An alarm consists of four large bright red cones that are triggered by the turning of a wheel, which is designed upon a ship's helm. The alarm is powered by a large circular turbine or rotary device at the base of the structure; the outer casing of the turbine displays the words "Alarm Property of City Watch" in red writing. The turbine can also be heard powering-up momentarily before the alarm sounds.
There is a small light mounted on top of the alarm, which signals the device's current state. The light is yellow if the device is 'ready,' the light is red if the alarm is actively ringing, or 'on,' and the light appears blue if the alarm has been rewired. The small whale oil tank-like device will also display these same colors, respectively.
- The City Watch and the Grand Serkonan Guard are the most frequent users of alarms. Watch Lower Guards will often ring the alarm if they are attacked to call for aid. Sometimes an Officer will order a Lower Guard to ring the alarm.
- Overseers also use alarms in their buildings, one of them being the Office of the High Overseer. Upon hearing the alarm many Overseers will come running.
- Some aristocrats have alarms installed in their homes. For instance, Arnold Timsh has one in his office, and in a note to his head of security, he complains that it is an eyesore.
- There are also variants of the alarm, which, instead of being placed on the ground, are placed on walls. Some are connected to floor alarms, allowing the sound to be heard farther away, and some are attached to tripwires, such as the alarm at the Drapers Ward Textile Mill.
- Other alarms can be wired to loudspeakers so that they can be heard from a distance, such as the alarm in the Legal District Waterfront.
- An alarm can be deactivated by using a rewire tool on its fuse box, and if an alarm goes off, it will automatically stop ringing upon the incapacitation of all hostiles in the area. An alarm can also be silenced in the same way that it is activated at any point while the device is ringing.
- In Dishonored 2 and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, rewiring an alarm makes it buzz with electricity, damaging anyone attempting to use the device.
- The protagonist can activate alarms as well, thereby summoning more enemies to the area.
- Alarms will spawn reinforcements even if everyone in the area has been killed or incapacitated.
- Each alarm has a finite number of times that it can be rung. Once these are used up the prompt to ring the alarm will disappear or, upon activation, the alarm will issue a short ring and reset without summoning anyone. The number of available activations varies between alarms.
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