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The Panic Button Provider Checklist | ROAR

Panic button use is on the rise as frontline workers face increased violence and, more recently, more unruly and aggressive customers, patients, and guests. This is happening across all industries—hotels, healthcare facilities, education, retail, churches, and more. 

Panic button solutions offer a variety of benefits to organizations using them, helping to de-escalate incidents and indirectly contributing to the recruitment and retention of employees while allowing cost savings associated with workers comp claims, liability insurance, and more. 

Choosing the right system for your specific needs takes time and careful consideration since each property presents a unique set of challenges. For example, most commercial buildings have dead zones or areas where there is no WIFI or LTE connection and, therefore, no communication. In 2017, the International Association of Fire Chiefs Survey reported that  98.5% of first responders reported dead spots in buildings, with 56% of those surveyed experienced in-building communications failure in emergencies and 31% experienced communication failure. 

This means many of the buildings that clients want to implement panic button solutions don’t have the means to send instant and reliable communication, with concrete walls, metal structures, or multiple floors obstructing radio signals or causing signal interference that can result in static, dropouts, or garbled messages, hampering effective communication between teams. Subsequently, any bundled emergency alert packages that rely on two-way radio as part of its network are often unfit for purpose, depending too heavily on technologies that are prone to dropouts (we talk about why safety devices should have a singular purpose in our “Why More is Less: How Extra Add-ons Could Cause More Harm” blog post).

There’s also the business interruption or added costs a solution may require, both directly and indirectly. For example, some solutions must be plugged into an outlet. There are often requirements that include coverage in stairwells or outdoor areas that may not have access to power outlets, requiring an electrician, extra wiring, or other infrastructure. Or perhaps the maintenance of the solution requires more of your staff’s time, leading to costs based on their time or added workload. 

While these factors are priorities for any businesses looking to implement panic button solutions, there are other elements to consider when making an informed decision. To help you narrow down your needs and identify the right panic button solution for your facility, we take a deep dive into the kinds of things you should consider when researching panic button solutions. Additionally, at the end of this article you’ll find a downloadable checklist to help you organize and assess the best solution for you. 

1. Reliability

The reliability of any panic button device and its wider infrastructure is of critical concern to all users and stakeholders. After all, the efficacy of individual buttons and ability to provide reassurance in case of an incident depend expressly on uninterrupted functionality. This means that any panic button system must work, and work well:

  • In challenging environments where signal interference can occur from wireless devices or medical equipment.
  • In areas where WiFi or LTE may be unreliable.

Further to the second point, it’s important to ensure a panic button provider has  considered failure points and added redundancies from the moment a staff member presses the device to when help is summoned to their location. This means identifying standalone solutions that don’t rely on existing WIFI networks, as well as utilizing a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to be assured the system will work in power outages.

2. Coverage & Performance

The reliability of a panic button system is directly linked to its coverage. Ensuring the appropriate coverage throughout a facility, especially in isolated areas like stairwells, basements, and parking lots with no WIFI or LTE signal, is crucial. These areas often require coverage to support staff working alone. Both indoor and outdoor coverage should be provided, considering complex facilities and older buildings with potential WiFi and LTE signal challenges. Important factors include network coverage, range, signal strength, and building penetration. 

3. Accuracy

To expedite assistance and allow timely intervention, the geo-location technology used within panic button systems must provide room and floor level accuracy. This is particularly important in multi-level facilities, as well as buildings with complex layouts, no line of sight, where workers may be isolated, and based on the types of construction material. 

 Accuracy must be precise as inaccurate geo-location data can lead to delays in providing assistance, which can be detrimental when seconds can matter in locating your staff. 

4. Scalability and Expandability

Scalability and expandability are vital considerations when selecting a panic button system, especially for organizations that anticipate growth or changes in their safety and security requirements. A system that offers scalability and expandability can adapt to evolving needs, ensuring continued effectiveness and long-term value.

This includes considerations such as the capacity to add additional users without negatively affecting the network, options for multi-site support, and the capability to expand the network to areas without power outlets.

5. Training and 24/7 Support

The functionality and coverage of a panic button system are of little consequence if staff cannot effectively and correctly use it. Additionally, in case of issues with any part of the system, 24/7 technical support is a crucial consideration that should be factored into any panic button system selection—ensuring the system is always working when it is most needed. 

 Comprehensive training on using individual panic button devices, and how to respond to an alert (as direct users and responders) must be considered a minimum. In addition, beacon installation and maintenance, system onboarding, and training programs that can be provided anytime and in multiple languages are signs of a good provider. Finally, care should be given to check whether these services are provided free of charge or at extra cost, as well as whether they cover the entire lifetime of the system.

6. Alert Notification Channels

Alerts are also important when weighing up panic button systems, and multiple alert delivery methods across popular devices should be a minimum, including support for iOS and Android devices across a range of notification systems. Ensure there’s a dedicated console at the front desk or in a dedicated security office for centralized monitoring to ensure alerts are never missed. Additionally, mobile notifications on iOS and Android devices (perhaps even smart watches) will allow for immediate response from anywhere within the facility. 

Don’t forget about your lone or overnight workers either. Who will receive the alerts when they’re by themselves?  911 integration or local emergency services for fast dispatch of responders may be the answer depending on the needs of your facility.

7. Regulatory Compliance

Within certain industries in certain states, there are varying compliance, regulatory, and security requirements in place, dictating standards on how a panic button system should work to keep staff safe and reduce workplace risk. In fact, even in those places where legal compliance is not mandatory, new laws may be just around the corner.

For these reasons, choosing a panic button system that complies with local, regional, or national regulations related to emergency communication and safety measures is an important consideration. In addition, verifying that the system adheres to industry-specific requirements may also be an important factor to consider. 

8. Self-monitoring System 

Panic button systems should be hassle-free and self-monitoring, providing quick and simple solutions to a range of common network issues. This includes issues such as battery charge and health, overall network health, and device connectivity. 

Self-monitoring systems ensure facility managers proactively perceive how the system is doing vs having to reactively check if it’s on and working to identify any connectivity issues before they become a problem. This enables a range of cost savings associated with network maintenance for your staff.  

9. Data Reporting and Analytics

Reporting features allow you to monitor network health over longer periods and view alert history to look for trends. This kind of data can be invaluable to improving safety protocols in your organization, as well as making data-driven decisions to enhance the overall effectiveness of the panic button system.

Reporting capabilities vary between providers, however, you should consider network health monitoring, alert history and trends, and compliance reporting when researching panic button systems.

10. 911 Option 

When considering a panic button solution, think carefully about whether you need a direct link to emergency services. Access to 911 panic buttons can enhance the safety of individuals working in potentially high-risk or isolated environments, providing a direct link to emergency services when the panic button is activated.

11. Reduce Incident Escalation

While panic buttons should be discreetly worn by staff to prevent unauthorized access or tampering, a good provider will help your facility signal their use to act as a deterrent and potentially reduce incident escalation. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Examples include

  1. Through signage displayed throughout the facility
  2. Through training for staff in when and how to leverage panic buttons when de-escalation training isn’t sufficient, enhancing its ability to act as an effective deterrent. 

Work with your panic button provider on best procedures they’ve seen you can utilize on how to set-up training for incident de-escalation and deterrence and ask for their de-escalation training partners.

12. Improving Burnout, Turnover, and Liability = Positive ROI

A good panic button provider will understand the specific challenges of your facility and the wider industry in which it operates. Staff that feel safer and supported at work are less likely to suffer the adverse effects of stress, meaning job burnout is less likely and staff retention rates are improved. 

Fewer incidents, and incidents that are effectively deescalated, mean less workers comp claims and lower insurance premiums. As a tool for improving ROI, a good panic button provider will provide you access to data and cost savings that can help support your case when talking to decision makers to show the significant return on investment once a panic button system is successfully installed and in use.

13. Customer Success

As in any industry, successfully meeting the needs of target customers is a useful metric on which to base your decision, giving you information on how a panic button solution is deployed and whether it meets the needs of its clients. If they are published, both Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS) can be useful metrics on which to judge a provider. These scores provide insights into how well the provider’s clients are served and whether their solutions meet or even exceed expectations.

Additionally, gaining insights from reviews and testimonials of existing customers can provide a valuable, first-hand account of the provider’s performance. Positive feedback and endorsements from these customers not only reflect the effectiveness of their panic button system but also indicate a provider that can be trusted to deliver on their promises.

Real-world case studies can also be useful, showcasing examples of where the panic button system has improved staff safety and security, possibly even mitigating common incidents that could have escalated. An exceptional provider can go a step further and tie these success stories to tangible return on investment (ROI) figures, such as reduced workers’ compensation claims, improved staff retention rates, and other cost savings.

14. Proven Expertise

 Expertise and experience in the field, in specific industries and sectors, and with individual roles and professions can make all the difference when it comes to providing a targeted system that works for you. The development of an effective panic button solution should ideally involve all key stakeholders, including staff members and security officers, and providers that collaborate with those who understand the operational intricacies and safety needs of facilities ensures that the panic button system is both effective and aligned with real-world requirements.

In addition, industry-specific experience with a strong track record across different sectors are indicative of a provider’s ability to deliver reliable solutions, and those with a history of delivering panic button systems to organizations within your industry or similar sectors are better equipped to understand the unique challenges and demands you face.

 Finally, affiliations and partnerships with leading organizations within your industry can also speak volumes about a provider’s expertise and reputation. Such affiliations demonstrate a commitment to staying connected with industry trends, best practices, and advancements, all of which contribute a more comprehensive panic button solution. Choosing a provider with a proven track record of expertise ensures that you are partnering with professionals who bring a deep understanding of your industry’s safety needs and an ability to address them effectively.

15. Supplier Diversity Programs or ESG Goals

While a panic button solution that meets your industry-specific needs and those of your staff is a critical consideration, thought should also be given to how the provider treats its own staff, the community in which it operates, and the wider world. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals are increasingly seen as a necessity and not a luxury, as a diverse, inclusive, and respectful company can provide different perspectives and innovative thinking, as well as sustainable supply chains that can contribute to your own ESG goals.

To this end, if your organization is focused on ESG goals, collaborating with a panic button provider that can assist in collecting and providing relevant data can be extremely valuable. Sharing this data with your partners and customers/clients showcases your dedication to responsible and sustainable business practices, enhancing transparency and accountability. By working with a provider that understands and supports your supplier diversity and ESG objectives, you can extend your organization’s positive impact beyond the immediate implementation of a panic button system, feeding back into your community and the wider world.

Panic Button Provider Checklist

To help you choose a panic button provider that meets your business needs, download our checklist and keep it handy during your search.

About Author

Yasmine Mustafa

Yasmine Mustafa believes ROAR found her, not the other way around. A former refugee and undocumented immigrant, she draws upon her unique life experiences to lead ROAR in its mission to empower and protect workers across all industries. Her journey is a testament to resilience and unwavering commitment. With over 15 years of leadership in the tech industry, including the successful sale of her first company, 123LinkIt, to a firm in Silicon Valley in 2009, Yasmine is a driving force for positive change, balancing profits with purpose. Yasmine’s workplace safety advocacy and leadership have earned recognition from the BBC, CNBC’s Upstart 100 and the City of Philadelphia. Yasmine is a highly sought-after conference speaker. A two-time TEDx speaker, Yasmine has also presented at the prestigious SXSW and CES conferences, sharing her deep passion for harnessing technology for positive change. Beyond her professional life, Yasmine enjoys time spent with friends and family, exploring the outdoors, biking, and hiking. She also dedicates her time to the boards of Coded by Kids, Leadership Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.

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