If you have a home invasion situation a duress code can play an important part in getting help to you.

If during the home invasion the alarm is tripped because one of the sensors detected an unauthorized person/s entering your home, then they are going to want to stop the alarm system drawing attention to them by the noise and also contacting anyone monitoring the system.

They are going to either destroy it or force you to disarm the system.

If you have a duress code for these circumstances (where you are under duress) you can turn the sirens off and have the system reset itself as if you put in your actual pass code.

However, this special code informs those monitoring the system that you’ve been forced to do this under duress. They can then dispatch the police to your aid.

What Is Home Invasion?

Just to clear up any confusion. I am using the term home invasion as being a forcible entry into a home that is occupied with a threat of or actual violence not as a burglary of an unoccupied home.

It is difficult to determine the exact rate of home invasion but it is a lot less than you may have heard or seen on the internet. It has not been defined as a separate crime as such so there are no statistics kept but for most it is unlikely that you’ll be targeted in this way. Most criminals are looking for an easy opportunity and in a lot of cases drugs in the home targeted are the motivation for the invasion.

Types Of Systems With Duress Codes

This is one of the advantages that monitored systems have over unmonitored (self-monitored) systems is the functionality of a duress code. I have yet to find a self-monitored DIY system that has a duress code.

Monitored Systems

The 2 monitored systems I’ve reviewed to date both have a duress code you can use. These systems are the Simplisafe Home Wireless Security System and Frontpoint. Of the 2 systems I prefer Simplisafe due to its monthly charging system without a contract but both are good systems.

Other monitored systems have this functionality too. You are going to be charged a monthly fee for monitoring and be tied into a long term contract (except Simplisafe) to have this functionality which is one of the disadvantages of the monitored security systems.

What About Unmonitored Systems

These systems have the advantage they are flexible and there is no fixed fee you need to use them but you are expected to do the monitoring yourself along with family and trusted friends. There are no systems that I’ve reviewed to date that give you the ability to enter a duress code.

Not all of these systems have a keypad you can use to enter a code into as these systems are now controlled by way of an App and a base unit. There is no opportunity to choose a code that you could assign that could be used to notify those monitoring that you are being forced to turn the system off.

Of the systems that do have a keypad they usually have only one pass code so that can’t be used as a code for duress. One system that has 3 codes is the Skylink SC-1000 but you don’t receive a notification to say that system has been disarmed unfortunately.

It is disapppointing the suppliers of these systems haven’t had the foresight to add this functionality to their system for this system so those added to list of notification numbers can be informed.

An Alternative To Duress Code

It is possible with systems that come with a panic button like Fortress GSM-B or PiSector PS03-M to set them up so they work as a silent alarm.

This isn’t a complete solution and it does negate some of the advantages of the panic button.

The panic buttons are normally on a remote key fob, the control panel or a separate button (that can installed anywhere but is kept in the bedroom normally).

It is possible to set the panic button to just inform those monitoring the system and not sound the alarm. You could disarm the system as requested and if you get the chance press one of the panic buttons and a notification would be sent out without alerting the criminal/s in your home.

It is not that great a solution as you are unlikely to get the chance to do it.

It also means you can’t use the panic button to get everyone out of the house in the event of a fire or other emergency if your system can’t or it has been bypassed for some reason.

In many cases the sound of an alarm and the fact attention has been brought on them is enough for those who have invaded your home to leave quickly – they are normally looking for an easy opportunity rather than the complications of dealing with the attention an alarm can bring and an occupied home.


A duress code is a vital feature if you are subject to a home invasion that has triggered the alarm system. It ensures police are dispatched even though you are forced to disarm the system.

It is as far as I know only available on monitored systems and this does involve paying a monthly fee. (Our top pick for this is Simplisafe because of it’s reliability and there are no long term contracts with penalties).

But having an unmonitored system will reduce the risk of a home invasion along with locking your door, good outdoor lighting, cameras, reinforced door and locking your door.

A duress code like an alarm system is one of those things you hope you never have to use it, but it does help with peace of mind and in the unlikely event of an invasion it’s there to get the help you need.

Filed under: Buying Advice

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