Silent alarms are used by banks and retail stores who want to protect their employees and help to catch the bad guys. There are a wide variety of manual and automatic triggers for silent alarms, but they all have one purpose: to let the police know that a robbery is in progress without alerting the criminal that the alarm has been sounded.
When faced with a gun or other weapon, clerks and tellers don't want to alert the robber that they just called the police. It tends to upset the man with the weapon. Ideally, the robber does not know the alarm has been tripped until he leaves the building and finds the police waiting for him.
Most banks and many retailers have multiple secret triggers. Some of them are push buttons behind the counter, others are buttons or microswitches that can be activated in different ways. The details of these triggers, including where they are and what they look like, is kept secret in order to protect those who might use them. In many places the employee has more than one trigger that she can activate. Where security is a big issue, there might also be secret words or hand signals that let others know that something is wrong.
Any monitored alarm system can be set to be a silent alarm. There are motion sensors, glass break detectors, switches that indicate if a door or window is opened, pressure sensors that can be put under flooring, laser and optical sensors, vibration sensors, and more. When security guards or police are able to respond quickly, automatic silent alarms keep the criminal from running away before he can get caught.
Another Alarm Trigger
One more valuable silent alarm trigger is worth mentioning. That trigger is bystanders or neighbors who call the police when they see something suspicious. It's always a good idea to establish relationships with your neighbors, whether at home or at work, so they feel motivated to call the police if they see something wrong. Many criminals have been caught because a neighbor saw something suspicious and called the police.
Calling for Help
All silent alarms have one thing in common: they notify police or security that something is wrong. Businesses and residences with alarm systems pay a monthly fee to an agency that monitors their system and notifies the proper authorities in the case of an alarm. Larger businesses have their own security teams that monitor for silent alarms. The whole purpose of silent alarm systems is to get help without letting the criminal know that you are alerting authorities. A silent alarm that does not notify the police is useless.
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