Personal Attack Alarms: Monitored Or Passive?

Posted: 7 Nov, 2016.

Despite media reporting of physical or sexual attacks, the UK remains a fairly safe place for people going about their day-to-day activities.

However, working alone does mean you need to take more care. Carrying a personal attack alarm with you whist working can help keep you safe. Here are some of the key differences between passive and monitored personal attack alarms.

Passive Personal Attack Alarms

The purpose of these is to surprise and confuse the attacker, by setting off a loud shrill sound. This gives you a chance to escape and signals to anyone nearby that you’re in trouble and need help.

Attackers rely on frightening a victim into being compliant, and will not want to draw attention to what they are doing. As well as high decibel sound, these types of alarms may also use flight flashes or sprays.


The alarm does not actually disable the attacker, so the attack may continue. An assailant may continue an attack after the alarm in an attempt to silence it – and in doing so injure the victim.

The sound may give you time to escape, but what then? Unless someone is nearby, and is able and willing to intervene, the victim would remain alone and vulnerable.

Some alarms are easily smothered or muffled if the assailant places a hand over it. A victim armed only with a personal alarm really has no control over the situation.

Some personal alarms emit sounds which are very similar to car alarms. Some experts feel that a personal alarm may simply be ignored because people are so used to hearing car alarms go off. There is often so much background noise that we have grown accustomed to police, ambulance and fire service sirens or car and burglar alarms. Therefore, expecting someone to respond to a simple passive personal alarm is an increasing gamble.

Monitored Personal Attack Alarms

Monitored personal attack alarms, such as lone worker devices, can be disguised in many ways, such as an ID badge.

They can be activated discreetly by pressing a button, without a potential attacker seeing. Plus, the device is monitored 24/7 by trained operators at a dedicated Alarm Receiving Centre.


Activating the device automatically gives your location to the controller. They are able to listen in and record ongoing or developing situations. This means that a user does not have to wait until an attack is in progress before activating the device. It can be activated at the point that someone’s behaviour begins to cause concern.

If safe to do so, the controller can contact the user through the device or their mobile phone. The user will be asked if they are at risk, and can simply provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The controller can then contact the police using a unique reference number (URN) which guarantees immediate response. This process is often quicker than dialling 999. The controller will also be able to describe the situation to the police and, as they continue listening in, update on developments.

If the police are not needed, colleagues can be contacted instead. If the user has activated the device due to feeling uneasy about a particular situation, but doesn’t need emergency assistance in the end, they may still need the support of a colleague or manager. A list of ‘escalation contacts’ is kept for each user so that they may be summoned if needed.

The devices can be activated for reasons other than some sort of attack. These reasons could include illness or injury. Lone worker devices can be fitted with movement and impact sensors which automatically activate the device if the user falls.

Providing staff with this kind of device shows an employer cares. The employer providing the device demonstrates support for a lone worker who may encounter any of the above problems. This also meets a responsibility imposed by health and safety or other legislation.

In conclusion, a monitored alarm has none of the disadvantages of a passive alarm, and device activation will guarantee contact with the user and/or speedy assistance.

Those who may be alone late at night or in a public place, shouldn’t be discouraged from carrying and using a passive device, which may indeed deter an attacker.

However, as a health and safety solution for lone workers, it is clear that a monitored alarm provides the most suitable and discreet response to a potential or actual risk situation.


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