Duress vs. Panic Buttons: Differences & Functionality

Many people often refer to duress buttons and panic buttons as the same thing, and in many ways, they are one and the same. Distinguishing between the two can actually become a bit hairy, as they are so similar and so often used interchangeably. 

Typically, when someone speaks of a panic button or duress button, they are referring to a small and inconspicuous button that when pushed summons authorities. Here, you’ll learn more about how these buttons work as well as how some people distinguish between the two. 

duress button vs panic button

What is a Duress Button, and What is a Panic Button? 

Duress alarms and panic buttons are small buttons that people can push if they are in an emergency situation. They are installed in many types of buildings, including banks, schools, hospitals, restaurants, retail spaces, office buildings, and government buildings. 

Once the button is pushed, the authorities are alerted, and they typically respond with an immediate presence. They’re part of an alarm system, and they allow people to report any threat while they are in the building such as a bank robber or active shooter. People who pose these types of threats may gain access to the building without causing a scene, and they can easily bypass parts of the security system like door alarms if they enter during regular business hours. 

The buttons can be wired or wireless, but they are typically wired and kept in a single location. Wireless buttons can be for one individual to carry with them, perhaps on a necklace or key fob, for example. Wireless buttons are often used for places where a dangerous situation is more likely to occur; giving each employee a button to keep on their person at all times helps keep them safer. They can also be used in places where a dangerous situation is more likely to occur away from a set location such as a front desk. 

Hardwired buttons are often placed in areas where an employee is constantly present. This might be behind the counter in a retail store or bank, in the main office in a school, or behind the desk at a nurse’s station.  

How Do Duress Buttons and Panic Buttons Work?

Duress buttons and panic buttons are designed to work very simply; they are meant to make it very easy for someone to summon authorities when they are in an extremely dangerous situation. A simple push of the button alerts police and other first responders to come immediately. 

Alerts set off by these buttons are treated very seriously by law enforcement because they usually mean somebody is in extreme danger. For example, you might push the button for an armed robbery, an active shooter, a hold-up, or any time you are not able to dial 911 for any reason. It’s important to note that these buttons should only be used for very dangerous situations and should not be a replacement for a normal 911 call. For example, you should still call 911 for something like a medical emergency or a domestic dispute. 

Each button is activated a bit differently, but in general, they are very easy to push and activate. They’re typically small and within reach, so you can push them without anybody realizing it. For example, they might be just under a desk. They can even be directly installed on a keyboard, so you don’t need to move your hand away from your computer to press the button. In some cases, they are a foot pedal on the floor rather than a button. Anything that is easier, quicker, and less conspicuous than picking up a phone and calling 911 is ideal for a panic or duress button. 

Duress Button vs Panic Button

While both terms are often used interchangeably, some people assign slight differences in meaning between the terms duress button and panic button. One major difference between the two is that sometimes a duress alarm system is referring only to a silent alarm while a panic button is referring to an audible alarm. 

Duress Button

A silent duress system is ideal in a lot of emergency situations. You’ll often find these buttons in places like banks, office buildings, and retail stores. They’re ideal to use when somebody is a threat or is causing a disturbance and you need to summon the authorities but you don’t necessarily want the person to know you have done so. This is especially important for tense situations where the person pushing the button is being threatened. 

duress button

Panic Button

An audible panic button, on the other hand, is ideal in situations where there is an emergency and you want to alert the occupants of the building. Panic button might be ideal in school campus or large building with many occupants and many exits such as a universities or hospital building. An audible alarm can help protect people and make them aware of a threat so they can act accordingly. 

panic alarm button

Duress Button vs Panic Button 

To determine if you should have an audible panic button or a silent duress button, talk to your security team and local law enforcement about what type of threat you are most likely to experience and what type of button will work best for that type of threat. 

Some common threats that require a panic button or a duress button include a burglar, an active shooter, a bank robber, and a hostage situation. Choose a duress button any time you sense that the knowledge of you calling for authorities might heighten the situation. For example, calling 911 might make the situation more violent, dangerous, or it might upset the person. In these instances, a duress button is ideal. 

Also, consider whether only employees need access to the button or whether customers or the general public should have access to the button as well. If it would be safer for everybody to have access to the button, a visible panic button might be ideal.

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