What’s a personal alarm? 

When you are out and about, knowing that your personal safety has a fighting chance against would-be attacks is reinforced with a personal alarm. Whether you are pro-gun or not, personal alarms go hand-in-hand with regards to safeguarding your space and your life.

Compact, ergonomically designed and economically priced, personal alarms are engineered to be held in the palm of your hand, simply stored in a purse, a pocket, or on your belt, useable with seamless effort (should the need arise). If you are a jogger, some personal alarm models come with a lanyard to lace around your neck, hanging in front of you for easy access. Sleeping in unfamiliar territory? Personal alarm models exist for that, too (which we discuss below).

In essence, personal alarms succeed by emitting a deafening burst of sound—generally 120 Decibel—thereby repelling the bad guy. Generally, personal alarms are marketed to suit any budget, ranging from $4.00—$22.00, and are powered by inexpensive household batteries (AAA, lithium chips).

Let’s review a few personal alarm choices, analyze these affordable and nifty personal security devices, and evaluate purposes and design features.

Conventional Alarms

All personal alarm models come with a main feature: a high-pitched alarm. Basically, if accosted by a would-be assailant, use your personal alarm. Once activated by you, the fever-pitch sound should effectively cause the intruder to flee, safeguarding you from theft or violence. Simple, small-in-stature sizes come with attachments (keychain, lanyard, wristband, clips). Some personal alarms are designed to look like charms worn on a necklace; however, consider that this may be the very reason the thief is targeting you in the first place.

Multi-featured Alarms

Personal alarms offer the features of LED flashlight, anti-sleep settings for motorists who may be fatigued while driving, and anti-theft settings so that you can attach your personal alarm to a camera or laptop which, when handled by someone other than anyone to whom you granted permission, will emit sound to garner your attention (some have tracking features as well).

In effect, the multi-feature models serve to address several aspects other than sounding an alarm. In addition to emitting high-pitched Decibels, LED lighting also attracts attention (beckoning others to aid you in the event you are confronted at night).

(As to the anti-sleep feature of any personal safety alarm, the engineering is at least considerate. However, as I am sure we can all concur, the best remedy for fatigue is good, old-fashioned sleep.)

What to look for when buying a personal alarm

Carrying method

As mentioned above, people who jog may be confronted by a seemingly illicit-minded individual along the route. Such a circumstance will require immediate access to a personal alarm. For joggers, bicyclists and any manner of sport enthusiasts, a personal alarm dangling around the neck may be a viable option.

Having a personal alarm within immediate reach—without encumbering your athletic activity—is ideal and is designed with these factors in mind. Tactically, however, anything hanging around your neck leaves you vulnerable.

Manufacturers also make a compact personal alarm designed to lace/hang around door knobs. Marketed for use during hotel/motel stays, this model can certainly be used on any door knob or anywhere you wish added protection. This model emits bursts when it detects door knob activity (touch) from the door’s exterior (works with windows, too).

Ultimately, carrying a personal alarm is an affordable, compact, light-weight (commonly 2.5 ounces), easily-maintained protective device which goes hand-in-hand with personal safety.

Activation methods

Activation methods range from pressing a button, tugging a rip-cord, or pulling a pin (think grenade, minus the explosion).

Sizes generally range between something resembling a small child’s thumb or a cell phone, but most are equivalent to the size of a matchbook (otherwise known as “Matchbook Alarms”). Carry options vary from pocket-held, lanyard, belt-clip, wristband or keychain. (If you opt for the keychain method, train yourself to distinguish between the “keychain” and the key fob-like personal alarm, because fumbling the wrong device burns time and increases the advancing threat’s abilities).

If you opt for a wristband model personal alarm, make sure it has a “breakaway” band feature. The last thing you want is for the bad guy to get too close and clasp his fingers under the wristband, thus linking you both together like a tractor beam. Velcro band is recommended.

Among the variety, the key fob design would be my choice. Professionally-speaking, I refrain from anything which offers the bad guy a chance to grab hold. Always keep distance. A lanyard can be convenient but, if grabbed, the assailant will pull you closer, defeating the entire concept of personal safety.


Personal alarm choices vary, as do the color options.

As a law enforcement officer, equipment should always be stealthy, meaning dark-colored. Nothing gleaming at all; even duty belts are toned-down to have a black “subdued” hue. When was the last time you observed a police officer carrying a shiny, chrome firearm in the holster?

Alternatively, it is advantageous to purchase a chrome-colored personal alarm. Police focus on stealth; you want to focus on public attention. Since you are brandishing your personal alarm to gain attention to repel any assailant, it makes sense to consider silver, chrome or a light-colored unit. The idea is to reflect any available light source, like street lights. Manufacturers also make personal alarms in neon orange. Like a proverbial flare, let it shine! Attract attention!

As a cop, I opt for subdued. As a civilian, I’d go for anything flashy. Speaking of flashy, personal alarms with LED lights may also serve to temporarily blind (incapacitate) your assailant’s vision by shining the strobe in his eyes. The purpose here is to reflect light, of any kind, to highlight the bad guy and dissuade him from violating your personal space.

The use of personal alarms is sound—in the literal sense—definitely ensures giving the would-be attacker(s) the attention they do not want!