Fact Sheet on Emergency Alert Systems

Fact Sheet on Emergency Alert Systems


Many people with disabilities and seniors are especially concerned about health emergencies and other emergency situations. Seniors may worry about the possibility of a fall, or even a stroke, that can suddenly disable them so that they cannot call for help when they need it most. A person with a physical disability may not be able to get to a telephone, while hearing, speech or other communication disabilities can make it difficult to communicate with emergency personnel.  Many of us have heard about buttons that can be worn around a person’s neck or wrist and pressed to summon help when the user is unable to reach a phone. These products and others like them, known as emergency alert systems, make it easier to call for help when help is needed. Emergency alert systems can add an important element of safety for many seniors and persons with disabilities living by themselves. They can make it possible for people to live safely in their homes or in an independent living facility, rather than a nursing home. Emergency alert systems can also reassure people that their family members and friends who are living with a disability or have health problems can easily summon help whenever the need arises.

Two issues show how important emergency alert systems can be — falls and stroke. While falls are most often associated with seniors, they are also a common hazard for people with vision disabilities, mobility disabilities, and balance-related disabilities. The National Safety Council illustrated how dangerous falls are in 2005 when it found that “falls are the leading cause of death for older adults. Almost 11,000 older adults a year, or 30 each day, die from a falls injury.” Fall prevention is widely acknowledged to be the most effective method of reducing this danger; however, a person who suffers a fall and has an emergency alert system will be able to summon medical assistance quickly so that any injury suffered in the fall can be treated as soon as possible.

Each year, about 700,000 people suffer a stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.  When a person has a stroke, “treatment can be more effective if given early on.” An emergency alert system can provide people who know that they are at risk of a stroke with a method to call for medical assistance rapidly, even if the stroke impairs their mobility or ability to speak.

Many disabilities and health conditions can create a need to have an emergency alert system. These conditions include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), arthritis, balance disabilities, communication disabilities, deafness, hearing loss, multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, seizures, speech disabilities, and spinal cord injury (SCI).

This fact sheet describes the various types of emergency alert systems that are currently available, including the “standard” personal emergency response system (PERS) and related options and alternatives. It also discusses issues involved in selecting a system, and provides a list of equipment manufacturers and monitoring services with their full contact information.

See entire fact sheet plus photographs and illustrations.

Posted on BrainLine May 12, 2011.

This Fact Sheet is provided by AbleData, an assistive technology information service provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Neither the Department nor ICF Macro, which operates AbleData, has examined, reviewed, or tested any product, device, or resource contained in AbleData or referred to in this Fact Sheet. The Department and ICF Macro make no endorsement, representation, or warranty express or implied as to any product, device, or other information set forth in AbleData. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Department, NIDRR, or ICF Macro. For the original full text of this Fact Sheet, please go to the “”Library” section of www.abledata.com.