Specify Duress Buttons Without Video Coverage?

I have always considered duress button applications to require a thorough application of people, process and technology measures. If the person or organization is at that much risk due to a threat or hostile action being reported in real time, you don't want to just send a signal without having some means of determining what's doing on before you send security personnel in the door or the police are summoned.

Yet over the past couple of years, I've been involved in a number of site walkthroughs and facility security reviews where a security technology provider had recommended and installed duress buttons, and some or none of the duress locations had video coverage or a means of audio listen-in.

About one-quarter of the facilities visited had never tested the duress buttons since the time of installation--in some cases that had been several years. We have encountered quite a variety of situations, such as more duress buttons than were actually being monitored (an error, of course), missing duress buttons, and so on.

I know that this topic goes beyond video, but I consider video and audio monitoring capabilities important for duress notification applications (whether keypad, pendant or button technology is used).

What are the duress applications that don’t warrant or can’t utilize video? One that I can think of at the moment is a pendant or watch duress button, where video coverage is not 100% throughout the coverage area and no GPS tracking is being used.

Hello, Ray:

What you are suggesting makes sense to me. If you can do more than simply 'raise the flag' during an emergency and send along qualifying information, then why not do it?!

In practical terms, any location where HIPAA or other privacy regulations are an issue might preclude video use. For example, I don't know that video is a common element of nursecall systems, yet they are essentially distributed duress systems.

"About one-quarter of the facilities visited had never tested the duress buttons since the time of installation--in some cases that had been several years."

I'm no civil attorney, but is this not an incredible liability exposure?

Duress buttons, unlike surveillance cameras, overtly express an expectation of 'help' being on the other end of pressing one. If they either do not work, or worse, aren't being monitored, "I would like to volunteer to do the plantiff's direct of this witness, your honor...."

Money in the bank.... except the customer is not even aware that they are the bank.

Marty, I no longer find this surprising. Airports test their checkpoint security technology at least once daily. Banks perform a daily check. Some organizations test communications and duress technologies at shift change. Some don't test for a variety of reasons.

Here are factors behind some of the failures to test duress technology:

  • No documented alarm test program (no thought given to it)
  • Personnel change, where the departing individual had taken on periodic duress testing as a personal initiative, and that fact got lost in the shuffle
  • Staff change, and the staff did not know that duress buttons were installed
  • The majority of the duress buttons became were physically damaged and inoperative, without so employees in the areas assumed
  • Duress via keypad was part of access control system, and was working, but over time personnel forgot the duress codes and then forgot about the feature altogether, because it was not a separate device that stood out
  • Testing was part of maintenance contract that was not renewed, with decision-makers not aware of the fact that such testing was part of the contracted service

I would like to think that most duress devices are tested at appropriate testing intervals, but I know that at least some are not. I have no idea what the tested/untested ratio is.

Testing should include whatever video alerting and messaging is intended to occur as the result of the duress signal.

When I find situations where the access control system is not under maintenance contract (it's been ages since they "needed service", but the video is under maintenance contract, I try to get the testing of duress functionality included in the video maintenance contract if a simple access control maintenance contract won't be put back in place. This is easy when the duress signal is intended to call up video.

Now I'm wondering how common it is these days to integrate video call-up in response to duress device signals.