What Is a Panic Button?

Panic buttons are devices generally used by seniors to summon assistance when they've fallen or otherwise hurt themselves. Elderly adults use them at home as an alternative to living in assisted care facilities. When the individual needs help, they simply press the panic button and it immediately notifies a caregiver or loved one who can come to their aid.

Panic Buttons Are Faster Than Cell Phones

Panic buttons need to be small, wireless, and easily accessible to be useful to everyone. They can activate an audible or silent alarm as soon as an intruder or threat is encountered. Although dialing the emergency number is easy on a cell phone, it takes some time to place the call and can alert an intruder. Panic buttons are often kept in a convenient pocket, on a belt loop, or even around the neck, and a single push initiates the call for help.

Emergency Call System
Getty Images/B. Boissonnet

Home Automation Panic Buttons

Although most home automation devices don't label themselves as a panic button, any automation controller can be programmed to act like one. A small wireless controller such as a keychain or fob device should ideally be used. Besides being simple to use, the panic button should be distinctive so that you can find it by feel. 

What Can An Automated Panic Button Do?

A panic button's capabilities depend on the type of automation devices installed at home. Basic systems can turn on every light in the house or sound an audible siren when the button is activated. If you have a phone dialer, you can program the button to call a loved one or an emergency number. Additionally, the system can send text messages via computer to designated numbers requesting additional assistance.

What Technologies Do Automatic Panic Buttons Support?

Keychain controllers exist for every major type of home automation technology including X-10, Z-Wave, and Zigbee. Often labeled as garage door openers or electronic door keys, these same devices can be programmed to work as buttons in a home automation system.

Potential Problems with Automated Panic Buttons

Because wireless devices are battery-powered, test the panic button periodically to ensure it's sufficiently charged. Most wireless controllers have a signal range up to around 150 feet (50 meters); avoid wireless dead spots by installing additional access points if necessary.

Was this page helpful?