How Duress Codes Could Save Your Life

Imagine yourself in a situation such as this;

Scenario 1: You are a community nurse working a shift during a dark winters evening. You are on your way to visit a patient’s home who is suffering with mental health. Half way into the appointment the patient starts to become aggressive and begins to threaten you. Feeling vulnerable in the situation, you reach out for your phone to call a nearby colleague for assistance.  The aggressor becomes even more hostile towards you when they realise you are trying to reach for help, making a potentially life-threatening situation even worse.

In an emergency like the above, it’s crucial that a lone working employee has a discreet way in which to call for help. Although dialling a mobile phone has the ability to successfully connect to a police control room operative or perhaps a family member, it isn’t always that easy. Below another example situation leading on from scenario 1, highlights how help can be discreetly summoned without alerting an attacker.

Scenario 2:  After being threatened by the patient, you discreetly press the button on your personal safety device disguised as an identity badge holder. By speaking aloud, a code word or phrase, help could be at the doorstep before you even know it.

A Duress code – how does it work?

According to Tvtropes, (2018), a Duress code is a memorised word or phrase discreetly dropped into a conversation by an individual who is being coerced by one or more hostile persons. The key purpose for having one is to warn others that you are in danger and in need of assistance.

You may be wondering exactly how one word or phrase can make such a difference to an individual’s safety. You may also be questioning how a Duress code can be implemented within a personal safety service. When an alarm is raised on one of Guardian24’s lone worker solutions, it is received by a Controller at the 24/7 operated Alarm Receiving Centre. With the devices two-way audio capabilities, the Controller has the ability to silently listen in to the situation and assess the safety of the employee.

Once the Controller has evaluated the situation, they have a number of bespoke escalation procedures to follow, personalised to each employee. Guardian24’s service provides each client to access an online Customer Service Centre (CSC), allowing lone workers to register their requirements and important information that the Controller may need to know in an emergency. This can include medical history, contact numbers or their details regarding their physical appearance. Within this portal a Duress code word or phrase can also be set up, this will be visible on the Controllers screens in the event that an alarm is raised.  A chosen phrase could be anything from “‘I’m thirsty, could I get a drin­­k” where ‘I’m thirsty’ would be the selected Duress code registered on the portal.

Upon hearing this word, the Controllers at Guardian24 will immediately know the employee is in danger. With the devices GPS capabilities, the lone worker’s exact location will be displayed. The trained Guardian24 Controller will then summon the emergency services if deemed necessary.

Choosing the right Duress Code:

  • Make it realistic – the whole point of a Duress code is that it fulfils its purpose, discreetly. Ensure the word is unique enough for you to remember but not too extraordinary as this could spark suspicions. Try to ensure it is something that you can drop into a conversation smoothly.
  • Keep it clear and fairly short – remember, the Duress code word has to be identified by Controllers at the ARC. You want the phrase to be fairly easy to pronounce so it does not get miscommunicated.
  • Keep it to yourself – A Duress code word should always be kept private to the individual at all times.

To read more about Guardian24’s service click here, you can start your free 30 day trial today.


2018-10-09T16:14:00+01:00May 31st, 2018|