What Have We Learned About Access Control from COVID-19?

keycard door access control
In light of increasingly positive data surrounding new, acute, and fatal cases of COVID-19, states across the country are beginning to reduce a number of public health restrictions and cautiously reopen business and industry through phased plans. Physical distancing, mask/facial covering requirements, and scrupulous disinfection policies remain in place, but with a shift in operational procedures and office policies, many places of business are finding it possible to once again reopen in some form or fashion.

Even so, as many are quick to note, the coronavirus has not magically disappeared. The COVID-19 situation continues to develop, with many concerned about a “second wave” of the virus occurring in fall or winter, similar to the Spanish flu pandemic of the last century. While the recent statistics indicate a positive trend, it is wise for companies to continue developing operational and office policies that encourage a robust “work at home” contingent. It is challenging us to put tools in place to support new workplace patterns and minimize any additional risk to employees and others.

Using an updated, cloud-based security system, administrators can easily navigate unexpected building closures, manage multiple office locations from one application, delegate permissions to local admins, and make real-time changes to keep access available and facilities secure— safely and remotely from any place in the world with an Internet connection.

If you and your team are grappling with questions about how to safely grant access to your property and facilities in a way that is convenient to your workforce and secure to the company, you are not alone. Many businesses are pondering the best answers to security-related questions including:

  • How will we securely manage door schedules to accommodate new operating hours?
  • How will we grant access for deliveries and maintenance?
  • How do we provide access to a crew for regular cleaning and disinfecting the facility in accordance with the stricter CDC requirements?
  • How will we handle Internet or other service disruptions in light of limited or no access to security systems that run on local servers?
  • How do we manage the deactivation or replacement of lost badges and cards?

The simplest approach might be to place a key or other access credential inside a lockbox onsite that can be accessed by anyone who has the code. Proving once again that the simplest systems aren’t always the best, relying on a communal lockbox has several issues: everything would need to be disinfected after each use, and codes would need to be changed frequently to avoid breaches of security. Fortunately, there are more technology-driven ways to grant access while not compromising your employee’s health and safety or your business and property’s security.

How does an updated access control system that is proven safe and effective, even when 9 out of 10 of your employees are working at home, sound? Switching over to a cloud-based, mobile-driven security platform can be managed remotely, taking away reliance on localized servers or on-site personnel and offering greater flexibility and control. Features such as the following make management of a technology-driven access management system safer and simpler:

Lockdown. Users can activate an immediate lockdown remotely from anywhere with an internet connection should an emergency or breach of security occur. The lockdown can also be remotely reverted when it is no longer needed.

Real-Time Alerts. Should a window be forced, a door be left ajar, or other threat to your building’s security occur at your place of business, a cloud-based security system will notify you immediately.

Remote Unlock. Remotely unlock any entry point in the facility from anywhere without being physically present. This is extremely convenient in the case of an unforeseen circumstance such as an employee’s unexpected need to enter the building or an unscheduled delivery.

Instant Guest Passes/Mobile Credentials. One click of a button will immediately issue a secure mobile credential to anyone who needs it. Cancel a lost or stolen credential just as quickly and securely. Using their smartphones, credentialed employees can gain access to the building without spreading germs through the use of panels, keys, or communal lockboxes.

Door Schedule Changes. Now that 50% capacity rules are being enforced, many employers are finding creative ways to keep their workspaces at half-occupancy. This means workers are needing to gain access to the building at hours that vary from what used to be the norm.

Opportunities for Integration. Imagine the possibilities for a more robust security experience when you integrate a cloud-based security platform with video-conferencing apps. This combination provides real-time video feeds that the system administrator can monitor remotely.

COVID-19 has also increased our sensitivity to the things so many of us touch every day like light switches, door knobs, and more. Many are looking into hands-free options for these functions to minimize transmission of this highly contagious virus.

For example, using the hands-free access mode of many cloud-based security systems, it is possible to unlock a secure door by touching the scanner with a covered part of the body such as an elbow, waving a hand in front of the reader, or— perhaps the easier, most sanitary method of all— unlocking the door directly from an app on your smartphone. You can even opt for a fully automatic door opener. Using proprietary readers and software, these systems open automatically for credentialled users without the need to touch anything, keeping them contactless, germ-free, and fully compliant with ADA access requirements.

Two-factor authentication is also available when security needs demand. Access in these situations is gained using the credentialled individual’s phone’s more sanitary internal biometric verification in lieu of a fingerprint scan along with a facial ID or personal passcode.

If updating your security system to accommodate a post COVID-19 world feels intimidating, you are not alone. There are resources to help you through the selection process. Start with a risk mitigation site analysis with a trusted company that has a proven track record for top-notch systems and impeccable service. The right partner will take the time to audit the systems you currently have in place, identify any areas of risk, and discuss the ways you can update your system and integrate its features with any new elements.

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner for us— personally or professionally. That’s why the best thing anyone can do is be prepared. So whether you’re looking to add cloud-based capabilities onto your existing system, or building a complete access control solution from the ground up, your access control system should be as resilient and flexible as possible.

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