Common Features of an Emergency Response System

By: Stephanie Larkin

An emergency response system or sometimes Personal Emergency Response system is a simple electronic gadget that is intended to make it possible to get help in an emergency situation. It is particularly intended to provide protection and quick response to a senior citizen living alone or to a disabled person. The Personal Emergency Response system is also called a Medical Emergency Response System.

The Personal Emergency Response system is intended for use by a person living alone or one who is not able to get around physically. In an emergency situation where the person has fallen and is not able to get up, help can be summoned by pressing a help button that is worn on the person. Other people who make good use of the Personal Emergency Response System are those who have medical conditions such as diabetes where there is a danger of falling into a coma. The help button may never been needed, but family members of an elderly individual get peace of mind when they know their loved one will have emergency help quickly if needed.

A Medical Emergency Response system is made up of three components: the radio transmitter that is worn or carried by the user at all times, a connection through a console at the telephone, and the center for emergency call monitoring.

The Personal Emergency Response system is put into operation when the user needs emergency help, such as the police, fire department or in the event of a medical emergency. The system user presses the help button on the transmitter, which automatically emits a radio signal that is picked up by the console. The console is pre- programmed to dial one or more telephone numbers that are selected by the user. For example, if an elderly person has fallen and injured a hip so that they can't arise, the user would press the help button. The emergency response number would be dialed in many instances. This usually can be done even if the telephone handset is off the hook or in use. Some systems have information about medical history at the call center so that they would contact an adult child or a spouse.

If the center staff can't determine what the nature of the emergency is, they will send a response team to the location and will continue to monitor the response until the emergency situation is resolved.


The transmitter unit is light weight and operated by battery power that must be recharged or replaced periodically. Checking the batteries regularly helps to insure that they remain operational. The transmitter has one or two buttons for calling help. The transmitter is worn on a wrist band or around the neck on a chain. They can be attached to a belt, or simply carried in the pocket. Some transmitter units reflect low batteries by means of a battery level indicator.


The console or automatic dialing machine picks up the radio signal from the transmitter and send the alert through the private telephone line system. In the event of a telephone system with more than one extension, some special wiring or jacks may be required in order to grab the line.

Emergency Response Center

The console dials into one of two different types of emergency response centers. Manufacturer based centers usually have only one operation center nationwide. Provider based systems are found locally. They are often run by social service agencies or by regional hospitals. Because users often have the choice of renting the Personal Emergency Response System or purchasing their equipment it usually makes the difference whether the local center is available to the consumer. Equipment leased from the manufacturer is usually part of single nationwide center. Occasionally, the user can choose which type of system he prefers--manufacturer based or provider based.

Customers sometimes choose to buy the equipment but the majority rent Since most insurance companies won't pay for either the daily monitoring, the equipment or the installation of the unit. A purchased unit will run anywhere from $200 up to $5,000. The installation fee and monitoring fee will cost an additional amount. When the PERS unit is rented, the monthly fee usually includes the monitoring service. Typically, rentals or leased units are handles through hospitals, social service agencies, home health providers or other businesses.

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