Front desk officers protect businesses and public agencies from security threats. As part of that mission, officers follow written policies and operate specialized equipment -- like closed circuit TV systems -- to determine whether a visitor may access the building. Generally speaking, the procedures that an officer carries out depend on the type of business involved, and what kinds of responses its management deems necessary for responding to perceived security threats.
Assessment of Visitors
Front desk personnel often combine customer service and communications skills to determine a visitor's purpose. Specialized training is also necessary to help officers defuse difficult situations and deal with hostile or aggrieved persons, Grand Rapids Public Schools director of security Larry Johnson advises, in a commentary for the American Association of School Administrators' website. Additional training may be required for issues specific to the institution, such as drug and gang activities at a school.
Restricting access is a central element of many security plans. As Epanicbutton's guide indicates, front desk officers often act like gate guards -- either by pressing buzzers or unlocking access doors with a key to admit visitors. Employers may also issue key cards or keypad codes to employees, while still requiring visitors to verify their identity and business before gaining entry. In many cases, these measures are combined with cameras and intercoms.
Sign-In Sheets and Badges
Sign-in sheets provide additional security by requiring basic information from all visitors, including their name, affiliation and reason for entering the building. Depending on the employer's policy, officers may ask visitors to wear a special identifying badge or escort them directly to their destination. The officer logs arrival and departure times, and helps visitors wandering alone in public areas. He makes accommodations for regular visitors like delivery persons, but verifies new employees.
Closed circuit TV camera systems are becoming fixtures in establishments with numerous public spaces -- such as hotels, whose desk officers may not always be available to patrol bars, parking lots or shipping and receiving docks. According to "Security" magazine's December 2011 article, "Access Control: Best Practices for After Hours Operation," some major challenges associated with this approach include the need to ensure that the equipment works properly, and that desk staff continually monitor the system for evidence of suspicious conduct. (See Reference 2)
Threat Management Protocols
Sometimes, a situation escalates despite efforts to defuse it. In such cases, the officer presses a hidden "panic button" or gives a discreet code to summon help, Epanicbutton's guide states. For example, officers may ask that "Mr. Jones" come to the lobby. In emergencies like domestic violence or stalking incidents, the officer tries to protect himself and others, but doesn't restrain assailants or take weapons. Instead, he leaves those tasks to local police and helps evacuate the building, if the situation requires it.
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