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Benefits of Silent Alarms vs. Audible Panic Alarms

Thinking about panic buttons for your hotel?  Ask yourself; Why do banks use silent alarms?


Answer: So no one gets killed.

If you are looking to save a few bucks and get personal high-decibel alarms (we call them “screamers”) because “the brand says it’s ok”, consider this….

A human’s Acute Stress Response, better known as ‘the fight-or-flight instinct’, is ingrained in us all and directs how we respond to significant stress. If you are robbing a bank, you are probably under stress. If you suddenly hear an alarm or siren, your stress becomes acute and your behavior unpredictable, and possibly dangerous. The security experts who advise banks know this and have determined it’s better to quietly trigger an alarm than to exacerbate the situation.

Yes, we all handle stress a little differently, but let’s face it, the person holding up a bank is likely to exhibit unpredictable behavior. The same idea goes for someone assaulting a hotel or healthcare employee. A loud siren-like noise may trigger fight-or-flight, and it can only be heard a few rooms away.

Most attackers don’t expect serious opposition when they are challenged. They panic and react, and often, that creates an opportunity for the outcomes are to be bad, especially if there is nowhere to run. Maybe not 100% of the time, but often enough that it’s not worth the risk.

I sell this stuff, so you are wary of my advice, so how about an expert opinion?

The National Health Service of the United Kingdom, in their Crime Science Journal, reports:“Simple audible alarm devices are not based on the expectation that they will produce assistance from third parties. Rather, they are primarily intended to create a distraction to allow the worker time to get away from a potentially violent situation….. Some experts advise personal audible alarms are more suitable for outdoor use due to the potential risk of escalating a situation indoors and their use now is more limited. It has been suggested that alarm systems that rely on the use of whistles or screams are ineffective and dangerous…”Again, not a hotel, a health system, but are they really that different with respect to assailant behavior?

The same principle applies to voice systems. “Alexa, we’re being attacked, call the cops” is not an option for banks like a hotel worker speaking into a phone, walkie-talkie or other device is not a good choice, and for the same reasons, personal audible alarms are problematic. You do not want your staff member who is already in a compromised position to escalate the tension by ‘threatening’ their assailant. We wrote more about this in our “Screamers vs Panic Buttons” post.

Look, a hotel isn’t a bank, and something is better than nothing. Screamers might provide some degree of protection, or at least enough shock value to give your employee time to run away, but if you are going to put in the effort to comply with legislative and brand mandates to issue personal protection alerts, you really want a discreet device that can be subtlety activated without raising tensions. If you are doing it, you may as well do it right. You want a solution that can quickly report the exact location of the incident, and track the employee in real-time as they move (i.e. flee), and that means you need accurate reporting in guestrooms, hallways, linen closets, restrooms, and stairwells too.

Most of these are easy when you are installing a geo-tracking panic button solution…. except stairwells. If you use a Wi-Fi or LTE device, you run a significant risk of losing signal in the big, empty, sound-dampening cold concrete stairwell just when your associate needs help the most.

If you are looking for a wireless panic button technology designed to address the nuances of safety, you are in the right place. The solution we’ve built is designed to be self-healing, offer redundancies, and cover dead spots – because we don’t want to leave anything to chance for you or your staff. You may as well do it right and get one that does the job.

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