How Personal Noisemakers Can (and Can"t) Benefit You

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You have various options when considering self-defense devices for your personal security. Some devices are designed to incapacitate an attacker temporarily, while others simply provide a distraction to help you escape. Personal noisemakers fall into the latter category, and they can also attract help to your location. While noisemakers have some advantages, they are not the end-all, be-all of self-defense either.


Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of personal noisemakers helps you to make an informed decision about whether you should invest in a noise device for your pocket or purse.

The Concept

A noisemaker serves two purposes. It can alert other people in the area that someone is in danger, which ideally helps to speed up a response from emergency services. The other purpose is to startle the attacker. The noise can distract him, helping you to escape. It can also cause the attacker to retreat, fearing the arrival of police or good Samaritans.

Multiple types of noisemakers exist. The simplest is a whistle, which you blow into to produce a shrill noise. Other noisemakers require you to push a button to activate a siren or alarm sound. They function the same way as a car alarm does, except the noise comes from the device itself instead of an outside source.

Advantages

The “better than nothing” principle applies to personal noisemakers. They are limited in what they can do, but they offer one method of getting help or escaping, which is always better than having none.

Attackers or muggers often prefer to work in places where there aren’t many other people around or where their risk of getting noticed is slim. A noisemaker disrupts those plans, because anyone who is in the area will hear and take notice of it. People often jump involuntarily in response to loud noises, so the startle reflex of the attacker or mugger potentially opens up the opportunity to disable your attacker if you can or, preferably, escape the situation.

Disadvantages

You likely hear at least one car alarm go off anytime you’re outside if you live near a metropolitan area. This produces a law of diminishing returns, where you react less and less to something the more frequently it occurs. This “boy who cried wolf” effect means that the general public may not react to a noisemaker even when it goes off exactly when you need it to. The noisemaker is also an irritant that can make an assailant more aggressive if it does not successfully yield help or an escape route. The noisemaker is also only useful when you have it readily available when a dangerous situation arises. This is why you want it in your hand when walking alone at night or when you are in other situations where the risk of an attack is higher. Whistles are not recommended, because you have to have to actually bring it up to your mouth and blow into it in the midst of an attack for it to be effective. That time and energy are better served fighting off an attacker with all of your limbs or screaming for help. People nearby may also not recognize a whistle as a distress sound, and are more likely to ignore it.  A push-button noisemaker is better suited for emergency situations, but is likely to be ignored too if it sounds too much like a car alarm. A noise maker works best if it is louder than your voice and produces a distinctive sound that attracts attention.

A noisemaker is a tool that is potentially useful, but it should never be your only choice when it comes to protecting yourself. Carry one when walking somewhere desolate where help may not be nearby, but always have another plan or option in case the noisemaker doesn’t yield the desired results in an emergency.
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