Panic alarm decommissioning

Working individually with affected departments, the university will soon begin the process of decommissioning panic alarms. Panic alarms are typically located in workplaces where staff have concerns over the possibility of encounters with violent individuals. The purpose of the alarms is to summon rapid response from emergency responders.

In a recent review conducted by Protective Services (UAPS), Facilities & Operations (F&O) and Environment, Health & Safety (EHS), reviewers concluded that the systems are not in keeping with current safety practices, nor are they demonstrably effective in summoning timely help. There are more effective controls to manage the threat, including:

Engineering controls

  • F&O has agreed to assist in the reconfiguration of spaces to facilitate flight of staff at risk and to restrict the movement of potentially violent persons. This is the preferred control.
  • EHS and F&O have identified wireless local alarm systems that notify nearby co-workers of a concern.

Administrative controls

  • UAPS has arranged a provider for de-escalation training for staff. De-escalation tactics are an appropriate control for workers who may meet one-on-one with at-risk persons.
  • EHS has a working alone tool developed for staff who are meeting one-on-one with persons who have shown at-risk behaviour. Use of a working alone procedure is required, by law, for any worker working alone, and is a valuable control in such situations.

Elimination & substitution controls

  • In rare circumstances the risk of a particular activity may require advance notice to responders or the presence of police to deal with an individual in crisis. EHS & UAPS will assist with creating plans and protocols for these situations.

UAPS and EHS will work with departments to assist in a successful transition away from panic alarms. They will assist each alarm client in a hazard assessment to determine appropriate and effective controls, based on:

  • the nature of the work
  • history of incidents
  • any current hazard assessment, and
  • any challenges in calling for assistance