How to Choose and Use a Personal Alarm For Personal Protection

Despite your best efforts to stay safe by preventing an assault and staying alert to your surroundings, the worst has happened. You’re being attacked. How do you “sound the alarm” and call for help?

Sound has been increasingly recommended as a way to protect yourself during assaults and other personal crimes. Sound helps to attract attention, startle or disorient the attacker, or give him the perception that he might be caught. It also shows that you are assertive, that you are not a willing to be a victim.

There are advantages to using sound. You can use it in a threatening situation, before the attack takes place. Because sound is non-violent, there is more of a chance that you might use it without hesitation. Sound can’t be used against you, like a gun or knife if it’s taken from you. It requires little training or skill to use it.

Probably since the first caveman walked the earth, he’s been calling for help with his voice. There are a couple of advantages to yelling for help. Your voice is always with you. It’s not like some other weapon or tool that you might forget to take along. And someone yelling for help is recognizable. A woman screaming for “help” or better yet “fire” is something that other people should be able to understand. In fact, one study by the Violence Research Unit of Denver General Hospital found that more than 2/3 of women who screamed escaped being raped.

But there are a couple of problems with relying on your voice to yell for help. One is that at the moment of truth, when you really need it, you might panic and freeze. You might not be able to scream.

Another problem is that you might not be able to scream for very long. Especially if you are being choked or are knocked unconscious.


Some security experts have suggested carrying a whistle and blowing it if you need help. There is no doubt that a whistle is louder than your voice in many instances. That’s why referees use them at sporting events, so the players can hear it over the crowd yelling. A whistle is pretty cheap too.

There are problems with using a whistle to signal for help if you are being attacked. First, you’ve got to be able to get your whistle into your mouth. It won’t do you any good if it’s in the bottom of your purse when you need to blow it.

“Okay”, they say, “carry it around your neck on a lanyard or rope. Then you’ve always got it close by.”

Here’s the problem with that strategy. If you’ve got a lanyard around your neck and your attacker gets ahold of it, now he’s got you caught like a dog on a leash. He may be able to choke you out. That’s the reason police officers wear clip-on neck ties, so if some clown grabs it, it comes off.

For that reason, if you insist on carrying your whistle around your neck, carry it on a very lightweight string that will break if someone tries to yank on it.

Another problem with the whistle, is that it isn’t very distinctive. If you are sitting in your house, and you hear a whistle blow are you going to instantly know what that means, or even care? I don’t know either.

Like your voice, it is difficult to keep whistling for long. You can only whistle until the whistle gets knocked out of your mouth. Again, if you are choked or knocked out, you can’t whistle.

Personal Alarms

There are several categories of Personal Alarms. The first is what some refer to as Shriek Alarms. First, there are the gas air-horns that are often used as boat horns. You’ll often hear some moron blowing one of these at a hockey game.

They are loud, no question about it. But because they are not designed for security use, they may be unreliable. No guarantee they will work when needed. Many of them only blow as long as you’ve got the button pushed down, which means that if it is knocked out of your hand it stops blowing.

Some personal alarms are battery operated. They are fairly inexpensive and work by pushing a button, or pulling a pin, sort of like on a hand grenade. Assuming there are fresh batteries in the unit, the unit will emit a sound somewhere in the area of 90 to 110 decibels, which may be painful and which might attract some attention.

Once the unit is activated, it will continue to sound until 1) the batteries get low 2) the pin is reinserted, 3) the mugger muffles it with one hand which is relatively easy to do with one hand, or 4) the mugger disables it by smashing it up against a wall or throwing it to the ground.

If you are going to carry a personal alarm, like any other tool, it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get at it. Carry it in your hand, or clipped to your belt. At the first sign of danger, activate it. Unlike pepper spray, you don’t have to be close to your assailant for it to work.

Here is one theory. You are attacked. You activate your alarm. The mugger tries to get the alarm from you to disable or muffle it. Consider tossing or throwing the alarm into some nearby bushes, still activated, assuming you can do that without breaking it. The theory is the mugger must now make a choice. Does he continue to struggle with you while the alarm is blaring a few feet away? Or does he leave you to go disable the alarm, and while he’s doing that hopefully give you a chance to escape? Remember though, that it may be possible for him to drag you toward the alarm to disable it. If that happens, as he reaches for the alarm, now he’s only got one hand on you. Possibly you can grab his fingers of his hand and free yourself during that moment.

Remember, a personal alarm is not an offensive weapon. It may only help to attract attention from a witness. But by itself, it’s not going to help you. You may want to consider using a personal alarm in conjunction with pepper spray.

Sgt. Mark Buschena is a veteran police officer with 32 years experience. He is the author of “The Naked Truth About Personal Protection!” How to protect your life, family and property. Simple ways to protect yourself from thieves, muggers, rapists, robbers, burglars, con-artists, pick-pockets and other scum-of-the-earth! Sign up for his free newsletter at http://www.defendyourselfnow.

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