How to Manage Visitors

A step-by-step strategic guide to crafting the perfect plan for your facility

Automated scanning of a credential enables software to read the data on the card and use it to populate the data field in the visitor record. In addition, many systems can check the validity of the document and check against “black lists” that are either developed internally or available from government agencies, such as the registered sex offender list.

The system can use the visitor’s data (manually or automatically entered) to check against the list of pre-approved visitors for that day. That may be sufficient to allow the visitor permission to enter the facility (with or without a visitor badge), or procedures may require a further check with the host to ensure availability, meeting location and/or escort requirements.


Badge Creation

The system automatically issues an e-mail to the host to notify of the visitor’s arrival and can print a visitor badge. The badge can have any combination of visitor name, issue/expiration dates, photo, host name, escort requirements, access control bar code, and meeting location/building floor. Visitor security policies, emergency egress instructions or even directions and a map to the meeting location can be printed on the back of the badge.

Of course, unless employees wear badges, a visitor without a badge looks like an employee.

In addition to the virtual reception system outlined above, kiosks can be used to process visitors and create the badges. They are ideal for the frequent visitor who is pre-authorized and has an acceptable, machine-readable credential. Unlike the virtual receptionist, the kiosk screen is used only for data display. The visitor initiates the transaction and is prompted to present their credential, for example, a driver’s license. If the visitor is pre-authorized, a visitor badge can be printed immediately. If not, the system may prompt for a keyboard entry of company and/or host to be visited and can connect to the host’s phone for verification of the meeting and, via the host’s telephone keyboard, an authorization for the kiosk to print the visitor badge.

Integration with Access Control

If the visitor badge has a bar code or other machine-readable technology, and if that badge is to be used for access control, the visitor management system will interface with the facility’s access control system. It downloads access privilege data to the field panels that control authorized access points. Such portals can be turnstiles in the entry lobby that control access to the interior of the facility or elevator banks.

In addition, the access credential can be used in elevator lobbies to enable hall call for an elevator cab or, within an elevator cab, to enable floor call — selection of the floor to which the visitor is authorized to travel. During off-normal hours, when there is little employee or visitor traffic, the visitor management system may also be able to interface directly with the elevator management system to enable the floor call.

Visitor badges can provide access authorization for a single entry at a controlled portal or for any authorized period of time. They can also be issued to employees for one-day access when they arrive without their regular access credential or to temps or contractors that are expected to be on the premises for only a week, for example.


Auditable Records

A manual, handwritten visitor log can provide a great deal of data, if the writing is legible and the person reading it has plenty of time available. The systems approach is the best solution when security regulations, such as PCI, require auditable records.

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools available from a visitor management system is its ability to provide instant, automated reports based on user-selectable criteria in the visitor management database.

For example, the system can provide reports as to when and how often a particular visitor comes to a facility; who is the visitor’s host; how many visitors is an employee hosting; how many visitors are being processed daily or hourly; and, what is the throughput of each processing station.


David G Aggleton, CPP, CSC, has been developing security system design solutions for building managers and tenants in more than 150 commercial office buildings. He is a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants ( and the ASIS Security Architecture & Engineering Council. He can be reached at