Being in the self-defense industry, I’m always interested in what does and doesn’t work when it comes to you and me protecting ourselves against crime. Today we’re going to talk about personal alarms; what they are, what they do, and are they really an effective form of defense against crime.
First, what they are. Personal alarms are generally small, battery-operated devices that make a lot of noise. Their small size makes them easy to carry on your person, hence the name “Personal Alarm”. I know, I know, that sounds pretty obvious to most of us, but I had to start with a basic description just in case anyone out there is brand new to this sort of thing.
Next, what they do. Well, like I said, personal alarms make a lot of noise. That’s exactly what they’re supposed to do and as long as they’re working properly, that’s exactly what they do. The average personal alarm has a noise rating of anywhere between 100 decibels and 130 decibels. To put that into perspective consider this,
· A home vacuum cleaner is around 65 to 70 decibels loud
· An average alarm clock is around 80 decibels loud
· A chainsaw is around 100 decibels loud
· A jackhammer is around 130 decibels loud
· And a gun or an air raid siren is somewhere around 140 decibels loud
Sounds louder than 90 decibels are considered potentially dangerous to a persons hearing. Both the amount of noise and the length of exposure determine the amount of damage.
Most personal alarms are activated by either a push button, an on-off switch, or a pull-out pin that activates the alarm when the pin is removed from the device.
I personally prefer the ones with the pull-out pin, because if the alarm is dropped during a struggle, it won’t accidentally turn off. In fact, the only way to shut it off (short of smashing it to pieces) is to replace the activation pin or remove the batteries.
Finally, are they effective? Yes they’re effective but it all depends on what you expect them to do for you. Personal alarms work because they emit a loud, high-pitched frequency, which is far more irritating to the ears than a low pitch frequency of the same volume.
The screeching or sometimes siren like sounds that these alarms give off can quickly disorient an attacker for a few seconds, and they can also cause some pain to the eardrum, even if the person is not usually sensitive to loud noises.
But, the most beneficial use of these personal alarms, as I see it, is their ability to draw attention to your situation. Most criminals don’t want an audience when they assault someone, and a 130-decibel alarm can be heard from as far away as two or three city blocks, even with the sound of moving traffic on the street. So they can easily draw the attention of anyone close by while you’re walking through a parking lot or down the street, or even jogging through the park. This alone can often send your attacker running off in the other direction in search of less noisy prey.
Personal alarms only cost a few dollars, which makes them very easy to own. Also they are not weapons so they are legal to carry everywhere. But please keep in mind, that like any self-defense tool, a personal alarm is not magic. No matter how loud your alarm is, it does not put up some kind of magical force field that will protect you from all bad people in the world. They will however, catch most people by surprise and disorient them long enough to give you an opportunity to get away. And they will also attract attention to your situation even if you aren’t able to scream for help.