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Riverdale Dunthorpe Patrol
P.O. Box 532 Lake Oswego, OR 97034
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Using Your Duress Alarm

Do you know how to use your alarm?

You’ve probably heard about the home invasion burglary at Columbia Sportswear Chairwoman Gert Boyle’s home. According to media stories, Mrs. Boyle arrived home and pulled in to her garage. As she was exiting her car, Nestor Caballero approached, offered a gift basket and asked for Mrs. Boyle to autograph her autobiography, One Tough Mother. When she declined, Mr. Caballero pulled a gun from his pocket and ordered her to enter her house. When Mrs. Boyle entered the house Caballero demanded that she disarm her security system. The media reports state that she disarmed the alarm and then pressed a “panic” button. That may be an accurate description as many alarm systems have “panic” buttons that when pressed, alert the alarm monitoring company of an emergency. There are usually three different “panic” buttons, one each for a police, fire or medical emergency. Most alarm systems also have a “duress” mode.

Duress mode would be used in a situation, like Mrs. Boyle found herself in, where someone is forcing you to disarm the alarm system. When disarmed via the duress mode, the panel will look and behave exactly as if you had disarmed the system under normal circumstances, but a signal will be sent to the alarm monitoring company alerting them that there is an emergency. Consult your alarm manual for the exact procedures, but the normal way to disarm with the duress mode is to use a code that is slightly different than the normal disarm code. For example, if your code to disarm the alarm is 1111, then you might enter 2222. Again, consult your manual to learn the exact procedures for your alarm. You may also want to contact your alarm company to review the procedure they will follow during duress alarm activations at your house (including verifying contact numbers for you and the people on your contact list). With standard alarm activations, the alarm company will call the house to attempt to determine if the alarm was activated in error by the occupant. With duress alarm activations, the call to the house is skipped because the assumption is that you would not be allowed to answer the phone or if you did, you would place yourself in danger by stating that there was an intruder in your home. Usually the alarm company notifies the police and then continues down your normal contact list. The alarm company is able to tell responders that the activation is “duress” or a “panic” activation so they will respond accordingly.

In Mrs. Boyle’s case, the police responded immediately and upon arriving, confronted Mr. Caballero. Mr. Caballero then jumped from the back deck and landed in a ravine 20 feet below. He evaded capture by running through the woods and blackberry bushes, but was later captured by police. This situation could have turned out much differently if Mrs. Boyle was not familiar enough with the capabilities of her alarm system and mentally prepared to use it.