Panic Buttons Can Enhance Workplace Safety in Many Industries

Recently, California lawmakers introduced a bill that would require hotels to provide housekeepers with a “panic button” to prevent violent assaults and sexual harassment. The city of Seattle previously passed a ballot measure that requires employers to provide hotel housekeepers with panic buttons, and Chicago passed a similar measure last year. While hotels seem to be the only industry affected by laws requiring the issuance of panic buttons to employees thus far, the technology has widespread benefits for many businesses.

Other examples of lone, mobile workers who might encounter dangerous situations during the workday include real estate agents and home health care workers. Panic buttons can also be useful in more traditional workplaces such as hospitals, schools, and large office complexes. They can help pinpoint where an emergency situation is taking place and give responders an open line of communication to hear what is happening and provide feedback or instructions when appropriate.

The mobile workforce in America is growing across all fields. According to IDC Research, 72 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be made up of mobile workers by 2020. When employees are not operating in an office or controlled environment, it makes it more difficult for businesses to manage the risks those workers invariably encounter.  Further, it becomes increasingly more difficult to know when a worker needs emergency assistance. This shift away from traditional workplace settings creates a need for companies to develop new safety protocols and invest in different technologies that secure the safety of mobile workers.

While proper training in safety procedures remains crucial, providing mobile and traditional office workers with the right tools to request and receive help in an emergency situation becomes more important and critical in avoiding negative outcomes. In active-threat situations, panic buttons are within easy reach, users can rely on them being charged because they rest in a charging cradle and they can also be removed from the cradle to provide mobile tracking while keeping lines of communication open.

In the security industry, panic buttons are traditionally referred to as a Mobile Personal Emergency Response System (mPERS). These devices are similar to those the help buttons seniors have used for years that can be pressed after a fall to alert emergency responders that assistance is needed. These types of technologies have become more beneficial because they no longer require a base station device to place calls, which previously limited their range of use.

mPERS devices are small and lightweight. They provide state-of-the-art location technologies, and also offer built-in fall advisory capabilities, or the ability to detect horizontal and vertical movement. But, they take safety a step further than simply reporting a fall on the job via a text message or red flag in a software system. mPERS devices can also eliminate the need for the worker to initiate a call for help. Instead, they can trigger one automatically. And cloud-based technologies make it possible for Central Stations to immediately respond to the call for help. Whether a fall is accidental or caused by an attacker throwing a user to the ground, the mPERS device can detect the movement and initiate emergency response.

Another benefit of mPERS devices is long battery life. Unlike phones that sometimes have to be charged multiple times a day, mPERS devices have less functions and do not need to be fully functional at all times. They can be left off or essentially in a hibernation mode until the SOS button on the device is pressed. Once this action occurs, location information can be sent to a central reporting destination and an emergency call can be placed. This enables mPERS devices to run on a single charge between 2 and 30 days depending upon the configuration and use of the device.

Whatever wearable or panic button device makes the most sense for a particular company, the most important factor is that business owners and managers, school officials, hospital administrators and other executive decision-makers take advantage of these new technologies that could save lives and improve the safety and health of their employees.


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