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Hold-up & Duress Alarms

Hold-up and Duress Alarms:

All alarm installations must be vetted and approced per University Policy AD-65. Please note that most requests are declined as other solutions are employed.

Hold-up Alarm System

Hold-up alarms are installed in areas where the risk of robbery is heightened because of the nature of the work unit's business and/or environment factors. All electronic devices installed to actuate and transmit a "silent" alarm signal to Univeristy Police and/or other designated police or security agency.

Duress Alarm System

Duress alarm system are installed in areas where the risk of personal confrontation is heightened becasue of the nature of the work unit's business and/or other environmental factors. All electronic devices installed to actuate amd transmit a "silent" alarm signal to Univeristy Police and/or other designated police or security agency

Installations of Duress and/or Hold-up alarms that are expected to be monitored and responded to by University Police will conform to the following:

  1. All Hold-up/Duress alarm locations must be vetted and approved by the Physical Security Office in conjunction with University Police & Public Safety.
  2. Duress and/or Hold-up alarm buttons will only be installed where there is an extreme (and predictable) safety risk to University personnel and where no other viable options are available.
  3. A written procedure must be developed in conjunction with the Physical Security Office and University Police. This procedure must be followed by Departmental staff.
  4. Yearly training and testing of buttons will be required.
  5. A Certificate of Fitness must be completed by any staff, student or faculty member that has access to the button and is responsible for its activation.
  6. Video surveillance cameras will be installed covering the button and immediate area surrounding the Duress/Hold-up installation.
  7. Installations will be hard-wired only, with few exceptions. Mobile or personnel worn wireless Duress/Hold-up buttons will only be used where hard-wired options are not available.

Hold-up: Hold up buttons are restricted to Point-Of-Sale locations where cash handling exceeds $1,000.

Duress: Duress Alarm buttons installations are sternly regulated at Penn State and will be restricted to vetted locations and operations where duress alarms are the only, and best, occupant security option.

Cameras: Any location where we install duress or Hold-up buttons, we will require video surveillance. This will be mandatory. For existing locations, we will either install cameras or remove buttons. Note: Installing cameras tasked on work or office locations, will likely meet with resistance from staff/faculty.

Other Options: Positioning a phone at the location, with 911 or 3-1111 on speed dial, often accomplishes the same function and results in better response to many situations. If the user cannot talk, Police dispatchers or 911 operators can still listen in while dispatching assistance. Steps should be taken operationally and/or procedurally in order to reduce or eliminate the risk. Other options can include +1 staffing procedures, training nearby staff to make phone calls, “local only” system to alert full time staff at locally attended locations (IE, no tie to Police), etc.

Summary: Preparing appropriate Police response to unknown situations can be highly difficult. Difficulty comes with the unknown” aspect of many duress alarms which force Police to respond to a “worst case scenario”. This can actually increase public risk in lieu of reducing it. This is due to forced worst-case scenario response by Police. Moreover, the increasing number of alarm buttons installed University-wide, can overload Police Communications Center which has to respond to all actual alarms as well as acknowledge every test alarm as they come in. For all of these reasons, we need to restrict installations to only those that pose an extreme predetermined risk, and where other (and better) options are not available. For the above mentioned reasons, we require video surveillance at all Duress/Hold-up locations.