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How is your duress system performing? Take this quick test

This month the Matryx checklist-image-730x410team has been busy undertaking security risk assessments. Security risk assessments are a big part of our role as independent security advisers as they allow us to determine the risk profile of a building. Once we know that, we can determine the appropriate security treatments and make our recommendations to the client.

Duress systems have featured heavily in each of the risk assessments we have completed recently.  The common factor with all of them has been how poorly they have been considered before being implemented. And this is a real concern.

Duress systems are broadly used for one key purpose – to alert someone that urgent assistance is required. Their most common application is to notify fellow staff members of hostile or aggressive behaviour by clients or visitors. Yet, none of the systems we evaluated this month had any level of alert capability that would notify staff members an incident was occurring.

Each of the duress systems was programmed to report a duress alarm to a 3rd party monitoring centre. The monitoring centre would then call an alarm patrol service that would dispatch a security guard to the building. This could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before the assistance arrived. Sometimes more.

There are two key issues here:images

The first is that a guard would be automatically dispatched before the seriousness of the event was confirmed. This is a bit pointless. If using an external alarm provider, update the alarm response instructions so that the premises is called before a guard is sent to site.

The second is the time it takes for a guard to respond. Most guard and patrol services are active at night when businesses are closed and are simply not capable of responding quickly during the day. Unless the security guard is physically located in the building, relying on a guarding service for duress response will not be practical for most businesses.

Two things need to happen the moment a duress alarm is activated – the event needs to be confirmed and assistance needs to be rendered if the event is genuine. This means that the initial response will need to come from work colleagues. It also means that some level of planning and coordination will need to go into how these events are managed.

For duress systems to be effective, they need to achieve three key things:

They must:

  • Provide a warning to other staff members that a duress situation is occurring;
  • Generate an appropriate response quickly; and
  • Diffuse the situation wherever possible.

If you have duress systems in your business, do this quick test to understand if your systems may need to be improved:


Have you …

  1. Inducted your staff. Do they understand the purpose of the duress buttons and when it is appropriate to use them?
  2. Provided your staff members an escape path that allows them to move into a secure area if they feel threatened?
  3. Identified how other staff members will be alerted to a duress event and how the duress will be responded to? Do you know who from your staff will respond? Have you considered who has the authority and temperament to best manage the situation?
  4. Trained your staff on what should happen when a duress alarm is activated? It is just as important to know who will respond as who should not!
  5. Explained that if the situation is serious your staff should notify the Police immediately?
  6. Tested your duress systems regularly to ensure everything is working as expected?

Duress situations are one of the most serious incidents that can occur in a workplace. The level of planning that should go into their use should be fully considered in the same way as fire evacuation planning is.

Are your duress systems appropriate for your business?

Matryx is proud to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands, and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

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