Panic alarms: traditional vs monitored

What is a panic alarm, how do they work, and what's the difference between a traditional and a monitored panic alarm?

If you’re looking to invest in a panic alarm for your staff, you’ll quickly realise there are several options to choose from. Not only this, panic alarms are known by many different names including "panic button", "danger alarm", "emergency alarm", "emergency button", "SOS alarm", "distress alarm" and more.

This means that deciding which option would best suit your organisation can be difficult.

We’ve compared two types of panic alarms:

  1. A traditional, noise emitting panic alarm, and
  2. A discreet, monitored panic alarm.

But first, let’s get back to basics and consider what a panic alarm is, how they work, whether all panic alarms make a noise, and who should use them …

What is the purpose of a traditional panic alarm and how does it work?

Traditional panic alarm

A traditional panic alarm emits a loud noise when the panic button is pressed. This is designed to draw attention to an incident taking place, e.g. a robbery or physical attack.

The loud sound, much like a fire alarm, will continue until it is deactivated. It is hoped that people in the immediate vicinity will hear the alarm and come to assist.

Some traditional panic alarms are in a fixed, on-site location (e.g. under a retail counter), while others are wireless and can be carried by the user, and some will automatically call the emergency services when activated.

What is a monitored panic alarm and how does it work?

Monitored panic alarmA discreet, monitored panic alarm (such as the SoloProtect ID Touch) comes as part of a wider lone worker safety solution. It can be carried by the user at all times on a lanyard, keyring or belt clip and provides workers with a means to subtly call for help in an emergency (e.g. a robbery, physical attack, sudden health issue, or accident) or when the user feels a social situation is getting out of control (e.g. verbal abuse or aggression).

The Red Alert button on the lone worker device is pushed which opens a one-way call with SoloProtect’s Alarm Receiving Centre. Specially trained operators listen in to the situation and quickly send appropriate assistance e.g. police, ambulance, company security etc. The operator will continue to monitor until the user’s safety has been confirmed.

This can all be done without anyone in the vicinity of the incident being aware that an SOS call has been made. It’s, therefore, particularly useful in an abusive, aggressive or violent situation where noise from a traditional panic button could further aggravate the perpetrator(s).

Note: A SoloProtect panic alarm can also automatically detect a slip, trip or fall. This is commonly called a "Man Down Alarm" or "Incapacitation Alarm".

You can take a look at our Features page to read more about our panic alarm functionality.

Who should use a panic alarm?

A panic alarm can be particularly useful for anyone who works alone, remotely, or at home, either some or all of the time. This is because there are no colleagues around to witness an incident occurring and provide assistance.

It can also help to provide peace of mind to staff who work in particularly high-risk roles e.g. construction and utilities (where environmental risks are high), and community health and social care, security and retail (where social risks are more prevalent).

SoloProtect has customers in the public, private and charity sectors, and covers a range of job types including office workers, homeworkers and those based on-site.

When should you use a panic alarm?

A traditional panic alarm button would generally be pressed when an incident has escalated to its peak and there is a very current threat to the personal safety of the user and/or someone in the area e.g. a robbery or attack in progress.

However, a Red Alert on a monitored, SoloProtect panic alarm can be activated while an incident is escalating, before it’s reached its peak. This allows help to be called much earlier.

The most common reasons for a SoloProtect panic button to be pressed include incidents of violence, abuse, or aggression; slips, trips, falls from height, or other types of accident; and unexpected health issues.

The benefits of a traditional vs monitored panic alarm

The table below summarises the difference in scope between a traditional and a monitored panic alarm:

Traditional panic alarmMonitored panic alarm
Mainly for social risk situations e.g. violence or aggression. Can be used for social or environmental safety threats, or to call for help following an unexpected health issue.
Normally activated during the peak of an incident. Can be activated when the user can sense that a situation is escalating, allowing operators to send help before the incident reaches its peak.
Makes a load siren-type noise to draw attention to the threat – much like a fire alarm. You should consider whether this loud noise could make a situation worse. Is extremely discreet as it doesn’t emit any noise.
Some traditional panic alarms are wired into a specific location. Therefore, you should consider how effective this will be if you have mobile workers. SoloProtect provides a wireless panic alarm that can be carried with the user at all times on a lanyard, keyring, or belt clip.
Most traditional panic alarms rely on people in the vicinity to assist until the emergency services arrive. The panic alarm vibrates discreetly (much like a mobile phone) when the Operator is listening in to the incident – providing reassurance to the worker that help is on the way.
Some panic alarms will call the emergency services or a colleague directly – but they will not have any information about what to expect on arrival. SoloProtect operators can quickly dial straight into the relevant regional police force (bypassing 999), and provide important information about the incident so they can respond accordingly. The operators will continue to listen and will provide any relevant updates to the emergency services as the incident unfolds.
The emergency services may have the address of a traditional wired panic alarm but nothing to tell them whereabouts the incident is occurring at that address. This can be particularly challenging for large sites. Monitored devices are equipped with geolocation technology so the device (and user) can quickly be located after the Red Alert button has been pressed.
Generally relies on a separate CCTV or audio recording system to capture evidence of the incident. Automatically records audio of the incident taking place to be used in future training or legal proceedings.
  The SoloProtect solution also comes with a Ready2Talk function which allows the user to open a call with an Operator in situations where they can see clear evidence of a risk (but before an incident has occurred).
  Multiple benefits for managers including comprehensive usage reports available within SoloProtect Insights and, if enabled, device location information can be accessed by managers to aid operational decisions.

Are panic alarms effective?

Deploying panic alarms across your organisation can be an extremely effective way to keep your staff safe and to give them peace of mind that someone will be available to help should an incident occur.

However, before deciding on which type of panic alarm to invest in, you should take the time to consider the risk profile of your teams and the functionality they require, along with any managerial and organisational benefits.

Panic alarms for lone workers

At SoloProtect, we provide wearable, monitored panic alarms to lone workers as part of a wider lone worker safety solution.

If you’re just starting your panic alarm research, take a look at our Knowledge Base article: How to find the best lone working solution for your team.

This useful document provides an overview of the most important considerations to ensure you’re on the right track.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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