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Protecting Students by Verifying Visitors

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, Florida (BGCBC), prides itself on the variety of programs it offers to more than 13,000 young people in economically disadvantaged parts of the community.

The largely community-funded organization provides programs that promote academic success, good character, citizenship, and a healthy lifestyle. BGCBC’s 12 locations throughout the county offer before- and after-school care, as well as holiday and summer camps.

“A lot of people think these types of programs are just throwing around basketballs, but we’re a heck of a lot more than that,” says Matt Organ, who has worked with BGCBC for 38 years and is currently its executive vice president. “We want to create a safe environment where the kids feel comfortable and appreciated. We’ve got athletic programs, swimming pools, culinary arts, family strengthening programs, workforce development, and so much more.”

Part of BGCBC’s vision statement is to provide a world-class club experience that assures that success is within reach of every young person who walks through its doors. And thanks to a local donor, the organization has implemented a visitor management system that ensures all who pass through its doors are supposed to be there.

Organ tells Security Management that the safety of BGCBC’s attendees starts with employing world-class staff—the organization conducts background and drug tests on employees and volunteers to ensure that student safety starts from within.

“Our kids have enough challenges out in the areas they’re coming from, so we want to make sure we’re giving them the best we’ve got,” Organ says. “More than half of our families earn less than $20,000 a year, so we want to make sure our staff and volunteers are equipped to handle that.”

But when it came to guarding against outside threats, there were limited options; due to budget constraints, BGCBC has not been able to conduct a full security assessment of its facilities. A year ago, however, BGCBC board member and American Heritage School owner Douglas Laurie supported a new security initiative by offering to donate SilverShield visitor management software to the nonprofit.

American Heritage School, one of the nation’s largest private schools, is also located in Broward County and developed SilverShield software for an all-in-one visitor and incident management approach at its campuses. Organ says that Laurie’s donation of SilverShield hardware, software, equipment, and training to all BGCBC’s facilities was a wonderful opportunity for the nonprofit.
“Now we’re running parallel programs between the American Heritage School and BGCBC,” Organ says. “In this day and age, you want to make students feel safe so they come back, and also satisfy parents, so that they will bring their kids. Dr. Laurie understands that in the way he zeroes in on safety and security procedures. We really appreciate what he’s doing.”

As part of the new security initiative, BGCBC took steps to harden its exterior, reducing visitor flow to a single access point that requires visitors to be buzzed in.

When visitors enter the facility, they must provide their driver’s licenses to the front desk clerk, who runs them through the SilverShield software to ensure each visitor’s presence is not a potential danger. If the person is entering further into the building, he or she receives a printed-off badge and is escorted to the area he or she needs to go. All adults—including vendors—are required to check in through the visitor management system.

Organ notes that under SilverShield, all adults must submit their driver’s license at every visit—perhaps an unusual requirement for facilities where the majority of visitors are the same parents picking up their children day after day.

“Of course we know the parents, but we still need their driver’s license,” Organ explains. “The internal report on the computer ensures that they are on the pickup list and there are no arrest warrants, custody battles, or anything that would preclude them from picking up their child. The way SilverShield works stops them from saying, ‘Well, I’m already in the system.’How do we know what happened from last week to today? At first it was a bit of a hassle, but the parents understand why we’re doing it and really appreciate it, and the kids and members do, too.”
Organ says SilverShield also offers mobile event management capabilities for offsite events, which has already come in handy.

“We were hosting an event at the American Heritage School nearby, and the staff there had the SilverShield mobile visitor management system that scans the driver’s licenses of everyone coming to the event,” Organ says. “There were a couple vendors who were flagged in the software when they scanned in. We’re not here to judge, but we respectfully asked them to leave.”

SilverShield also provides an incident management system, which creates the ability to lock down facilities in the face of a threat and alerts local authorities if a safety protocol is initiated.
Organ says that BGCBC is methodically revising its security procedures and training to coincide with the ongoing implementation of SilverShield software. All BGCBC employees have been trained on the new visitor management system approach, and the organization regularly teams up with American Heritage Schools or local law enforcement to conduct active shooter and CPR training with staff and volunteers.

“We will start doing some drills as we start to perfect the incident management system internally—we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Organ explains. “Right now, we’re in the zone of making sure whoever comes in the front doors is allowed to, and that’s been working out great.”
The BGCBC has been serving Broward County’s youth for more than 50 years, preparing them to excel after graduation. But the organization had to focus on a different kind of preparedness in the wake of last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also located in Broward County.

“It’s a different day and age, and Dr. Laurie and SilverShield are helping us put safety in place,” Organ says. “It’s been a godsend to the organization and the children, staff, and volunteers. It’s all about keeping our kids and people safe, even with big events at the club. It’s been great, and there’s more adaptations that we’re not trained in yet, but we’ll get to that point.”

For more information: Robin Baker, 800.214.6671, [email protected].