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Correction Facility Tracks Visitors

The Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office is using RFID to ensure people are accounted for in the event of an evacuation.
By Bob Violino
Aug 12, 2013

On many days, between 75 and 100 non-staff members typically enter and exit the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office (VBSO), a complex consisting of three connected buildings, including a correctional facility. For years, administrators employed a paper-based system to manually check contract workers, medical personnel, clergy, volunteers and other visitors into and out of the Virginia Beach, Va., facility. It is critical to know who is in the three-building complex at any given time, especially in the event of a fire or other emergency.

But that system was cumbersome, inaccurate and ineffective, says Captain Victoria Thomson, VBSO's former commanding officer of corrections, and currently the commanding officer of training and drug abuse resistance education. Evacuation orders are issued during monthly drills and actual emergencies, she explains, adding, "As a precaution, we issue an evacuation order when the fire alarm sounds."

RFID enables the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office to make sure that all people are accounted during evacuations.
VBSO would make evacuation announcements, but administrators had no easy, reliable method of ensuring everyone was out of the complex. "In emergency situations, we had to go back through the log sheets to determine who was in the building, and then try to identify where they were so they could be advised to evacuate," Thomson says. "We decided that automating the log of who is in the building would give us a better, more efficient way of tracking people."

In 2011, VSBO identified the requirements of an entrance-control system. During an evacuation, the facility needed to be able to track who had left the buildings, who had reported to one of the designated meeting (or muster) points and who most likely was still within the complex. The system also had to be Internet-based, so administrators could check visitors' status from anywhere within the facility or remotely. Other system requirements included the ability to issue ID tags to non-sworn staff members, as well as biometric verification for positively identifying individuals.

VSBO worked with TransitionWorks Software, a High Point, N.C., solutions provider, to build a customized RFID system that met all of these requirements. The Evacuation Control System was deployed in July 2012.

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