So what’s the difference?
Basically these are two completely different services, though they use a very similar name.
The services with a monthly fee are set up to call a 24/7 monitoring service that will ask you what happened and send help depending on what you need. Of course, they send an ambulance if you don’t respond to their questions, because they assume you’re incapacitated enough that you can’t respond.
The services that don’t have a monthly fee don’t call a monitoring center. There’s no expert help on the other side of the phone.
So what do they offer?
It’s pretty simple. These systems can be programmed to dial any phone numbers you choose. Most can store about 4 phone numbers.
When you activate the unit, it will call each number, one after the other, until it gets a response. (It’s not fooled by answering machines or voicemail.)
Some people choose to put a neighbor’s number in there, or a friends. Or their children’s cell phone numbers.
When the person answers, the machine tells them (in an automated way) that you’ve called for help. Most units don’t have two-way communication, so the person has to then call you back and have a conversation with you, or else call 911 on your behalf.
Are these units worthwhile?
It’s a great question.
There’s no perfect solution to the problem of getting help when you need it. These systems are pretty good for reaching out to someone who can call for help for you or who can come over and see that you’re okay. For most people, these systems will be good enough.
Of course, there are a couple of things to watch out for, which I’ll try to cover in another article.