Personal Safety

Best Personal Alarm Reviews: For Women, Loudest, Keychain, For Elderly, And More

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Panic button (Caption: Guide to Duress Alarms)Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you knew you were in imminent danger? Many of us rely on security systems to help keep us safe and alert the authorities when we need help. But in some situations, activating your alarm can present a challenge. If someone is in your home or workplace and you need to activate the alarm, do you know how to summon the police discreetly? That’s when a personal alarm can be a lifesaver.

Article Overview

What’s A Personal Alarm?

A personal (or duress code) alarm system is a security system that allows you to enter a code that will simultaneously disarm the alarm and send a silent alarm to alert authorities that you need help. These codes can come in handy when you find yourself with an intruder asking you to turn off your security system.

Using a duress code, you appease your intruder by following their directions, and you let the right people know that you’re at risk.

Types Of Personal Alarms

There are several different types of personal duress alarms. We’ll explain the difference so you can make sure you’re getting the right one for your needs.

Distress Alarm

CallToU Wireless Caregiver PagerDistress alarms are often a single button alarm that sends an alert. You may find them in medical facilities where patients or staff may need to get help quickly. You may also see this type in a workplace where the work is dangerous and workers are far from each other. The distress alarm may be in the form of a wearable pendant or a button in a strategic location. These alarms usually alert others within the facility but don’t automatically call the police. The CallToU Wireless Caregiver Pager is a distress alarm that a patient can use to alert their caregiver during a distressing event.

Panic Button Alarm

Ring Alarm Panic ButtonPanic buttons are a type of duress alarm that you can carry with you or even have as an app on your cell phone. They’re great for personal security and medical emergencies. Some home security systems offer panic button options like the Ring Alarm system that allows you to buy their panic button separately and add it to your system.

Silent Alarm

A silent alarm is when your alert doesn’t make an audible noise but does call for help. You can trigger the silent alarm with a panic button or a duress code. Think: bank teller with a button under the counter or someone turning off an alarm in the presence of an intruder at home or work. The Honeywell 5869 Wireless Commercial Panic Switch is a popular option.

Panic Button Personal Alarms

Elderly man holding panic button in hand (caption: Guide to Panic Buttons)Panic buttons are security alert systems that allow you to get help when you need it. There are a variety of types that range from an app on your phone to a part of your home security system. Depending on your needs, you can find a way to protect yourself with a panic button.

Do I Really Need A Panic Button?

A panic button allows you to discreetly call for help or sound an audible alarm if you find yourself in a situation of distress. Here are three situations when a panic button could help you out.

1. Intruder In Your Home

When someone enters your home without your permission, you need to alert authorities as quickly as possible. You can use a panic button while you’re in a safe spot in your home without notifying the intruder of your whereabouts.

2. You Feel A Threat To Your Safety

There are a lot of situations when you might feel threatened. Maybe someone is following you or waiting near your car when you leave a store. A panic button can help you send an alert to authorities to protect yourself.

3. Medical Emergency

If you have a medical emergency, time is of the essence. By just pressing your panic button, help can be on the way.

How Do Panic Buttons Work?

Most panic buttons consist of two parts: the button and a communication system. Once you press the button, you alert the communication system, which then will contact 911. When it’s a part of your home security system, it will inform your home security provider. That provider knows the details of your home security and can provide information even if you cannot.

Loud Audible Alarms vs Discreet Alerts

Panic buttons can alert in two ways, with a loud audible alarm or a discreet alert to responders. Depending on your situation, you may prefer one over the other. If someone attacks you, you’ll want a loud alarm to draw attention to your location, and frighten your attacker. A discreet alarm is ideal when you want to send an alert without putting yourself in more danger-for instance, an armed robbery at a place of business or a during a kidnapping.

Are They Similar To A Medical Alert System?

Elderly person's folded hands (caption: Best Medical Alert Systems)Panic buttons are similar to medical alert systems because they alert first responders when you have a medical emergency. However, you can use panic buttons for a variety of other situations. Panic buttons also have an option for a discreet alert. Medical alert systems connect you to someone who will speak to you through a communication hub on the device, so they’re not discreet.

If you’re interested in a medical alert system, read our reviews of the best medical alert systems to see which one is right for you or your loved one.

Types Of Panic Buttons

Home SecurityApps | For Business | For The Elderly | For The Car | Personal 

Home Security

Many home security systems offer panic buttons as an added layer of protection for you and your family. If an intruder enters your home while you’re there, you can press the panic button to sound an alarm. It will then alert your provider’s monitoring center to dispatch the authorities. You can use the panic button even if your alarm system isn’t armed.

Some of our favorite security systems have the option of a panic button. Frontpoint offers a panic pendant as an add-on to their system, and SimpliSafe has a panic button option as well. Some other systems that we review also offer this option. The ADT panic button is wearable and connects to the command system. Ring Alarm also has a panic button you can purchase to add to your system.

Monitored Security + Panic Button = Optimal Protection

Home security panic buttons are wireless and sometimes wearable, so they can go anywhere in your home. You want them to be accessible so you can use them where and when you need them. The combination of a panic button with a home security system is the best choice for complete protection.


There are several personal alarm apps on the market, like Red (iOS, Android), Rave (iOS, Android) and Noonlight (iOS, Android), that you can install on your smartphone to use as a panic button. Some offer more features than others, like GPS location and informing your emergency contact.

Personal Experience

Parents like to add apps like Noonlight to their child’s phone to help make sure they’re safe. Kids like them because they’re easy to use and put them at ease when they’re alone.

My teenage daughter has Noonlight. It gives me some peace of mind when she goes jogging in our neighborhood or walks to a friend’s house alone. – Neil G.

I like Noonlight. It’s easy to use and it makes me feel safe when I’m out by myself in our neighborhood or hanging out with friends. – Mary Kate G., Neil’s daughter

For Business

Honeywell 5869 Wireless Commercial Panic SwitchBusinesses may want to install a panic button that will alert authorities when a threatening situation occurs. The Honeywell 5869 Wireless Commercial Panic Switch is a popular choice you can place under a desk or register so you can send an alert without being noticed. It does need to connect to your security system.

For The Elderly

Old woman talking on phone (caption: Best Home Security Systems For The Elderly)Some panic buttons may cater to the elderly by being easy to use and helping to alert in situations that are more common for people in this older age group.

If this is what you’re looking for, consider the best security systems for the elderly and look for panic buttons that you can add to those systems.

For The Car

Though you can install a panic button in your car with an alarm system, most newer models have this built into the key fob. These are typically just an audible alarm set off with the push of a button. You can use them to alert others of your need for help or to scare someone away if you feel threatened.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

Another safeguard for your car is a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. You probably are used to seeing them mounted in homes, but did you know they’re also available for your car? In 2017, Ford warned owners of certain Explorer SUV models (built 2010-2018) that carbon monoxide (CO) could be leaking into their vehicles’ cabins1. And Toyota had problems with its keyless ignition systems causing a series of deaths in recent years2. The danger is that CO is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause serious impairment in drivers and even death.

Personal Use

B A S U eAlarmA personal panic button is a simple way to provide you with extra security at home and on the go. Products like the B A S U eAlarm and the iMaxAlarm sound an audible alarm when activated. The goal is to alert people around you of your emergency while also frightening those trying to harm you.

How Fast Do Panic Button Apps Work?

In this 3-minute video, CBS Philly put the Noonlight panic-button style app to the test. Watch to see how it worked and if it was a better choice than calling 911.

Do I Need A Duress Code?

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they’ll need a duress code feature on their alarm system until they’re in a situation when they’ll need it. Several home security systems offer this feature, so you may want to consider adding it to your system.

Use Your Intuition To Stay Safe

In a scary situation where you can use a duress code, you’ll be the only one to decide whether or not you should. If you feel like you’re putting yourself at a higher risk if the police arrive unannounced, you need to do what’s right for your situation. Every scenario is unique and will play out differently. Trust yourself to make the decision that feels right and keeps you the safest.

Security Systems With Duress Options

Several of the security systems we review have some duress options. Here are a few, including links to our reviews so you can see what our experts have to say about each system.

  • ADT: With ADT, you can enter a duress code and get a panic button. Both options can trigger a silent alarm and alert the police.
  • isn’t a security system;
    Panic button from Frontpoint
    Panic button from Frontpoint

    however, it works with some security systems to integrate all of your security and smart home features. Your security system provider provides duress features, but lets you add things like a panic pendant to increase those features.

  • Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers panic buttons, a panic option on the touchscreen control panel, and a duress code.
  • Protect America: Protect America offers panic buttons, a duress code, and the additional option of a mini keypad you can place discreetly. You can use the mini keypad to arm, disarm, and enter the duress code.
  • SimpliSafe: You can use panic buttons and a duress code with SimpliSafe.

Be sure you follow up with your provider to make sure you set up your silent alarm, and you know what your duress code is; it may not happen automatically. You also want to verify if panic buttons trigger a silent alarm or require verification before alerting the police. Knowing your system and how it works will provide the most security when you need it.

Duress Alarms For Schools

This video from CBS Philly shows how New Jersey schools are using a type duress alarm system to protect their students and staff.

Stay Informed About Response In Your Community

Having a duress alarm could be your saving grace in a dangerous situation. By entering a simple code, you can alert the police and discreetly get the help you may need. To make the best choice in your location, you may want to consider the average police response time in your area, so you know how quickly you may get help. Having all the information you need helps you make the best decisions when it comes to your safety.

Julie Fritz

Julie has been writing professionally since 2012. She is an active volunteer for a local arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. Everytown does comprehensive research on gun violence and makes recommendations on how we can all make our communities safer. Her involvement with this organization has given her invaluable information about how to keep our kids safe. She enjoys writing not only about gun safety, but from family-related content to informative articles about technology, events and healthcare. In her free time, you might find her hiking, trail running, biking or swimming. You might also find her in the kitchen where she loves to cook and bake.

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