Body alarms doing brisk business

October 01, 1992|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,Contributing Writer

In the clamor over the rise in violent crime, Daralyn Corry o Edgewater saw a business opportunity in a new form of self-defense -- body alarms.

Only three months ago, the former travel agent broke into the safety business and began selling the alarms, which clip onto belts like a pager.

In the past few weeks, as crimes continued to grab headlines, her business has been booming, she said.

"I hate to say it, but the bad news really helps my business," she said.

The alarm may look like a pager, but instead of politely beeping, it shrieks at more than 100 decibels -- louder than a jet plane at take-off -- when someone pulls its metal pin.

Like alarms widely used for cars and homes, the body alarm is designed to frighten potential attackers and attract help.

The battery-operated alarms sell locally for $30 to $40.

At a recent Anne Arundel Trade Council Expo at the BWI Marriott Hotel, the alarm pealed through the room once every several minutes as Ms. Corry demonstrated the alarm.

Ms. Corry operates her firm, Safety Plus, out of her home in Edgewater.

Mary Knudsen, who just moved into St. Margarets near Annapolis, bought an alarm at the show.

"I'm in sales and I'm out a lot late at night," she said. "It makes me feel safer."

She said she doesn't know anyone with the alarms, "but I will have a lot of friends who will have one within a week."

In the first two hours of the show, Ms. Corry sold four of the alarms.

Local police have praised the body alarm as an effective deterrent against attackers, unlike tear gas or guns, which can be turned against victims.

"We encourage things such as this body alarm, or even a whistle," said Capt. Michael P. Fitzgibbons, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division of the county police.

He said the alarms could easily be heard from a distance of two city blocks, and farther in enclosed places, such as parking garages.

Captain Fitzgibbons said that Police Chief Robert Russell recently bought two of the alarms -- one for his wife and one for his daughter.

Body alarms cannot generally be found in shops specializing in security equipment because the two largest suppliers, Futronix and Quorum, sell their alarms primarily through part-time distributors.

There are exceptions. Dow Chemical Corp. sells the Futronix alarms at its company store in Midland, Mich., and Pizza Hut has begun supplying hundreds to delivery drivers as part of a company-wide effort to combat attacks.

Pizza Hut's director of security, Chris Guarrero, said the company recently began ordering the Futronix alarms after a "torture test" in which he "slammed it on the ground a few times and it still worked."

John Southerland, president of Futronix, says the alarm can be run over by a car and still sound off. Futronix recently shipped 5,000 of the alarms to the Hungarian government for use in their post offices. And a firm in Moscow also has expressed interest, Southerland said.

But the bulk of sales are through 6,000 distributors in 47 states. Southerland said there are about a dozen in Maryland.

Mr. Southerland said that Futronix has sold about 100,000 body alarms since their introduction in June 1991, and currently sells 7,000 to 8,000 a month.

"It grows every month," he said.

No sales information was available for the Quorum body alarm.

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