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Types of Lone Worker Alarms: How they Help in Emergencies

Written by Chris Potts | 3 Jun 2024

Lone Worker Alarm blog

A lone worker alarm is a way of notifying people within your organisation that an incident to a lone worker has occurred and support is required. In this blog we’re going to explore the different types of alarms that companies adopt and how they are used to protect lone workers.

To trigger the alarm in the first place, workers must carry some form of handset or device capable of triggering alarms. There are many handsets that come in different sizes, including wearable, dual-purpose, man-down, WiFi and those that don’t rely on 2G, 4G mobile networks.  

When deliberating how best to protect your lone workers, you should also consider how your response team will manage each alarm too because, of course, the alarm itself is the beginning of the emergency process not the end. But we’ll touch on this later in the blog.


What are the different types of alarms?
Let’s assess the different types of alarms companies adopt.

Light and sounder
Light and Sounder Alarm

This type of alarm is still common in manufacturing sites. When an incident takes place the worker either presses their SOS button or their man-down feature on their lone worker handset is activated, triggering the light and sounder.  

It’s a really good way of making people aware of an incident, but it does have its limitations. One of the biggest draw backs is the lack of information contained within the alarm. If you have multiple lone workers, it doesn’t reveal who triggered the alarm or where the person is located.

To overcome this, separate sounders could be installed for each lone worker with them clearly labelled. But even with 10 lone workers this would start to look cluttered. Furthermore, it would mean responders having to walk to the sounder first to discover who triggered it, which is far from ideal.

With this solution, you must also implement a lone worker procedure and train your workers how to respond and manage this type of alarm because you certainly don’t want them to stand and watch when the alarm goes off. Just think how people tend to respond when they hear a car or house alarm – normally nothing.

Do you want everyone to be involved or a selected group? Who is responsible for resetting the alarm?,  as this obviously can’t be done without the investigation into the event being underway.  

And finally, you may want your response team to work in a coordinated effort to save time and feel communication handsets like Radio or PoC would help the team collaborate more effectively.

 Desktop Alarm 

PC Desktop Alarms
An alarm presented on a PC screen is also a very common method, providing both visual and audible notification to gain a responder’s attention.

The alarm message contains important information including the lone worker’s name, telephone number and location to help the responder deal with the incident. This is a big advantage than using light and sounders.

PC Desktop Alarms are commonly installed in control rooms and security areas, or in external Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) as these areas tend to be manned.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Large screens can be set up in areas that workers operate in, such as open planned offices or in production areas. Alarms can also be distributed to a group of Desktop Alarm responders as well as Handset Alarm responders (see below) to ensure alarms aren’t missed.

You should also think how your desk responder will manage each incident too, as this will help to avoid any bottlenecks and delays supporting your lone worker. Desktop responders often pass incidents “to more local colleagues”, especially in the event the lone worker cannot be reached on their mobile handset e.g. a man-down situation. A critical event where the worker will require urgent support.  

In this scenario, collaborating with local colleagues who can quickly locate the lone worker is crucial and the desktop responder must be capable of doing this quickly and easily. This is where using technology like Radio or PoC can prove very beneficial in helping response teams tackle emergency situation as they can collaborate with teams easily.    

Handset Alarms v2

Mobile Handsets Alarms
Alarms can also be presented directly to a group of responders on their mobile handsets too.

Users receive the alarm in the form of an SMS message or via an application like Critical Messenger on their smartphone. Radios with screens can also receive alarms as can DECT handsets too.

The alarm message details the name of the person that triggered the alert, location and telephone/handset number.  

Distributing alerts directly to mobile handsets is a good way to deal with incidents. Mobile responders tend to be local to the incident and can manage each event from start to finish. Users also keep their mobile handsets with them at all times and therefore alerted instantly.      

Mobile responders don’t always work alongside one another, so its good practice that the team acknowledges each alarm. By acknowledging the alert the responder takes on the responsibility of dealing with the incident, which automatically updates the rest of the team. This helps to avoid situations where either the whole groups gets involved or no one does.


Consider Multi-Alarm Type Combinations
Alarm types can be used in combinations. For instance a light and sounder can warn responders within a production area of an incident. Responders can find further details by logging on and acknowledging the alarm on a nearby PC Workstation.

Similarly, alarms presented on desktop screens as well as mobile handsets works well too. A member of the response team simply acknowledges the alert to take ownership of the event, which updates the rest of his/her colleagues.  


Managing Alarms
As highlighted at the beginning of the blog, it’s important to remember that once an alarm has been triggered, it’s the beginning of the emergency and not the end.

Therefore, figure out how your response team should manage each event too. It’s easily enough done and one way to achieve this is to think about the type of incidents that your lone workers could have and work backwards. Who are the best people to alert and attend the scene? When they arrive, how will emergency medical support be requested and coordinated?

For example, if a maintenance worker was rendered unconscious on a manufacturing site, the best people to alert are probably the other maintenance workers as they know the site, the risks and one day could find themselves in the same position. But the emergency isn’t over once they’ve located their colleague. They will still need to contact the first aid team, perhaps emergency services. Paramedics will need help navigating to where the incident is etc.

If this is all planned for in advance your team will have all the right tools and your response in emergency situations will be smooth, with no bottlenecks, less delays and most importantly you’ll have helped your team save time, which could be life changing.

Audit Trail
Lastly, it’s important to know how your response team deals with each alarm. Having an audit trail shows when each alarm was triggered, when it was acknowledged and closed, helping you to identify where improvements can be made.

Light and sounders are a great way to make lots of people aware of an incident, but not ideal when there are lots of lone workers. You also have to make sure workers know what to do when the alarm goes off to avoid them doing nothing.

Desktop alarms provide useful information about the incident. However, desktop responders might need to collaborate with local responders to manage the incident, so it’s important these parties can collaborate.

Handset alarms should inform local responders that can deal with the incident directly.

Responders will need to communicate in emergency situations, it’s crucial they have the mobile technology that allows them to do so.

If you are assessing how best to protect your lone workers, get in touch with ANT Telecom for free advice and support. We’d love the opportunity to share ideas and demonstrate (with no obligation to buy) some of the technology we have within our portfolio. You’ll find all our contact information by clicking the “contact us” tab at the top right of the screen.

Topics: Lone Workers

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