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How Do Medical Alert Systems Work

Author: Disabled World : Contact:

Published: 2016-04-12 : (Rev. 2019-02-08)


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Most modern medical alert systems are designed to be uncomplicated to use and as reliable as possible. However, there are differences between them that consumers should understand. There are some questions that need to be answered before choosing any medical alert device for you or a loved one. It is important to think about who the device contacts when the emergency button is pressed, how far the remote operates away from the base station, and the monthly fee for service.

A medical alert system, also known as a medical alarm or Personal Emergency Response System (PERS), is defined as a personal emergency response system designed to reduce complications associated with falls or other health-related emergencies by ensuring prompt assistance.

In the event of an alarm, some systems will place a phone call to a community emergency service such as 911. Others will place a call to the configured number of a friend or family member.

Some systems will send an SMS message to configured contacts.


A standard medical alert device for use in the home consists of a base station and a wearable panic/emergency button.

The base station plugs into an electrical outlet for power, and it should have a battery backup.

The wearable button is battery powered and either is rechargeable or has replaceable batteries that last a long time. The wearable button should be completely waterproof to make it wearable while showering or bathing. Most wearable alert buttons can easily be switched back and forth from a pendant to a wristwatch style device.

Types of Medical Alarm Providers Include

Hospital programs operated by volunteers.

Companies that provide for seniors in their homes.

Closed systems run by organizations such as universities or CCRC

Full service companies that provide complete installation, instuction training and regular testing.

Individually co-ordinated services that rely on smart phone apps to communicate alerts to personal contacts.

Types of Medical Alarm Personal Devices Include


A smart phone

Pendant worn around the neck

Small device worn on the belt

Radar based detectors in a room

Installed motion detectors in a home

How Medical Alert Systems Communicate

Two parked medical transport vehicles.
Two parked medical transport vehicles.

The base station communicates with a monitoring agency, or it may contact prearranged emergency contacts or 911. This is done over a standard landline telephone line, cellular networks or over VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) services such as cable telephone service.

Landline phone service and cellular works even if the power is out.

VOIP services that rely on an Internet connection may not.

Cellular should be as reliable as landline telephone service where there is good signal strength.

As mentioned, the wearable panic/emergency button is worn as a pendant or on the wrist. The user presses the button during an emergency and it sends a radio signal to activate the emergency contact procedures the base station uses. The base station likely has two-way communication to speak to the emergency contact if the person is close enough to the base station to hear and be heard.

Some wearable devices have built-in cellular and GPS capability to speak two-way through the wearable device, and it will even give the user's GPS location. This type of unit works anywhere it has cellular signal. The other devices have a limited range of a few hundred feet from the base station.


Those with disabilities or seniors wanting to be safer living at home should take time to learn about the company behind the medical alert system they are choosing.

Those who already have a monitored home security system may be able to add on medical alert service for a modest fee. Other companies offer systems that do not require any other services or components other than the base station and wearable pendant.

Users should only be paying for what they need and can easily understand and use. The goal is to have a way of getting help in an emergency with just a simple press of a button, and the right medical alert system can definitely provide a peace of mind for the user, friends and family.

You can check out this article ( about standalone home medical alert systems for more information.

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