Picture of Desk Panic Button

When I was a kid my father had a panic button under his desk that was wired to call 911. While I thought this was pretty cool at the time, it later occurred to me that he had this because the neighborhood that his business was located in was a bit rough, and -- perhaps -- we were in perpetual danger. Nonetheless, I always thought the idea of having a panic button was pretty darn neat. Perhaps this notion stuck with me for so long of a time because I was never allowed to press it as a kid. It was 'off limits,' and thus a very appealing idea.

Now that I am an adult and have a desk of my own, I resolved that I too needed a panic button. However, I feel like one that calls 911 has limited use in my line of work, and my opportunity for panic was probably less severe. So, I decided that I needed to tone it down a bit. The under desk panic button that I have created dials my own phone when it's pressed.

Of course, you may be wondering why on Earth I would want to call my own phone. Think of this way -- an annoying coworker walks over to your desk with the intention of locking you into a long dull impromptu meeting. You have nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. There is only one way to get out of this -- you need something more important to do. Perhaps now you can see how a device that places a call to yourself may come in extremely useful. If you still can't see it, picture this; Your phone rings. You explain that you need to take this important call. In fact, this is going to take a while. You will need to continue this conversation later. Crisis averted thanks to the Desk Panic Button.
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Saved by the ring tone!

parisusa1 year ago
I'd like a panic button attached to a trap door in my floor which opens - dropping unsuspecting bores into a pit of snakes - :)
sf49ers parisusa11 months ago


Ploopy1 year ago


eddevine1 year ago
What SIM card are you using? The ones I've seen require an expensive plan with a provider
elabz1 year ago
It's an interesting idea but, boy, that's a lot of extra equipment to do what your phone system is already capable of doing.

Is that an Avaya 5410 (5610) phone I see on your desk? Depending on what it's hooked up to, the system may be easily programmed to ringdown to your own extension when you go off hook on an analog phone.

You pretty much only need a pair of wires going back to the phone system (likely already have it), an analog port on it and insides of an old analog phone (like a "Princess" phone, a $2 flea market item). Well, that and buddying up to your phone system admin, of course. S/he'll need to setup a ringdown feature (?D) for that analog extension. So, you press the button closing the hook contacts of the analog phone and the system calls you up on your digital/IP extension automatically. The actual electronics content of a "Princess" phone is about the size of a credit card, can easily conceal it under the desk. 
DanNixon elabz1 year ago
If they have it setup with the IP Office software or TAPI driver then you could do it with a simple batch script.
elabz DanNixon1 year ago
Hey Dan, sure, that will work, too. They'll have to setup a physical button as a trigger - I thought the physical button was a requirement. Come to think of it - that's pretty easy, too. I have a green AMD button they used to supply with their processors a few years back, I'm sure thousands of people have it collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. It emulates a keyboard with only one key. I forgot which key but it's easy to lookup online. I'm not much of a Windows guy but there should be something of a hotkey software on Win that looks for that button press and runs the batch script you're talking about. Totally doable.
randofo (author)  elabz1 year ago
Interesting to know. I doubt our phone systems are currently set up for that and I think the IT folks are not going to be keen on me messing with it, but, you never know... will look into it.
syweezy1 year ago
I love this!
coda8761 year ago
dchev1 year ago
How did your dad do this back in the day without arduino? Seems like there's got to be a simpler way
A P3RS0N dchev1 year ago
99.999999% of the time, premade under-desk panic button systems (very common in banks, shady-area businesses, jewelers, etc.) have a single wire that connects to a commercial alarm system, which in turn contacts the alarm company (who knows what business it is, where they are, etc.), who in turn call emergency services.

I don't think they're generally connected directly to phone lines. If they were, it could present a problem if the phone line is in use when the panic button is pressed.
This is not meant to call the police, this is meant to call your own phone so that you can say, "I have to take this". To get rid of someone talking to you.
Right, but he was explaining how it was done back in the day without programming, not how to make this device. That is how almost all panic buttons function. Like those LifeAlert commercials you see on TV, except wired into the desk/wall.
thesamhill1 year ago
An alternate idea is to use Google Voice, AutoHotKey, and an unused keyboard key. Link your office phone to Voice. Write an AHK script to open Google Voice and send "c" to open the quick call popup. Then send keystrokes, tabs, and enters to get it to call a robot-answered number.

It doesn't matter what the number is, because Google Voice will call your number first then try to connect to the other number once you answer.

If you really want to be fancy you could fix a programmable mouse under your desk to be more like the original panic button.
Years ago when I was working for SA Railways we installed something similar in the ticket office but with a foot switch as when the villains hold them up the clerk just step on the switch with his hands on top of the desk
iceng1 year ago
Of course you have already found the way to disguise the "Button" from
prying eyes like :
  • A hall sensor and tiny NIB glued to a sheet of paper on that desk w delay.
  • A sub dermal trigger.
  • A two or three step head tilt motive.
  • A vocal clue or lip smack.
  • A chair position sequence repeated backwards.
  • A piezo response to a desk drumming finger pattern.
HeliPilot11 year ago
Love the idea, although a flip saftey for the switch might be a need. Say something like this:
Because you've published this, now all your co-workers will know none of the calls you receive while they are at your desk are not genuine.....?
monty3241 year ago
Randofo, like all of your projects I love it and I want to build it. Voted
Great idea!
rasterweb1 year ago
Interesting! I'd consider building an alternate version that uses the Twilio API to place a voice call to my phone. That would remove the need for the GPRS shield and SIM card, as I could just use an Ethernet shield with an Arduino to ping a private URL to trigger it. Alternately, a Raspberry Pi could be put into service, which has built in Ethernet (or you could use a WiFi dongle.)
sunjum1 year ago
Hey , what kind of camera did you use? the pictures look amazing
randofo (author)  sunjum1 year ago
I used a Pentax K-7. Not a popular brand these days, but I have been very happy with it.
garrader1 year ago
Don't limit yourself to a desk, why not put it in your pocket for any situation!
sunjum1 year ago
Hey , what kind of camera did you use? the pictures look amazing
Hey, this is an amazing instructible, but wouldn't it be much simpler and cheaper just to trigger the bell directly on the phone with a 9v? This would bypass all the cell phone stuff and most of the expense, since all you need is some wire, a button and a battery.

I guess your way is the NASA way and this would be the cosmonaut way. Try the pencil.
Zclip1 year ago
I wonder how difficult it would be for me to make a usb version that would shut down my system and save off all open projects in sequentially numbered files (Ex. "Panic-01.*, Panic-02.*) If I have no experience in the black arts of programming, and can barely remember how to write a .BAT file
Closer1 year ago
If you have a landline on your desk now, you could use a splitter and tie in a second disposable phone that has an auto dialer. Pressing the button would activate a few simple relays that would pick up the line and autodial whatever number had been programmed. No coding or processors needed.
Darkmon1 year ago
Awsome. Always wanted a panic button that shoots spears or lasers, but there ya go! What ya got is what ya got. Great instructable!
Darkmon1 year ago
Awsome. Always wanted a panic button that shoots spears or lasers, but there ya go! What ya got is what ya got. Great instructable!
iglesia7771 year ago
Great idea. I wonder if it would be cheaper/easier to just have your phone play whatever audio track is the same as your ringtone? Or just make it vibrate. Could probably do that with just the arduino and an app (ie no GPRS shield, sim card).
Forgot to mention the need of an ethernet shield too. So not a ton cheaper.
dwream1 year ago
Years ago, when I was very young, I offered my Mother a primitive version of this device: I offered to install a button connected to her doorbell next to her kitchen telephone to help her end boring telephone conversations. I realized how effective this was when I phoned her and she answered with, "Sorry, dear, I can't talk. I just heard the doorbell ring!"
HollyMann1 year ago
This is AWESOME!!!! I'm living in a rough neighborhood myself now and it would be cool to have a 911 button!!! :) Love it!!!! And your photos are incredibly clear!
randofo (author)  HollyMann1 year ago
This actually would probably not be ideal for an actual 911 button. For that you would probably want an actual phone line. One of these days I'm going to make something that connects to a phone line and does strange things...

Yes. Photos. I spend a lot of time on photos...
Good to know! :) I look fwd to seeing more of your cool instructables...:)
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