Choosing a Personal Emergency Response System

A Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) is an electronic device designed to let you call for help in an emergency. If you are a disabled or an older person living alone, or caring for someone, you may be thinking about buying a PERS .

How a PERS Works
A PERS has three parts: a small radio transmitter (a help button carried or worn by the user); a console connected to the user’s telephone; and an emergency response center that monitors calls. When emergency help (medical, fire, or police) is needed, the user presses the help button. It sends a radio signal to the console. The console automatically dials one or more pre-selected emergency telephone numbers. Most PERS are programmed to telephone an emergency response center where the caller is identified. The center will try to determine the nature of the emergency. Center staff also may review your medical history and check to see who should be notified.

If the center cannot contact you or determine whether an emergency exists, it will alert emergency service providers to go to your home. With most systems, the center will monitor the situation until the crisis is resolved.

Purchasing, Renting, or Leasing a PERS
A PERS can be purchased, rented, or leased. Some hospitals and social service agencies may subsidize fees for low-income users. There is usually a one time installation fee and a monthly monitoring charge which may cost from $10 to $45.

Before purchasing, renting, or leasing a system, check the unit for defects. Ask to see the warranty and service contract and get any questions resolved. Ask about the repair policy. Find out how to arrange for a replacement or repair if a malfunction occurs. Ask for information about prices, system features, and services. You can then use the information to comparison shop among other PERS providers.

Shopping Checklist
To help you shop for a PERS that meets your needs, consider the following suggestions:
1. Check out several systems before making a decision.
2. Find out if you can use the system with other response centers. For example, can you use the same system if you move?
3. Ask about the pricing, features, and servicing of each system and compare costs.
4. Make sure the system is easy to use.
5. Test the system to make sure it works from every point in and around your home. Make sure nothing interferes with transmissions.
6. Read your agreement carefully before signing.

Questions to Ask the Response Center
You also may want to ask questions about the response center:
1. Is the monitoring center available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
2. What is the average response time?
3. What kind of training does the center staff receive?
4. What procedures does the center use to test systems in your home? How often are tests conducted?

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