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What Is a Wireless Panic Button and How Does It Work?

Panic buttons help to keep employees safe and ensure help is available as quickly as possible in an emergency. Commonly used in both the hospitality and healthcare industries, they allow staff to call for help instantly if they feel threatened or if they suffer a medical emergency.

In fact, panic buttons are so useful and so effective that a number of states and cities have passed legislation that requires employers to provide their staff with panic buttons when they’re on the job. Currently, this legislation is focused on hotels and casinos. However, with panic buttons proving an incredibly powerful tool in the fight against violence and aggression, it may not be long before they’re appearing in industries across the board.

So, what exactly is a wireless panic button? How does it work? And could it help to keep you, your colleagues, and your staff safe throughout the working day?

What Is a Panic Button?

A panic button is a wearable or portable device, like a key fob, that’s designed to summon help in an emergency situation. Panic buttons allow a person to instantly call for help simply by pushing a button. Panic alarm systems are often rolled out in environments where employees are vulnerable to assault or intimidation, and in situations where staff are regularly required to work alone.

In general, panic buttons issue a silent alarm that alerts security personnel, management or emergency services that an incident is in progress. This silence is crucial as it allows staff to call for help without alerting their assailant. This is important as devices that make loud, sudden sounds, often called ‘screamers’, can aggravate the situation.

How Do Panic Buttons Work?

A panic button works by sending an instant alarm straight to management or security personnel the moment the alert button is triggered. This emergency alert is sent over a Bluetooth or wi-fi network. It provides security with accurate, real-time information on the staff member’s whereabouts and ensures employees are able to summon help fast.

This precise location information is incredibly important as it helps responders to provide rapid assistance to the person in need. As soon as they press their button, their location is sent directly to the security team, allowing help to be summoned as quickly as possible. This can dramatically reduce emergency response times and help to keep employees safe.

A high-end panic alarm system may well have its own Bluetooth or wireless network to ensure no dead areas or down time. Installing a comprehensive panic alarm system that covers every inch of your premises will help to protect staff and give employees peace of mind.

In What Situations Can a Panic Button Help?

There are lots of situations when a wireless panic button can be invaluable. Often, panic buttons are issued to people working in environments that make them vulnerable to attack, injury or intimidation. For example, housekeepers working alone in guest rooms are at a significantly increased risk of experiencing assault and inappropriate behavior from hotel guests.

Recent figures show that 58% of housekeepers in Seattle had experienced some form of harassment during their careers. While research published in 2018 estimated that a staggering 8 out of 10 hotel workers had been harassed.

As a result of this high rate of assault, housekeepers across the country have pushed for panic button systems to become compulsory in the hospitality industry. Without a panic button alert system in place, it can be incredibly difficult for workers to call for help, especially when they’re alone. Panic buttons allow these staff members to summon assistance quickly and silently, something that can have a huge impact on both personal safety and the overall safety of the industry.

Another common reason to invest in a panic button system is to minimize response times in case of a medical emergency. Trips, slips, and falls are the leading cause of injury in the workplace. If an accident happens when an employee is on their own, it can be difficult for them to get the medical assistance they need.

Types of Panic Buttons

There are three main types of panic buttons available. These are:

  1. Wearable panic buttons
  2. Panic button apps
  3. Fixed panic buttons

Wearable panic buttons generally work over Bluetooth or wi-fi and are ideal for employees, like housekeepers, that are on the move throughout the working day. They allow instant activation and make it quick, easy and safe for lone workers to call for help if they feel threatened.

These types of systems are often installed in commercial premises like hotels, casinos and healthcare centers.

Panic button apps are a cheap and easy option for people who want to be able to call for help quickly. Features vary, but most of these apps allow the user to send pre-customized texts to specific contacts as well as messages showing their location at set intervals. Some also emit a loud sound, like a screamer, in the event of attack. Some paid apps are connected to a monitoring center for extra reassurance.

While these apps can be useful, they don’t provide the same instant call for help as wearable panic buttons. They can also be unusable in areas without phone signal or wi-fi. In general, apps are more suited to private users than commercial clients.

Fixed panic buttons are secured to the wall of the premises. Like wearable alarms, fixed push buttons send a signal directly to security personnel or emergency services. As these alarms are fixed in place, they’re best suited to environments where employees are in set locations and where buttons can be quickly and easily accessed.

In some cases, fixed panic buttons can be used to create a home security system. This is most commonly found in cases where a person has health issues that make them vulnerable to medical emergencies.

Panic buttons equipped to notify 911 have also recently become available in the marketplace.

Who Should Have a Panic Button?

Panic buttons can be useful for employees in a wide variety of industries. Some of the most common situations that require the provision of a panic button are:

  • Housekeepers working alone in hotel rooms
  • Healthcare workers at risk of assault
  • Lone workers that are required to operate in remote parts of a premises
  • Employees with health conditions that may require emergency care
  • Staff working with dangerous equipment at risk of injury
  • People employed to handle valuables

In all these cases, access to a wearable panic button can make a huge difference in the event of an accident or assault. Providing employees with a panic button will also show them that their personal safety is important and that their well-being is valued.

Panic Alarms and Lone Worker Laws

All employers have a legal duty of care to their employees. This includes people required to operate alone for all or part of their working day. While there aren’t currently any specific laws relating to lone workers as a cohort and panic alarms, a number of states have introduced legislation requiring certain employers to issue their at-risk employees with panic alarms. This legislation would also apply to the general category of ‘lone workers.’

States and cities with ordinances currently in place include:

  • Washington
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Miami Beach
  • Seattle
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Glendale
  • Oakland
  • Santa Monica
  • Sacramento

Companies that require their employees to work alone on a regular basis should also create a lone worker safety policy. This document should assess and address the safety issues faced by people operating on their own.

Whether legislation requires it or not, providing lone workers with panic buttons is an effective way of preventing assaults and intimidating behavior. Panic button programs can also help to create a culture of safety within a workplace and ensure employees know that their personal security is a high priority.

Learn more about panic buttons, and find out how our panic button systems are already protecting hotel and healthcare workers across the country, by taking a look around or requesting a demo.

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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