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Visitor Management

TRINITY REAL ESTATE manages 14 commercial real estate properties in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Many tenants are in the advertising or film industry and include modeling agencies, photography services, and film agencies. Some of the properties have high-profile tenants as well. For example, one building is home to iN DEMAND, Viacom, and CBS Radio, among others. The buildings average 300 visitors a day, but for certain events, such as casting calls, the number can reach 400 a day.

To protect these tenants, Trinity provides CCTV and access control to all buildings. In addition, security officers patrol in the loading docks. However, Trinity wanted to enhance the existing security by providing a visitor management system through which tenants could approve or deny visitor access. Trinity wanted a visitor management system that provided reliability, redundancy, and ease of use for the clients.

The company first tried one system on a test basis but found that it was too complicated. For example, it required tenants to enter five pages of information into the system before a visitor could be approved. The system also had technical difficulties. Pages often wouldn’t load properly, meaning that visitors couldn’t be approved. After several months, tenants asked that the system be removed.

Trinity went in search of a new system. Lois Martano, security technology manager at Trinity Real Estate for Securitas Security Services, was tasked with heading the team to choose a new system. (Trinity contracts with Securitas to handle access control, CCTV, and visitor management.)

Martano and her team decided to test a visitor management system from Easy-Lobby of Needham, Massachusetts. Trinity installed EasyLobby on a test basis in August 2011.

The EasyLobby system includes a software program with a Web interface, an identification scanner, and paper badges. The software is used by individual employees to obtain visitor passes and by security officers to monitor the system. The badges are integrated with the C•CURE 800 access control system and turnstiles previously installed in the building lobbies.

The EasyLobby software requires that an employee who is expecting a guest fill out a one-page entry form on the computer. The employee is required to enter the visitor’s first and last names, where the visitor is going, and whom they are seeing. Other required information includes the arrival time and date and the departure time and date.

At the lobby desk, the visitor must present identification. While this is most frequently a driver’s license, Trinity plans to purchase passport scanners in the near future. The security officer at the desk scans the license or other identification, and the EasyLobby software matches the data to the visitor request entered by the employee.

The system then prints out a badge for the visitor. The badge includes a bar code with standard guest access information. Additional data is printed on the badge, such as all the information on the entry form, including the destination and employee being visited. A special visitor card reader in the lobby scans the badge to allow the visitor entry. Guards in the lobby are on hand to guide visitors to the correct reader.

The Web-based system works quickly. According to Martano, it takes approximately 20 seconds for a person to be cleared at the lobby desk after the employee completes the entry form on his or her desktop computer.

According to Martano, the system is helpful with repeat visitors. For example, if an actor is coming to the building to film part of a movie, and he’s going to be there for two weeks, his visitor pass will expire at the end of those two weeks. However, if the company calls the actor in to reshoot some of the footage, it need not create a new entry from scratch. Instead, an employee can conduct a search of past visitors by name. All of the actor’s visits come up on the screen. The employee can then highlight one of those visits to retrieve the entry screen, change the dates, and resubmit the visitor pass request.

Should a visitor lose his or her badge, security officers at the front desk can search for the name, verify the person’s identity, and print another badge. The original badge is marked “expired” in the system and can no longer be used to gain access. If someone finds it and tries to use it on a reader, an alert will be sent. If a badge is lost twice, the visitor is put on a watch list and the contact employee is notified.

If a visitor overstays the time allotted in the system, a red arrow points to the person’s name on the guard’s screen. That lets security know to check with the employee who originated that visitor pass to see if it needs to be renewed. This is a common occurrence as visitors frequently go over the original schedule. After midnight on the last day of the pass, it expires unless renewed or extended.

The access control system will not allow a person to enter on an expired pass. If someone attempts to use an expired pass, the software sends a flashing notice to the security officer at the lobby desk. The visitor can then use a courtesy phone to call a contact at the company. And the contact can change the information to create a new pass if appropriate.

There is a check-out feature in the software. If a visitor returns his or her badge, the officers at the front desk can check that visitor out of the system with one click.

The software also allows security officers to easily monitor how many visitors are in the building at any given time. “This is especially helpful for fire-safety issues,” says Martano. “We can tell exactly how many people are there and who they are. This was very difficult to do with the old system.”

Another feature is a watch list that officers can use to flag individuals; for example, if a visitor leaves and is disgruntled, that person’s name can be added to the list. If the person comes back in and tries to get in as a visitor, a warning will come up on the system providing customized instructions—ranging from checking with the contact employee’s supervisor to denying entry. Officers can also attach a photo to the watch list.

Tenants can get information from the system as well. For example, tenant companies can get a visitor report listing all the people who visited within a certain time frame. The report includes details about the visitor and which employee signed the visitor into the system.

To help avoid problems at the front desk, EasyLobby sends an e-mail letting the employee know that his or her visitor is due to arrive on a certain day at a certain time. “This allows the employee to check the date of the visit and the spelling of the visitor’s name,” says Martano.

Based on positive tenant reviews, the system went live in one building in September and was expanded to two more in October. The system will continue to be expanded based on tenant needs.

Trinity has tweaked the system to respond to tenant issues. For example, tenants have asked Trinity to revisit its policy on extended visits. When the system was first installed, a pass could be issued for any length of time up to two weeks. Tenants asked to extend the time frame, noting that some interns stayed much longer than two weeks.

“After looking at the issue and seeing how many visitors stayed longer periods of time, we decided to extend it,” says Martano. “It took 5 minutes to make a few changes and extend the date. Now, we can do passes for up to 60 days.”