What is a duress code – About Security Systems

What to do if an intruder enters your home?

Intruder breaks into your home
You are held at gunpoint

You just came back from the post office, parked the car in front of the house, walked to the front door, and unlocked it. Your alarm system is armed, so once you open the door it starts beeping. You have 20 seconds to enter your security code. Then out of nowhere, you have a stranger grabbing you by the neck pushing you inside and demanding to enter your security code in order to disarm the alarm system. You are thinking. Is the intruder armed? Will I be harmed after I enter the alarm code? Should I refuse to enter  the alarm code? Then you remember. I can use the duress code!



Define ‘Duress’

Intruder forces you to enter security code
Fear of intruders

As defined in the Merriam-Webster – Duress:  force or threats meant to make someone do something. Does that sound like the situation described above? Absolutely! And that’s what the alarm duress code is all about: Tell somebody ‘secretly’ that something bad is happening.




What is an alarm duress code?  

When you disarm your alarm, most systems have you enter a 4-digit code. Once you enter the proper code, the alarm system disarms, the beeping stops, or if it has already escalated to the sounding of the horn, it will be silenced. In addition, most alarm systems do have a duress code.

Get silent help using the alarm system
Use the duress code to get help silently

During the setup of the alarm systems, you can select a duress code. Once the security system monitoring station recognizes that the entered code is the duress code, they know that ‘something is wrong’. Usually, it is their policy to dispatch the police department immediately so they can get to your home as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that the duress code does not prevent anybody from getting into the house, but it gives you a chance to get some help without the burglar realizing it.




Do you know your system’s default duress code?

This is a very interesting question. I have an ADT system and I do not recall at all what my duress code is. Did I set it up when I got the alarm system? So I decided to call ADT and find outIt turns out that my duress code was the default duress code for ADT alarm systems. Once I talked this over with the technician on the phone, I changed the duress code. Not a problem.

I did some research and found out that some systems actually have a default duress code. And here they are:

  • ADT     2-5-8-0
  • Vivint   2-5-8-0

SimpliSafe and ProtectAmerica do not have default duress code, but they do have a duress code.

Typical ADT Control Panel
ADT Default Alarm Duress code

When you look a the ADT and Vivint default numbers, it seems they are randomly selected numbers, but once you see them on the keypad you realize that those numbers are all in the middle column, from top to bottom. The reason for that is so you can remember or visualize them easily.

This is somewhat disturbing that I found this on the internet, but not surprising. Why? It tells me that the burglar most likely knows the default duress code too. So if the intruder sees you enter that default duress code, he/she will know that you are calling for help. Therefore, make sure to select/program your own duress code during the setup of the alarm system or later on like I did. Most of all, make sure to remember it. DO NOT write it down on any notepad that may be on the access door of the keypad.


Personal Duress Alarm

Personal Security Alarm Keyring
Protect yourself with a personal security alarm

Besides duress alarms in security systems, there are also personal duress alarms or personal security alarms. These small gadgets can really get somebodies attention with loud alarms at about 140 db. Compare that to the noise of a jet plane at takeoff (120 db) and a jackhammer (130db).




Have you ever used a duress code or other duress alarms?

Inform authorities that something is wrong
Not all duress alarms are ‘hidden’

I am happy to report that I personally have not been in a situation to use a duress code. If you have been in a situation where you actually used the duress alarm, please drop a comment below to help others how to cope with a very stressful situation if they ever experience the same.





Please read a previous post of mine, ‘Home camera surveillance systems – Why do I need one?‘, which may help you to identify the intruder.


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2 thoughts on “What is a duress code – About Security Systems

  1. Thank you VERY MUCH for this article on What is a Duress Code!
    I had no idea that this was a feature available on my home security system. Your article has given me some very helpful information that I can certainly use!

    I am so happy to have learned this! I will be teaching my family this great trick! I hope they never need to actually use it, but I feel better knowing that if they should ever encounter such a situation they will know what to do!

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Tom,
      thanks for your comment. I am pretty sure you are not alone by not knowing about the duress code. The security system company may have mentioned it at the time of installation, but who remembers what was said 5 years ago!


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