What is a Duress Device?
A duress device is part of an electronic system designed to provide individuals with a source of immediate contact during or after an accident, medical emergency, or security situation. These devices are more commonly referred to as panic buttons or hold-up buttons and can come in various styles such as button panels, cash-clips, watches, pendants, or bracelets.
Oftentimes, duress devices are used for elderly people to keep on their body in case of a fall. With that said, another incredibly important use for duress systems is in correctional or mental health facilities. For these individuals, an emergency oftentimes means waiting for a security guard or attendant to take notice. With a duress device, inmates or patients are given the ability to make their emergent situation known instantly.
How Does Duress Station Security Electronic Equipment Work?
Duress stations must consider both the safety of the person in duress as well as the staff member attending to the call.
Per the Ray Bernard Consulting firm, “It is very important to develop design-basis scenarios that describe the situations under which the duress device should be activated and what the at-risk individual should do afterwards. Different situations can require different responses. For example, an escalating argument between two long-term employees wouldn’t be treated the same way as an intoxicated and belligerent individual with a gun.”
Duress station security electronic equipment should be of a partially bespoke design given the establishment and primary reason for use. With that said, there are general standards for high-quality duress devices.
The Basics & Standards
- Key Acknowledgement Cancellation
In correctional facilities, key acknowledgement via a corrections officer is one of the most important safety issues. This means that once an alarm is activated it can only be cancelled via a trained corrections officer by entering a key code at a reset station. This ensures that the inmate will be attended to, as well as the safety of the corrections officer.
- Tamper-Resistant Hardware
Electrical hardware poses the possibility of a dangerous situation. Wires, screws, and plating offer those with the drive a creative design for a lethal weapon. Therefore, one of the most important standards for duress devices, especially in correctional facilities, is high-quality, tamper-resistant hardware.
- Legal Requirements
Any legal firm, insurance company, or policyholder representing an enterprise that uses duress devices will generally take an invested interest in their client securing and abiding by appropriate standards.
Before implementing or requesting the creation of a duress system, contact your legal representation or insurance company to inquire about specific requirements. Keep in mind, this may change the type of design, location, and specific usage of the duress devices implemented within your facility.
- National Fire Protection Association Standards
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a common entity that develops and imposes these standards. For example, the NFPA requires the following in their list of standards do duress alarms, devices, and systems.
- “In private duress alarm activation, the action to activate the duress signal is known only to the person authorized to activate the device. In public duress alarm activation, the action to activate the duress signal is available to any person at the protected premises.” (A.18.104.22.168)
- “Duress alarm device buttons can be located at strategic locations throughout the facility, including elevators, stairwells, and parking areas, with prominent signs posted showing their locations. The duress alarm system and intercom system can be integrated with the video surveillance system for enhanced effectiveness of the systems.” (A.10.2.5.1)
- “Public duress alarm systems, where present, should be installed and maintained in accordance with NFPA 731.” (10.2.5.1)
The key is education. Based upon the location of your duress station, research the specific standards and requirements. This will not only protect you from possibly negative legal ramifications, but it will ensure the safety and security of all involved parties.
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