Careers: EMT/Emergency Medical Technicians/Emergency Dispatch Service Companies


"Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"

While I understand there are individuals in the world who would benefit by subscribing to an emergency dispatch service company, I suspect the majority of folks who do subscribe DONíT actually need it!  But Iím writing to become better informed so that I can present a clear argument to my friend, who wants to subscribe to one, at a cost of $60/month.   I am hoping you will give me your opinion or assessment.

I think my friend does not need this service because he has an iPhone and if that is too complicated we can get him a simple large keypad voice activated cell phone Ė and if he does find himself in an unfortunate emergency (fire, police, medical) - I say he just speed dials or voice dials his cellphone to call 911.   It makes far more sense to me than going through an intermediary to do the same thing! And his tax dollars are paying for the service already!

Incidentally, he is not often alone but I realize fatal accidents happen in the blink of an eye.  He lives in a retirement community (independent living) and has a live-in care provider.  The facility has 24/7 unarmed security personnel and office personnel during the regular work week.  While he can afford the $60/mth, there is a long list of other things he could spend it on that make more sense to me (like a life insurance burial policy - neither of which he currently has)....

....but maybe I am missing something?    I look forward to your response!

I am not sure which company is going to charge $60/month but here in Florida I believe there are contractors that can provide this service for about 1/2 that amount. Regardless, your question centers on the services themselves and whether or not, based on my experiences, these services are worthwhile. Let me approach my reply with Pros, Cons, and a Summary.

- These services give their clients some measure of peace of mind. I know this from first hand experience with my mother-in-law. She had a stroke some 5 months ago and, on release from the hospital and rehab, she signed a contract. For her it brings a great deal of peace knowing that she need not remember to grab her call phone everywhere she goes - the device is with her everywhere. Even in her bathroom.
- These services cover all emergencies. Whether the client needs police, fire, or medical assistance they cover them all.
- Quite often the services are able to provide us with vital information while we are still responding. "Rescue 1, be advised your patient has a history of a stroke. A family friend is enroute with an ETA of 10 minutes. The neighbor next door has a key and will be assisting with entry." (this is an actual example)
- The services are often covered by insurance. I may be mistaken but I believe my MIL was able to obtain hers with a really low co-pay; Medicare covered a great deal of it.

- These services are a middle man. If you can call 9-1-1 yourself this is far more ideal.  
- Often these services are located many miles away (hundreds) and this means that they don't know the area and cannot help responders with directions and such.
- If it isn't covered by insurance odds are it will be costly. To the tune of between $500 and 1000 per year. For those on a fixed income this may be unaffordable.
- These devices are battery and electric services dependent. If the power goes out for a long enough period of time the device won't work. And this means if the client has become dependent on it they might not know what to do in the case of an emergency.
- These devices often require a reset daily. If the client fails to do this we end up being summoned for a "wellness check - medical alarm". Most of the time the resident is out shopping, napping, or just forgot.
- In all of my years in EMS and Fire I can count on one hand the number of times these devices truly ended up making a difference. Most of the time the person hit their button on their own (could have called 9-1-1) or a family member/friend called us.

These devices are very commercialized. The advertisements are sensationalized and make it seem that people are falling all over the place and no-one is there to find them, help them up, or call us. This simply is not the case. They are for-profit companies and they capitalize on emotion and fear in order to sell their product. The end results are peace of mind and little else for the contractor. Having said all of this once my MIL got hers she stopped calling us because of the fear of being home and vulnerable. And in that light it becomes very much an individual choice. I would never tell someone who is truly convinced that they need/want one not to obtain it. But that is simply because it is so hard to argue with such frightening commercials.

I hope this response helps.
Jim Wilson

Careers: EMT/Emergency Medical Technicians

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Jim Wilson


I can answer questions regarding training, education, and experiences as well as providing some incite into the world of Emergency Medical Services.


I have over 25 years of experience in EMS, Fire, and Air Transport.

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BS, AS, EMT-P, ACLS (and instructor), BLS (and instructor), PALS (and instructor), PPC (and instructor), BTLS (and instructor), PHTLS, and NALS. Have instructed EMT and Paramedic in Florida since 1986.

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