Buyer’s Guide Part 2 – Company Service Equipment
Every company will offer equipment to their customers as part of their medical alert services. Remember, not all of the following equipment is offered by all companies:
The Base Unit
The base unit of the medical alert system is the main component of the system, and they plug into a telephone line. The parts and possible features of the base unit are as follows:
The base station is where many of the features are located, and all systems have a base unit. There are a number of features available from medical alert companies.
One Touch Dial
One feature you will often find on the base unit is a one touch dial button. This allows the user to press a button on the unit and immediately be connected with the call center.
Self Testing Options
Ensuring that your medical alert system is working at all times is imperative. This is why some units feature a self-testing option. This feature will periodically test the unit, usually every month, in order to make sure it is in working order.
Most of these units are powered by the electricity in your home, but most units have battery backup if the power goes out. Most units have a backup battery that lasts between 24 and 36 hours without electricity, but others may offer up to 60 hours of power without electricity. Some units also feature a “low battery” indicator that will tell you when the battery is low.
Ideally, a user should never have to replace their batteries, but it’s possible they will need to be replaced at some point. A battery can ideally last for several years, as most systems have a recharging feature that ensures the base always has backup power.
Make sure the base unit feature two-way communication – The unit has a built-in microphone and speaker that allows users to not only speak to the call center, but also hear the response. (In some cases, the user can speak through the base unit and also through a two-way communication pendant, which will be explained in further detail later).
All base units also have a range where the pendant will work. Some units are shorter than other, however. These ranges are expressed in linear feet and may vary based on the layout of the house. Building materials may also affect the range of the base unit. Ideally, you should choose a medical alert system that encompasses the entire home and possibly the property. Most systems range from about 600 to 1000 feet, but others may only have a range of 150 or 300 feet. Compare All Medical Alert Systems »
It is also possible to find base units that feature voice amplification. This is ideal for those who are hard of hearing or if you are far from the unit since it allows you to hear the voice on the other end amplified and clear. This is a feature that certainly may help in an emergency.
Microphone Sensitivity and Quality
Units may also come with microphones that can be adjusted for sensitivity. This is ideal for shaky or quiet voices.
Base Unit Connection
Different companies offer different models that connect in three different ways.
1. Traditional Telephone Line – The traditional way for a medical alert system to connect to the network is via a telephone line in the wall, just as one might connect a home telephone. Compare Medical Alert Systems with Landline Connection »
2. VoiP Line – A more modern way that a medical alert system can connect is via a VoiP (voice over Internet protocol line). This technology allows people to connect with the call center via their high-speed Internet connection.
3. Wireless Units – The third type of connection you will find is a wireless connection which transfers information by using a cellular connection, just like your cell phone. Some companies charge a bit more each month for this type of connection. Compare Medical Alert Systems with Cellular Connection (No Landline Required) »
Additional Person Alert
Through the base unit, there is also an available feature with some systems that allow the call center to contact your neighbors or family for help. This is most often used when medical intervention isn’t necessary, but the user still needs help.
The pendant is the companion piece to the base unit. The pendant is worn by the user and features a button that can be used to alert the call center. There are also a number of other features that may be available on the pendant.
Options for Wearing the Pendant
There are a number of options available from companies when it comes to the pendant. Some companies only offer a necklace option, but others may offer wristband options or those that attach to a belt. Choosing the right option for you may depend on your lifestyle. You also may simply prefer one option over another. For example, if you don’t want to have to worry about a pendant dangling from your neck, a wristband pendant may work better for you. Another thing to consider with the pendant is that not all companies offer all types of pendants, and if they do, some may come as an extra charge. For instance, the neck pendant may come included with the system, but a belt attachment may have an additional cost associated with it.
Number of Available Pendants
Depending on your situation, you may need more than one pendant with your medical alert system. For instance, if there are two people in the home, they both may need one. If this is the case, you need to choose a company that offers this option. Again, some plans will come with this option, others may offer it, but charge an extra fee. There are also companies that offer two for one plans, but they will charge a one-time fee for the extra hardware.
There are two types of pendants that are available with these systems, though not all companies offer both types of pendants:
1. One-Way Communication Pendant – With a one-way communication pendant, usually the standard, you can only alert the call center. They cannot contact you through the pendant, but can contact you through the base. The problem that sometimes occurs, however, is if you are too far away from the base unit, they may not be able to hear you or you may not be able to hear them.
2. Two-Way Communication Pendant – With a two-way communication pendant, you can both hear and speak through the pendant. This means, as long as you are within range of the base unit, you can communicate with the call center without being physically near the base unit. This is a very important and beneficial feature, though not all companies offer it. Compare Systems with Two Way Communication Feature »
These pendants are all water resistant so that they can be worn in the bath or shower. This is also beneficial as a lot of falls occur in the bathroom. According to the New York Times, about a quarter of a million people fall in the bathroom each year, and 14 percent of those injuries require hospitalization. The same article states that as we age, the rate of these falls increase, peaking at the age of 85.
Remote Phone Answering
With remote phone answering, you will find that you can easily answer any calls that come into the base unit by touching the pendant. This only works, however, with pendants with two-way communication capabilities. You can also answer calls if you are near the base unit.
There may be emergencies where you are unable to speak after pressing the medical alert button. In this case, the system will spring into action. Some systems will speak for you and alert the call center of an emergency. Others will automatically dispatch help when you don’t respond. Each company has different policies, so make sure to find out before you buy to know what will occur should this happen.
Out of Range Alert
Since the range of these units is limited, it is convenient to know when you and your pendant are outside of that range. This is where an out of range alert may come in handy. Many pendants will tell you when you are out of range from the base unit. At this point, you can either move back into range, or understand that if an emergency occurs, you will be unable to use the system.
- Buyer’s Guide Part 1 – The Company and Its Monitoring Systems – Click to Enter!
- Buyer’s Guide Part 2 – Company Service Equipment – You are here!
- Buyer’s Guide Part 3 – Contracts and Fees – Click to Enter!
- Buyer’s Guide Part 4 – Protection Services and Premium Features – Click to Enter!
- Buyer’s Guide Part 5 – Additional Features of Medical Alert Systems – Click to Enter!