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How do silent alarms work?

If you’ve never heard of silent alarms before, you may be wondering whether it’s a real term. The term ‘silent’ shouldn’t go with ‘alarm’ surely?

Silent alarms are like panic alarms, where a bank clerk can press them under a desk if they’re in the midst of a bank robbery. It’s a way to alert the police discreetly without alerting everyone in the building. Think of it as a secret line to the authorities. They aren’t just for banks either, you can have them installed and set up for businesses and homes.

Our guide will explain in more detail what silent alarms are, how they work and how they differ from the Duress Code – another concept that may be worth knowing about in tandem with silent alarms.

How does a silent alarm work?

When a silent alarm is triggered, it breaks a circuit, which then shows up on the control panel at the alarm company’s office. Some can be triggered automatically by a security bypass, if for example, a robber forces a worker to turn off the regular alarms to open a safe. The panic button can be placed on the side of a desk or underneath, or inside a safe. To help with discretion, some can be disguised as pendants or key fobs. 

Whilst visible alarms can act as a burglar deterrent, coupling your security with a silent alarm can really help everything involved, especially in the unfortunate event things go awry. There can also be specially designated buttons for certain emergencies. For instance, one button could send for paramedics, and another for police.

What components are there for a silent alarm?

A typical silent alarm has three main components to make it fully functional:

  • A trigger – This may be in the form of a button that’s pressed in emergencies. This may be worn, mounted on a wall or accessible through a smartphone
  • Transmission – Once the silent alarm is triggered, the alarm needs to convey the emergency to the authorities (or a particular monitoring centre). This is often done using wired communication, wireless signals (such as radio frequencies) or cellular networks
  • Monitoring – This is typically a 24/7 monitoring centre or directly linked authority, like the police, which receives the alarm signal. They can then take the appropriate action, such as dispatching the police or ambulance.

What is a Duress Code and how does it work?

Also known as a “panic code”, a duress code is a bit like a panic or silent alarm but doesn’t involve pressing a button, however, they can be implemented as part of security alarms, access systems, and certain types of software.

Instead, a duress code works by having dedicated personnel remember a particular word or phrase that discreetly alerts others (or authorities) of any potential danger they might be in. This is especially true for those working in high-risk jobs such as housing support officers who work alone. If, for instance, they feel threatened or unsafe, then the worker can use the duress code (particularly if they’re wearing a body cam or audio recording device) to covertly alert the police.

Who would need a silent alarm?

A silent alarm can work for both businesses and homes. The reason why many people set them up for their homes is in case of a home invasion. Although most burglars target empty houses, this isn’t always the case. In the event that a break-in occurs when someone is in the house, a silent alarm can be programmed to give the residents a safe channel to alert authorities without a siren blaring. This helps because a burglar may tell or force you to disable the alarm system to stop the siren, which will stop authorities being alerted. That’s where a duress code can be programmed into the alarm panels to turn the alarm’s siren off, sending a silent signal to a central station, where instead of cancelling a police dispatch request, it can often speed the response time up. 

For businesses, it works in a similar way. You can install panic buttons in areas that are more likely to be targeted. For instance, they can be placed underneath counters so shop owners can easily access them in emergencies. Police will be notified with the address and location description so they will know what they are turning up to.

You may also need a silent alarm if you work in the following industries:

Smartphones and silent alarms

Silent alarms don’t just have to be activated onsite. Wherever you are, with a smartphone integration, you can activate a panic response on the go, right at your fingertips. This comes with an interactive cellular monitoring service where a cellular dialer is installed in an alarm panel to communicate with a central station. The cell dialers can monitor alarms in the absence of an onsite phone line, but if you do have phone lines, you can also still install cell dialers as a backup in case phone lines go down. This is also a good idea in the case of burglars cutting phone lines.

With smartphone interactivity, you can control alarm systems remotely by arming and disarming them as well as accessing panic buttons in the app. If you’ve come home to find a break-in and don’t feel safe or can hear intruders, you can activate a silent alarm right from your mobile.

Dealing with a business security emergency

It goes without saying that if you own a business, you need to be putting top-rated security measures in place to provide a safer and more secure environment for your employees, visitors and customers. Silent alarms and panic buttons are ideal for buildings that store a lot of cash and assets, like retail, banks etc. but whatever the business, there are plenty of protective barriers you can put in place to prevent burglars from entering in the first place, including physical barriers. Car park barriers help secure your business by allowing you to control who comes in along with access control systems, and hostile vehicle mitigation barriers provide robust protection by acting quickly in the event of an emergency, as they can be raised in a matter of seconds to defend against external threats.

Should I use a silent alarm?

Sounds vs silent alarm – which is better? The answer comes down to your specific business needs. Having both sound and silent alarms in place can really support your workplace security efforts. Sound alarms, characterised by their loud sirens, act as deterrents, making intruders flee once detected, but silent alarms can covertly alert authorities. 

For any advice or more information about what kinds of security solutions, or to find out which access control system is right for your business contact Expert Security UK to speak with our highly experienced team.