x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

New panic button alert in embassy gets thumbs-up

Forty-five embassies are set to follow the Swedes and install a new alarm system.

ABU DHABI // Swedish embassy officials praised the rapid response by police when their new "panic button" alarm system sounded.

The door sensors that triggered the alert were set off by an electrical short and not an actual threat.

But embassy officials said the police response was reassuring, with officers arriving within minutes.

The alarm system is the first of its kind in the UAE and is wired to the police operations room. It is also linked to CCTV cameras, so police can check the nature of any alert before officers move in.

The other 45 embassies were expected to follow suit within six months, said Brig Gen Faris al Faresi, the general director of guarding and special tasks at the Abu Dhabi Police Department.

"The push button system already exists in banks and jewellery shops, but the one we are adding now in embassies is more advanced and has less risk of failure," he said.

Leila Abdu, the second secretary at the Swedish embassy, said the system was installed at the beginning of this year.

"We already have a push button in the ambassador's office, but now this is good because we have it behind the receptionist's desk where people come in," she said.

She said that they had not had to use it so far, but that it would be important if visitors caused any trouble.

"If somebody had a bad experience or was in a bad mood they could start causing problems. So it is good to know that if it gets serious police can intervene immediately," she said.

An official from a European embassy, who asked not to be identified, said a panic button would also be useful in the case of a break-in.

"I suggest there is a fixed one, at the entrance maybe, and a mobile one, because an emergency can occur anywhere and you can't guarantee you will be able to get to the button on time," the official said.

He added that there had not been any cases in which the embassy would have needed to use the button.