emergency Resources: Alternatives to the "panic button"
Monty Sher for the Ashby Village Technology Committee
One of the hazards of living alone is an emergency when someone needs to summon help. Falling and losing consciousness are two common emergencies for older adults, and an option, when one falls, is a “panic button” service – you wear a button which, when pressed, connects you by phone with a trained agent. With a monthly fee from $20 to $40, these services are well worth the cost if you are concerned about ease of use in emergency situations.
In this article, we describe other emergency resources that you might consider as alternatives or supplements to a “panic button” service. If you have a smartphone or tablet and a reliable wifi connection, there are emergency devices that are one-time purchases.
Unsure you have wifi at home? If your smartphone shows this icon on the display, you have wifi.
The alternatives we discuss fall into two categories: Emergency devices you can use when you remain conscious, and emergency devices that enable others to detect if you are unconscious.
Emergency devices you can use when you remain conscious
If you remain conscious, you can use voice-activated devices. You can alert multiple people and access multiple services.
Google Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot
The Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot are small voice-activated speakers that cost $50 or less. These devices let you stream music, ask for information, control smart home gadgets, and call people! One device is probably enough for a small apartment, but if your fear of falling extends to a closed bathroom, you may need another speaker there. Click here to learn about the Google Home Mini. Click here to learn about the Amazon Echo Dot.
With these devices, just using your voice, you can call anyone you have put into a contact list. The Amazon Echo Dot, using the free service Ask My Buddy can actually send an alert to up to five people at once! It requires you to memorize a command like, “Alexa, ask My Buddy to alert everyone,” and it will then notify the people on your list to check on you right away. Alerts will be sent by a text message, email, or telephone call. Click here to learn about Ask My Buddy.
Neither the Google Home Mini or the Amazon Echo Dot can call 911, but you can call the emergency service of your local Police directly if you include these numbers in your contact list. These numbers ring the same call centers as a 911 call.
Berkeley (510) 981 5911
Emeryville (510) 596-3737
Oakland (510) 777 3211
If the ability to say “call 911” is a priority for you, you can connect the Amazon Echo Dot to another device, the Echo Connect. Click here to learn about the Echo Connect.
If a caretaker or relative not living with you shares an Amazon Household membership with you, they can keep tabs on your Dot activity on their mobile phone. If they detect that you’re not using your Dot, it’s a kind of passive alert. Click here to learn more about Amazon Household. We describe other methods of passive alert below.
Monitoring devices for detecting when you may have lost consciousness
The devices in this section can enable a relative or friend to detect if there has been an lapse or change in your habits that signals you need emergency help.
GuardPeanut costs $29. It’s a motion sensor that can be put on any object, and then a data alert is sent to an application on someone’s smartphone or tablet if the object moves. A chosen relative or friend can remotely monitor alerts on their smartphone or tablet at any time. For example, the GuardPeanut could be attached to a refrigerator, bathroom door, or front door, and, if the door is not opened during an expected time period, the monitoring person can detect this as an alert that some emergency response is needed. Click here to learn about Guard Peanut.
Like the GuardPeanut, the Samsung Multipurpose Sensor ($30) and the Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub ($50) can be used to monitor movement. The Sensor also monitors room temperature. The Hub offers still other services; you can choose from a wide range of compatible devices that enable remote control of lights, speakers, locks, thermostats, and more. Click here to learn about the Multipurpose Sensor, and click here to learn about the SmartThings Home Hub.
Let us assist you!
Have questions about the information in this article? Contact Monty Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Would you like assistance? Ashby Village Technology volunteers are available to help you at your home, or you can register for drop-in assistance at the office the second Tuesday of every month from 2:15-4:30 p.m. To request assistance, contact the office at email@example.com or (510) 204-9200.