6 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Adding Duress Alarms to Enhance Security

A duress alarm system is a critical safety feature for businesses, schools, and other organizations. Here’s how to select the right system for your unique needs.

It happens at college campuses and movie theaters, churches and elementary schools, military bases, shopping malls, restaurants, and office complexes — emergencies arise without warning. From serious medical situations to active shooters to hazardous chemical spills, a wide variety of risks hang over the modern workplace.

That’s why a growing number of businesses, school districts, and other organizations are investing in duress alarms as a means of keeping students, workers, and the general public safe. Even so, some incidents have occurred where such precautionary measures were already in place. What went wrong? Here are some of the most common issues organizations encounter when choosing and implementing a duress alarm system.

1. Users Lack Training & Practice on Using the System

Some personal duress alarm systems are so complicated that users need extensive training to operate them properly. Convoluted duress alarm protocols not only disincentive widespread usage, but are ultimately ineffective — after all, an alarm system is only valuable if employees are able to use it correctly.

Conversely, an easy-to-use system ensures people won’t need hours of training to use the system properly, and will remember what to do in the event of an emergency. Granted, training is important, but it’s only half the equation. Unless workers regularly practice using a duress alarm, they won’t remember what they need to do when an emergency strikes.

2. The Duress Alarm System Is Too Complicated

As mentioned above, overly complicated systems are unlikely to be used effectively — if they’re used at all. The simplest systems feature straightforward designs that enable users to trigger an alarm with the push of a single button. Adding more steps makes it harder for users to remember what to do, or to perform the steps in the right order.

As such, it’s almost always better to invest in a simple, intuitive duress alarm system than to opt for unneeded complexity that might fluster users during an actual emergency. Even the most level-headed people are likely to make mistakes when they’re trying to navigate a complex process with someone’s life at stake.

3. The Duress Alarm Lacks the Features You Need

Can a duress alarm signal for help if a worker is incapacitated? Will it function even when there is no cell signal or landline connection? Is disabling the system as simple as cutting a wire? All of these problems can be easily overcome with the right features. Don’t invest in a duress alarm system unless it offers clear solutions to these issues.

It’s also essential to consider any situations that are unique to your environment, such as the presence of lone workers or geographical features that make connectivity difficult. Ensuring lone worker safety, in particular, introduces a whole new set of concerns into the solution selection process, and it’s important to address these concerns before you make your final decision.

4. The System Depends on Unreliable Connectivity

What if a user is deep in the bowels of a metal or concrete building when an emergency occurs? Will the alarm signal be able to penetrate these barriers? What if landlines are cut or a cell tower is down? Make sure to pick an alarm system that isn’t automatically hamstrung by these common occurrences.

Selecting a wireless duress alarm system is the best way to ensure your entire system won’t be disabled with the snip of a wire. Further, duress systems that depend on cellular service or other unreliable connections can — and probably will — fail at the worst possible times, as large-scale emergencies often overtax cellular networks.

Additionally, underground facilities, metal buildings, and radio signal interference can all negatively affect the quality of cellular service and even WiFi, meaning organizations that must contend with these factors should be particularly careful when picking their duress alarms.

5. The System Features No Means for Confirming Receipt of an Alarm Signal

The ability to signal a specific person or group of people is among the most critical duress alarm features for which every organization should look. For example, while in the case of a severe allergic reaction or heart attack, you might only need to alert medical personnel, during other emergencies, you will need to alert organizational administrators or even law enforcement. Choose an alarm system that lets you signal the right responders for each unique situation.

Moreover, it’s crucial to select a system that can confirm that a duress signal was received. This provides assurance that the duress system is working and help is on the way. Also, be sure to select a system that features a silent alarm. That way, you’ll be able to avoid alerting a criminal or unstable individual when you signal the proper authorities. The more you can keep intruders in the dark about the system and its features, the more you can maintain the upper hand that a duress alarm affords you.

6. Selecting a Stationary Alarm System

Some alarm systems are fixed units housed in centralized locations. These units have an obvious problem: employees may not be able to reach them in the event of an emergency. For example, anyone who suffers an injury, suddenly falls ill, or comes under fire from an active shooter might not be able to move, and needs to be able to signal for help from wherever they are. Instead of a fixed system, choose a wireless, mobile duress system that can go wherever workers go.

By steering clear of these pitfalls, you’re well on your way to choosing the right duress alarm system for your needs. Request a quote on a full-featured wireless duress alarm system from Turn-key Technologies today.

By Craig Badrick


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