Sound grenades developed to prevent assault

A new sound-based personal safety device has spread to over 100 campuses around the country.

Colleges from all over the United States are purchasing the Sound Grenade and giving them to their students as part of student orientation. The device’s proliferation is impressive, considering ROBOCOPP, the company that created it, released Sound Grenade last summer.

ROBOCOPP’s Sound Grenade is a small, sound-emitting device that you can attach to your keychain. When activated, it sounds an alarm that reaches 120-decibels. According to Purdue University, that is louder than a sawmill and the same volume as a thunderclap or a chainsaw.

The point of the device’s loud alarm, according to ROBOCOPP co-founder and CEO Sam Mansen, is to scare off potential attackers, serving as an alternative to pepper spray.

“We found that most people would rather deter an attack, not engage in one,” Mansen said.

The Sound Grenade attaches to the user’s keychain, making it easily accessible. If threatened, he or she only needs to pull the pin to start the device’s alarm, scaring off any potential attackers in the area.

The pulling of the device’s pin is what gave Mansen the idea for the name “Sound Grenade.”

The inspiration to create Sound Grenade came to Mansen when his sister began attending college in the San Francisco bay area. She did not feel safe walking around the city at night, but did not want to use pepper spray.

After searching, Mansen noticed that there are not many personal safety items aside from pepper spray on the market. The ubiquity of pepper spray, Mansen says, becomes a problem when you consider that most people do not 1) use pepper spray during an attack or 2) know how to use it.

Mansen then turned to personal alarms, which have existed for 20 years but never caught on. The personal alarm uses a loud sound to surprise and confuse the attacker, giving the potential victim more time to get to safety.

“The idea is to provide a one to two second window in a life or death situation where the person can get away,” Mansen said.

This kind of use has a particular appeal on college campuses, where Mansen thinks there is a strong communal or “familial vibe.” The Sound Grenade’s alarm sound can scare away an attacker and alert someone who is willing to help.

The Sound Grenade takes advantage of human physiological and behavioral responses to loud noises.

“We focus on utilizing acoustics to cause a certain behavioral or physiological change in people,” Jill Turner, ROBOCOPP’s PR director, said. “A loud noise causes a behavioral effect by getting a person, i.e., a mugger, to leave you alone. A loud noise also causes a physiological effect in people, as it is irritating, makes your heart race and is annoying or agitating.”

This strategy of using acoustics to change a person’s behavior is not without precedent.  A study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte department of criminal justice & criminology found that 83 percent of all burglars would attempt to determine if a house had an alarm system beforehand. That same study found that 60 percent of all burglars will abandon a house altogether if an alarm system were present. Turner and Mansen also noted that roughly 68 percent of bank robbers will flee the scene if they hear an alarm go off.

Aside from preventing crime, Mansen pointed out that acoustics affect how people act every day.

“Imagine the sounds of a construction site: are you going to have a conversation there?” Mansen said. He also pointed out that most people use an alarm to wake up in the morning, which shocks people into a waking state.

Mansen stresses that the Sound Grenade is not the be-all end-all for personal safety. Instead, it is supposed to be yet “another tool in the toolbox,” providing a little extra protection for the user.

ROBOCOPP is marketing their product to men and women of all ages, with roughly half of their sales going to men. The Sound Grenade can also provide safety from human threats, such as muggers, and from wildlife or stray animals.

Mansen recounted the tale of a woman who used it to scare away a stray dog. She had been out running when a dog approached her in a threatening manner. She used her Sound Grenade, which scared the dog away.

The Sound Grenade is available through ROBOCOPP’s website as well as through Amazon.