After Hours Sign-in Books

A recent Massey Albany announcement:

As part of our Health & Safety requirement it has been necessary to provide after hour sign in books in all multi-storey buildings on campus.These have now been put in place and can be found either by the after hour entry doors or in the case of the Quad A and Atrium buildings close to the lift. Please make yourself familiar with the location of the books and ensure that all staff and visitors entering and leaving the building after hours sign the book.

Remember they are in place for your safety and in the unlikely event of an emergency they will assist security or emergency services in determining who is in the building.

How silly is this?

  • You can’t trust that people will do this, so you’re still going to have to check the building to be sure that everyone’s clear.
  • Someone’s got to go in to the building to get the book. That’s assuming that no-one has stolen or damaged it (you’d think that university students would be more mature, but you’d be mistaken), and that the emergancy hasn’t damaged it (burnt, buried under rubble, …).
  • People that don’t work 9-5 type hours have to leave their work, go and sign in, and then go back to work. What an annoyance! Ok, so it’s not that bad, but it’s annoying enough that people won’t bother, which defeats the point.
  • What about people that move between buildings? I visit a colleague in Quad B, so I have to sign out of Quad A, sign in to Quad B, sign out of Quad B, and sign in to Quad A? All this for a trip down the corridor? Worse – I’m carrying heavy equipment from Quad A to the Atrium. Instead of going direct, I have to go to the foyer, sign out of Quad A, and instead of going in the side door, have to go up the stairs, sign in to the Atrium. Same deal going back.

Ok, but this is important to help save lives. So what could we do instead?

Oh yeah, we live in a world of machines. Why not make use of them?

  • All people that get into one of these buildings after hours either have an access card, are with someone with an access card, or are let in by security (or breaks in, but we don’t care about them). Security is easy – they just record when people come in. People with access cards is easy, too – the system already records when the cards are used, so it’s simple to get it to spit out a list of people inside. People with people with access cards? They can just be the responsibility of the person that let them in.
  • The weakness, of course, is that this is only really good for people coming <strong>in</strong> the building; leaving just means pushing the little red button. But you could work around this – tell people that they have to swipe out (the red button is then only for emergancies), or get people to sign a book on the way out, not in. Not ideal, sure, but better than the current system.
  • Ok, so we don’t want to use the access cards, for whatever reason, so now what? Why not make an electronic version of this? It counters all the flaws. There’s no need to leave the office to go to some central point; just do it from the computer. No need to get hold of the book in an emergancy, just get an up-to-date list from a remote access point.

Update 11th June 2004

The original announcement has been updated. Thankfully, the rule doesn’t apply to students, and whenever I’m here after hours I’m here as a student, so I can ignore it 🙂 That doesn’t change any of the above, though.

We are told that “it is not possible to record these details by any other means, like email or phone calls to security as the information needs to be readily available at the point of entry for each building for evacuation purposes.”

This makes it a little more expensive, but it’s still easily doable via electronic means (it just takes a bit of thinking!). The expense isn’t all that huge, and Massey wastes money all over the place, so they can’t really argue with spending a bit here.

The simplest solution that still provides the information at the point of entry for each building would be to put a (cheap) printer at each entry point. The system that records entry/exit would simply dump a current list to this printer (via the network) as required. This could be every time the list changed, although that could mean a lot of paper (although using an old dot matrix printer with a stream of paper would change that), or just print out automatically when the alarm system is triggered.

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