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Correctional Officer Duress Systems: Selection Guide

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2003
81 pages
The intent of this report is to assist corrections managers in identifying, selecting, and deploying duress alarm systems, which permit alarm signals to be rapidly distributed in the event of impending threats.
The duress alarm system's ability to provide comprehensive alarm coverage throughout a correctional facility is achieved through wireless communication technologies. The typical duress system considered in this report consists of a network of transmitters and receivers (fixed or portable) strategically distributed throughout the facility and linked to a central command alarm and control point. The report presents a scheme for classifying guard duress systems, a simplified duress system model, basic issues to address during the selection process, and an overview of relevant (current and emerging) technologies. The classification scheme identifies the fundamental capabilities of the following types of duress alarm systems: panic button alarms, identification alarms, and identification/location alarms. Whereas panic button alarms provide only alarm notification capabilities, the other types identify the correctional staff member involved in a duress situation when an alarm is activated. Identification/location alarms also specify the location of activated alarms. An alarm/locator/control model is presented as a framework for discussing the capabilities of various duress systems. Topics discussed for the selection process include cost, installation issues, alarm activation, and system scalability. The technologies of available systems include ultrasonic, infrared, and radio frequency communication. The description of each technology emphasizes its advantages and disadvantages. Emerging technologies that may influence future alarm systems are also described. Specific products and vendors are profiled. 13 figures, 5 tables, 22 references, and vendor contact information