Medical Alarm Guidance

Medical Alarm Devices

Medical alarm devices are designed to signal the presence of a hazard that requires immediate action and is often used as a way to summon emergency response personnel, primarily emergency medical services. They are often referred to as a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) and are typically worn as a necklace or wristband or may be clipped to a belt or carried in a pocket. By a push of the button, a signal is sent to a control console that dials a pre-programmed number.

A PERS has three main components: a small radio transmitter (the worn device), a control console that is connected to your telephone, and a central answering center that monitors calls upon activation. A PERS can be purchased or leased, depending on what company you choose. Most companies will charge a monthly monitoring service.

In the State of North Dakota, the North Dakota Century Code prohibits these devices from being programmed to dial 9-1-1- directly. Similar to other types of alarm systems, calls are often monitored by a central answering service which upon receipt of a call will contact the local 9-1-1 center to dispatch responders based upon the information they have. Some systems allow a message to be sent directly to a caregiver or family member.

People who choose to use PERS services, or their families who have made the decision to better protect their loved one, should keep some things in mind when deciding to enroll in these services.

  • For a centrally monitored service, make sure that the provider has appropriate identifying information to help first responders in locating and caring for your loved one (address, apartment number, name, telephone number, etc).
  • Consider systems that allow direct voice communications when activated.
  • When using a system to notify family members, neighbors, etc., make sure to have a plan on what actions will be taken when activated and keep in mind that family members or neighbors may not be home. Know the telephone numbers for the emergency response agencies.
  • Consider how emergency responder will access the facility if it is locked.
  • Historically, systems were limited to the range of the control console and remote. New systems enable use on cellular networks for greater mobility and use of PERS devices away from your home. Keep in mind that cellular location is an inexact science and may only provide a general area of a user's location. If you are out of cellular coverage, your PERS system will not work.

For more consumer information from the Federal Trade Commission, go here

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