Coronavirus or more precisely SARS-CoV-2 caused Covid-19 outbreak has dramatically changed the way we do things. Safety from catching the infection is the top priority. People are adopting new ways to protect themselves and avoid coronavirus spread. Washing hands more frequently, wearing masks and maintaining social distance are the new normal.
This is hardly surprising looking at how pandemic has affected the planet, leaving millions infected and hundreds of thousands dead. Aircrafts are grounded, borders are sealed and the healthcare systems around the world are on high alert. Many jurisdictions are on emergency and have imposed lockdown or stay-at-home orders. Regardless of the situation, the production and supply of the essential goods and services have to continue.
This article discusses how people can stay safe while availing a service that includes a live scan. It also sheds light on how the people engaged in providing essential services such as live scan fingerprinting, fingerprint background check, etc. can stay safe by following best practices in Covid-19 outbreak.
Covid-19 outbreak is unprecedented in recent history
Covid-19 outbreak is neither the first pandemic, nor it would be the last. In fact we have witnessed more than one outbreaks of similar nature since the beginning of this century. However this global outbreak of coronavirus is unprecedented in many ways, at least in the recent history.
In 2002, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) affected thousands of people globally and caused 774 reported deaths. In 2009, swine flu caused tens of thousands of deaths globally. Some outbreaks may last for a few months or years, while others can take years to eradicate. HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic that has claimed more than 32 million lives worldwide since 1981, and yet to be contained.
Covid-19 outbreak, however, is the only pandemic of this scale in recent history. Except a few countries, entire planet is in the grip of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Human movement has come to cease and people are living under fear.
Amid national lockdowns and ceased commercial activities; production and supply of essential goods and services remain a challenge. People behind the essential goods and services have been working tirelessly to ensure that production and supply do not fall short. Food, household supplies, medical services, law enforcement, etc. are some of the essential goods and services that need to keep operating regardless of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Touted as corona-warriors, people engaged in these services are taking all the risk so that everyone else can stay home and stay safe. However, safety of essential services providers is equally important and the risk to infection cannot be undermined.
In law enforcement settings, fingerprint readers are used for criminal as well as civil identification applications. Since live scan fingerprinting is an important service, it is put in the category of essential services.
Live scan fingerprinting
Live scan fingerprinting refers to the capture and processing of fingerprints and palm prints using electronic means. It is widely used by law enforcement as well as other outfits to provide different criminal and civil services. Live scan is commonly used for sexual offender registration, criminal booking, civil applicant and background check.
Fingerprint recognition is way older than live scan fingerprinting done with electronic devices. Before adopting the electronic means i.e. biometric fingerprint scanners for live scans, ink and roll method was used to capture fingerprints. In this method, fingertip stained with ink is rolled against the paper to capture the print.
Ink and paper based prints used to be processed manually, however later the FBI started to scan them as they developed IAFIS. Today, live scan fingerprinting has replaced the laborious ink and roll and manual processing of fingerprints. To enable electronic capture, live scan systems make use of a sensor that can read the patterns made by friction ridges. Many fingerprint sensor types have been developed such as optical, ultrasonic, thermal, capacitive, etc.
Different sensor technologies to sense fingerprints can be used as per the use case. For example, optical sensors can capture high quality images and are widely used in live scan fingerprinting devices. However, owing to their bulkiness, they cannot be used in compact consumer electronic products such as phones and tablets, where capacitive sensors would be more suitable owing to their super compact form factor.
Live scan fingerprinting devices
Live scan fingerprint systems have to comply with the law enforcement specifications to ensure interoperability with their systems. For example, to submit a fingerprint background check request with the FBI, the fingerprint scanner used for capturing fingerprints should be an FBI certified scanner, so that the image comes out to be compatible with IAFIS.
Most live scan fingerprint devices makes use of an optical sensor, which in turn uses a camera to capture the fingerprint image. When a subject places his / her finger on the sensor surface, the light emitted by the inbuilt LED passes through a prism and makes a total internal reflection as it hits the sensor surface from inside. It carries along the fingerprint information as it reflects from the sensor surface. This information is captured by an image sensor placed right in the path of the reflected light.
Fingerprint background check
In the United States, fingerprint background check service comes under the state DoJ (Department of Justice). Despite the stay-at-home orders effective in many states, fingerprint background check has been categorized as an essential service and continues to function. For example, in the state of California, which passed stay-at-home orders on March 19, 2020, the department of justice has been taking fingerprint background check request to serve the community.
Fingerprint background check is one of the applications of live scan fingerprinting. Fingerprint background check service is usually provided by a government body such as the law enforcement agency.
However, amid the outbreak of coronavirus, providing fingerprint background check services can be tricky. It will take the best practices for live scan fingerprinting services to keep applicants as well as service providers secure. Best practices for live scan fingerprinting include high level of sanitization and preventive measures including regular disinfection of live scan systems to protect the services providers as well as applicants arriving at the live scan fingerprinting sites.
How to disinfect live scan system?
It is important to disinfect live scan system with after each use as it can easily get contaminated and contribute to spread the outbreak of coronavirus. Live scan system vendors recommend regular cleaning to ensure steady performance and longevity of the device. However, regular cleaning and disinfection of the live scan systems becomes more crucial in the current Covid-19 outbreak.
We have already published our comprehensive guide for fingerprint scanner disinfection. Following is the quick reference for you to disinfect live scan system.
- It is important to disinfect live scan system before the first use and after each use.
- Wear mask and gloves while you disinfect the live scan system.
- Take the dust off your live scan fingerprinting device using a mild air blower. This step is only required if the system has accumulated dust.
- Take a soft, lint-free cloth (possibly made of cotton) and moisten it with Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or Ethyl Alcohol (with 70% v/v concentration).
- Clean the live scan system thoroughly, including laptop, keyboard, scanner and other surfaces that customers may touch during the live scan fingerprinting.
- Pay special attention while disinfecting the sensor surface, do not rub, wipe or apply pressure. Just dab the sensor surface with a fresh lint-free cloth moistened with Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or Ethyl Alcohol with above mentioned concentration.
- If the sensor surface appears wet, dab it with a new piece of dry cloth. Again, do not wipe or rub.
If your live scan fingerprinting device is being used back to back by different individuals, it become crucial to disinfect it after each scan. However, disinfecting live scan system itself is not enough to protect you from Covid-19 outbreak until you adopt the best practices for live scan fingerprinting.
Covid-19 outbreak: best practices for live scan fingerprinting
Outbreak of coronavirus can take many routes to spread. However, it mainly spreads with human to human transmission via water droplets that get airborne while coughing or sneezing. Fingerprint scanner disinfection alone will not be able to stop the spread, unless other preventive measures are also in place. There are several examples, in which doctors and paramedics caught the infection while wearing a PPE (personal protective equipment).
There are many essential services, production facilities, healthcare outfits, offices, etc., that have to stay functional despite the pandemic situation. In some of these facilities, using a fingerprint scanner may be important. For example, California Department of Justice have been accepting submissions for live scan fingerprint background checks, despite the lockdown. At many essential services or facilities, people may have to scan fingerprints for various purposes such as attendance, physical access, identify verification, authentication, identification, etc.
Countries that have stopped using biometric scanners due to coronavirus spread, are also keeping essential services running. However, applying preventives measures including disinfection can be extremely crucial at these facilities. For example, at a fingerprint background check service site, people may have to wait as there may be many applicants. So, in such a scenario, how can you ensure to avoid Covid-19 outbreak?
Live scan fingerprinting: best practices for customers / applicants
- Social distancing should be practiced by maintaining a six feet distance between individuals. Taking other preventive measures into the equation (such as wearing a face mask) is also important while you wait for your turn or perform the fingerprint scan.
- Due to elevated sanitization procedures everywhere, it may take longer than usual. Be patient and cooperate.
- Try to carry minimum personal belongings.
Live scan fingerprinting: best practices for site partners / facility owners / management
- Ideally, each individual should be surveyed for Covid-19 symptoms (fever, dry cough, trouble breathing, etc.). Perform a temperature check with an infrared temperature gun if available. Any individual showing Covid-19 symptoms should be turned back. People who have been advised for self-quarantine or have taken a Covid-19 test and awaiting results, should not be allowed to enter the facility.
- If you have a large numbers of incoming employees / customers, make small groups and allot deferred timings (e.g. by 30 minutes / 1 hour) for a group so they do not crowd the facility. For customers, appointment based schedule should be practiced.
- Advice people to avoid touching their face and other surfaces unnecessarily when they wait for their turn.
- Customers / employees should be asked to wash / sanitize their hands properly before the fingerprint scan.
- Personnel managing the process should wear gloves and face mask to prevent infection. They should also maintain a six feet distance from the customers / employees.
- Perform fingerprint scanner disinfection after each fingerprint scan.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, ensuring that production and supply of essential goods and services do not disrupt is a major challenge. Despite the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, people behind essential services are taking all the risk so that rest of the world can stay safe.
Fingerprint background check is an essential law enforcement service and many jurisdictions continue to accept fingerprint background check requests despite the widespread lockdowns.
It also raises security concerns for fingerprint background check applicants as well as live scan fingerprinting service providers. Adopting Covid-19 best practices becomes crucial while operating during the outbreak of coronavirus.
Taking up best practices such as preventive measures, disinfection and decontamination can not only safeguard people providing essential service, but also contain coronavirus from spreading further.