequent Visitors.  Requires volunteers, vendors, or more frequent visitors to undergo comprehensive background checks before they are issued an ID.
  • GeoFencing.  Uses geofencing to ID approved visitors before they are allowed inside the building.
  • Background Checks.  Ranges from checking Excluded Parties Lists to conducting comprehensive national background checks.
  • Accurate Visitor Logs.  Accesses a prior visitor’s information.

2.  Training. This is not a one-and-done training module but an ongoing process.  How           do we handle domestic violence?  What happens during an active shooter event?

3. Active Shooters.  We are starting to see more workplaces implement training and             policies related to active shooters.  How  do we prevent, contain, and protect                   employees?

4. Communications.  During an active shooter event or security incident, it is critical to        have communication options that instantly inform your employees and moves them          away from  danger as quickly as possible.

5.  Culture of Confidence.  Organizations lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each             year to low productivity related to security issues.  Implementing a comprehensive           security program raises productivity and can be a great recruiting tool in an                     economy with low unemployment where prospects have multiple employment                  options.

I wanted to write this article directly to you employees to say that you need to make your voice heard.  Work with your employers to educate them on options for creating a safe work environment.

If you would like to learn more about how SafeVisitor can protect your place of employment, click here or request more information on a security assessment.

Cost of Paying for Volunteer Background Checks

Volunteers are widely utilized and are big contributors to many businesses. But while volunteers are obviously not on the payroll, they are often allowed the same access to people, records, and  information as regular employees. This creates a dilemma for administrators. That is, how do they ensure that volunteers are not only safe to be in a facility but also safe to interact with those inside the facility and perhaps even have access to privileged and confidential information?

In reality, many organizations are opting to simply conduct a free, limited background check on employees. The theory behind this is that volunteers somehow present less of a threat than regular employees, and therefore, do not need to be thoroughly screened.  A limited criminal history is better than no background check at all, but it is far from the best option available. Many issues arise from a limited background check, and often, information is missing from limited background checks.

An Expanded Criminal History is a much more comprehensive and thorough background check. It checks an individual's criminal history throughout all 50 states. The additional price may be the reason many organizations choose not to go with an Expanded Criminal History Check. While it only costs less than the price of a full tank of gas, many organizations still consider it too costly.

The decision really boils down to an organization’s priorities. Does safety, security, and prevention take precedence over saving a volunteer the additional $20 that a more thorough check will cost?

Many schools are now choosing to prioritize safety and security and are requiring that volunteers pass an Expanded Criminal History Check before being allowed to volunteer. Considering many recent national incidents, it is becoming more and more clear that  cost cannot be the driving factor when protecting the lives of the innocent.

Our recommendation? Don’t jeopardize the safety of those within a facility by trying to save volunteers money. Treat volunteers just as you would any other employee and ensure they don’t pose any threats before allowing them access into your facility.

Click here to learn more about SafeVolunteer.

How do I Conduct a Kiwanis Background Check?

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This is a great question if you are involved with Kiwanis International. SafeHiring Solutions and Kiwanis have a great relationship that allows the two to work hand-in-hand to get the best available background checks.  Our question is: Are you wanting to open a background screening account for your club, or are you needing to complete a background check as an individual within a club? Either way, we can accommodate you.

The answer to both of these questions can be found here.  If you click on this link, it will take you straight to the Kiwanis page on SafeHiring Solution’s website.  On that page, there are two separate links.  The first link is for setting up a new account for an entire Kiwanis club.  The second link is for individuals who were asked to complete a background check by their Kiwanis club.  This link will take you straight to the Kiwanis International login page, and you can go through there to complete the background check.

Because of the relationship between Kiwanis International and SafeHiring Solutions, this is an easy process for either a new club account or an individual background check!

 

What’s the Purpose of a Visitor Management System?

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Visitor management systems have many different purposes and functions. They ensure increased safety by offering peace of mind for students, teachers, and parents, and they allow schools the freedom to address other areas of concern in creating a successful educational experience. SafeVisitor Solutions is a visitor management system that does all of these things for schools and businesses.

In a building that uses SafeVisitor, all visitors must scan their state-issued ID in order to enter. Their information is run against the National Sex Offender registry and against any exclusion lists the building may have in place. This ensures that schools have screened and identified all visitors for the protection of those within.

These screening procedures allow peace of mind for anyone involved in a school that is using SafeVisitor’s system. Students will know that their school is safe, thus freeing them from worry about the wrong people entering their school. They can focus on school work. Teachers will be able to focus on teaching and the needs of the classroom. Parents will know that their children are in a safe environment every day.

With such an increased sense of safety, the school can perform at a higher level. Because the system allows for the administration to trust that their school will be safe, administrators can focus their time on other areas to improve the school. Knowing the building is protected is very important not only because safety is a big concern, but because it will allow all concerned to perform at a higher level.

Safety is crucial for all schools. A visitor management system is very useful to enhance security. If you would like to learn more about SafeVisitor Solutions, please join us for a free webinar!

 

Visitor Management System: Cloud Hosting vs Local Server

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For SafeVisitor, we use the synonymous terms “cloud hosted” or “cloud based” to describe the software; however, someone with minimal knowledge of software may have no clue what these terms mean. We want to provide some insight into the meaning and benefits of being cloud based.

What Does it Mean to be “Cloud Hosted”?

A cloud hosted software is one that is made available through the Internet. The software is not  uploaded to one’s personal computer, as it can simply be accessed through the Internet. Data can be stored and processed through this online software. Basically, cloud based software does not require servers or computers in an office to run it. Instead, it is all accessible online.

Benefits of Cloud Hosted

There are many benefits to having cloud based software:

  • It is available anywhere there is Internet access.

  • The user can log-in on any computer.

  • It provides real-time data - meaning edits can be made and automatically integrated into the software.

  • Updates to software do not require any additional downloads.

  • Multiple users can access the software at the same time.

  • Data is continuously backed up to minimize data lost during crashes.

When it comes to running our SafeVisitor software on your system, the cloud based accessibility is a huge plus. It makes using SafeVisitor to ensure safety of any building or facility extremely easy. It also diminishes the fear of experiencing a system failure. As long as there is electricity and Internet access, the cloud-based data is available to protect the safety of those needing it,

 

For more benefits of SafeVisitor, click here.

Is the Visitor Management System Sex Offender Data Up To Date?

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SafeVisitor Solutions frequently receives questions concerning how often updates are made to their sex offender information. When a visitor comes into a building that is protected by SafeVisitor, the office will scan their license or ID. This information will be run against the registry which has access to the most current information regarding sex offenders.

Having current information about sex offenders is critical to the safety of children. SafeVisitor uses a third-party database. This search accesses multiple data sources so that the information is being continuously updated. Each source is updated in every state multiple times a day. This way nothing is missed.  The benefits of getting the data from multiple sources is that the sources can be checked against one another. Data comes from all over the country and not from just one location. In this way, information is continuously updated as it is received.

This continuous method of collecting the latest data lessens the possibility that someone might slip through the cracks. This system not only makes the school significantly safer for children, but it also makes the jobs of the administration easier. Administrators can depend upon this reliable and current system to vet every visitor against the latest sex registry information.

With a constantly updated registry, the school is a much safer place. SafeVisitor Solutions takes great pride in the reliability of their system of keeping the most up-to-date sex offender information that is currently available.

Do not assume your data is being updated.  We recently replaced another visitor management system with a large school district that had no idea their sex offender data was stored on a local database that had not been updated in 3 years.  That could have (and might have) lead to sex offenders being allowed access to children. 

 

If you would like to learn more please join us for a free webinar! Please click here to register.

How Do We Comply With Indiana HEA 1079?

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This July, Indiana issued a new law pertaining to schools and background checks known as the House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1079. Knowing and understanding the requirements of HEA 1079 will increase your appreciation for how Safe Hiring Solutions can help schools comply with the law. SHS has developed a  process that will allow Indiana school administrators and HR managers to save time and money while meeting HEA requirements.

What is HEA 1079?

As mentioned above, HEA 1079 mandates that every school in the state of IN have an updated Expanded Criminal History background check on file for every employee. This includes lunch workers, janitors, substitutes, teachers, and anyone else on the school’s payroll.

The bill pertains to public and private schools alike. In addition, every five years the Expanded Criminal History check must be updated for every employee. New hires must receive an Expanded Criminal History check prior to starting, and then they must be incorporated into the five-year cycle for updated checks.

How We Ensure Compliance

This law can be unnerving especially for larger schools with many employees. The pressure to update and expand checks on existing employees while running checks on prospective hires can especially be felt in large mega-corporations. Safe Hiring Solutions has created a simple solution that not only guarantees compliance with the bill, but will help to alleviate much of the work involved in managing re-checks. The solution is SafeVisitor - our visitor management software. SHS can utilize SafeVisitor to handle the HEA 1079 bill in three easy steps.

SafeVisitor will:

  1. load every employee into the system.

  2. perform an Expanded Criminal History check on each individual employee.

  3. set a date to automatically email and remind the employee in 60 months to perform a re-check.

The system can also manage payments for the background check thereby taking much of the record keeping off the shoulders of office administrators. Let SafeVisitor and Safe Hiring Solutions completely automate required background checks while also ensuring compliance with HEA 1079.

To learn more about how we can set you and your school up to handle HEA 1079, be sure to view our webinars: https://safehiringsolutions.com/resources/

Call us Toll Free: 866-434-0002 or email:  sales@safehiringsolutions.com

 

 

Visit:

www.safehiringsolutions.com

www.safevisitorsolutions.com


 

How Will SafeVisitor Improve School Employee Rechecks?

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Background rechecks are vital to keeping a safe environment in schools and businesses.  Many schools have never required background rechecks for their employees after they have originally been approved for hire. An unfortunate truth is that we do not fully know another person, even if it is someone who we have worked with for many years. This is the major reason that rechecks are important.  

Indiana recently passed the House Enrolled Act 1079 that requires schools to administer background rechecks on school employees every five years.  This is a huge step in keeping students safer; however, it can be both a challenging and daunting task for school officials to manage these rechecks.  Luckily, these rechecks can be managed by SafeVisitor Solutions.

With SafeVisitor Solutions, the background recheck process can be automated and managed by the system.  This results in time saved and fewer mistakes that could arise while keeping track of who needs a recheck and when it is needed.  The software can work like this:

  • The school uploads a spreadsheet with all of its employees and their respective dates of hire. After this is done, the school is pretty much hands off other than adding new employees as they come on board and removing employees as they leave.

  • The system will start with rechecking the employees with the earliest hire dates, unless if otherwise specified by the school, and will continue updating rechecks from there.

  • If there is an issue or a failed check, the school will be informed, but if the recheck is clean, then they will just be uploaded into the system as a completed check.

  • Once an employee’s recheck is due, the system will send them reminder emails with a link to the background check to initiate the process.

The automation of these rechecks using SafeVisitor Solutions significantly decreases the amount of time spent by office administrators keeping checks monitored and current. They will not need to send out constant reminders, or chase people down to get their rechecks completed.  Only reports with issues will require attention, while checks that will be returning clear will be automatically entered as complete.  

This system for processing background rechecks will not only save the district time and consequently money, but will also ensure a safer environment for the school.

Join us for an upcoming webinar to learn more about SafeVisitor.

How Current Are SafeVisitor Background Check Checks?

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Visitor management systems are vital for protecting schools and businesses from people that should not be there. It is always important to have a safe environment in schools, so all school visitors need to be checked against the Sex Offender Registry. SafeVisitor Solutions ensures that regular sex offender checks are maintained of all visitors in order to keep children safe.

Every single visitor who enters a school using SafeVisitor Solutions is required to scan their state issued ID. The scan will instantaneously run that person against the National Sex Offender Registry. Right then and there, the system will either accept or deny the visitor entry into the school. The Sex Offender Registry is continuously updated, so the registry is always current and reliable. Here is a short description of how the process works:

  1. The visitor enters the building and scans a state issued ID at the attendant’s station.

  2. The system instantly checks the visitor against the Sex Offender Registry, and the result appears on the attendant's computer screen.

  3. If accepted, the visitor is free to enter the building.

  4. If denied for any reason, the attendant is able to see this and can take the appropriate action.

With an instantaneous check against an updated Sex Offender Registry, the school can be certain that the building is safe, and that all visitors in the building have been thoroughly checked. If you would like to learn more about SafeVisitor Solutions, please join us for a free webinar! Please click here to register!