1300 885 886 Independent Living Centres Advisory Service

Emergency Call Systems

Such systems operate in a variety of environments, be it a private home, hospital, nursing home or retirement village. By activating a personal alarm, which is often carried on the user, the user is able to summon help in cases of emergency. These systems can give individuals and their family and friends peace of mind, knowing that help is just a button press away. For this reason, the system is particularly useful for when the user is living alone. Systems can either be attached to the telephone line or not, there are many options for both.

Non-telephone Based Systems

These simple devices are used to alert neighbours or carers who are close at hand that assistance is required. There are three main types; portable noisemakers, one way alerting devices like alarms and finally, intercoms.

Portable Noisemakers

These are hand held alarms that vary in volume and range of the siren. They incorporate a variety of features like vibrating or visual alarms that alert the wearer or a neighbour/carer of problems. They are activated either by a button or the pulling of a pin. Some have a delay to account for accidental activation and some can be programmed to alert the wearer of smoke or intruders. Cheap commercially available alternatives to this product are bells or whistles.

One-way Alerts

These are like a portable doorbell carried by the user which corresponds to a receiver to which the carer remains near. It involves a transmitter and a receiver unit which rely on radio transmission to communicate. They can be battery operated but the receiver is usually mains powered, so there is no extra wiring involved. The receiver can usually be moved from room to room within the house. The receiver may be fitted externally as an alarm or strobe light so that it can become a neighbour alerting device. This device is thus usueful in a group housing scenario or on a large property with a live-in carer.

Intercom Monitors

There are two main types of intercoms:

  • One way intercom monitors which operate similarly to baby monitors
  • Two way talk intercoms that may incorporate video surveillance systems for special circumstances

These can generally be moved from room to room and rely on battery and mains power. Two way intercom monitors usually require a mains or cable connection.

Telephone Based Emergency Systems

These systems use the existing telephone line as the main communication link between a person at risk and support contacts. Often they can be used anywhere in the near vicinity of their home.
The user wears a transmitter that, when activated, sends a signal back to the base unit installed near the telephone to initiate an emergency response plan which can be personalised. An automatic call can be sent to family members or emergency services. Transmitters are waterproof and commonly worn around the neck or wrist. Telephone based emergency call systems can be monitored or non-monitored.

Monitored Systems

These link to a 24 hour monitoring station staffed by trained personnel who are able to monitor the situation and communicate with the person. During this time a personal emergency response plan is initiated and support people or emergency services are contacted as planned.

Non-monitored Systems

These systems call a support person directly via the receiver unit. Pushing a button initiates the dialling of a list of contact telephone numbers in sequence until a response is obtained, then a pre-recorded alert sound or message is delivered. The support person takes on the responsibility to investigate further and investigate further and contact emergency services if required.

Fall Detectors

These sound an initial warning to the user to allow for accidental activation prior to activating the system. Installation of a Mode 3 or Mode 5 function to the specific telephone wall socket ensures the alarm system over-rides any other phone activity at the time. This means the alarm signal will take priority even if the phone is off the hook or in use.

Special Monitoring Units

These provide auditory and visual signals, medication reminders, daily call facilities, smoke detectors, flood detectors and intruder alarms. Transmitters often have adaptations for people with limited hand control, hearing or vision.

Factors to Consider when Choosing an Emergency Call System

  • Set-up costs
  • Ongoing monitoring costs, in the case of a monitored system
  • Whether to purchase or rent the unit

Other Tips for Emergency Situations

  • Keeping a safe key outside the home may be useful for enabling authorised people to enter the home should an emergency take place (e.g. Emergency service officers, family and friends, other support people), particularly if the user is unable to reach the door. The key could be stored in a safe accessible by a PIN code.

Alternative Telephone Based Options

Support Organisations

Courtesy Calls

  • The St John's ambulance service offers a service for a small fee and the Australian Red Cross offers a free service whereby a person can receive daily or weekly calls at a prearranged time from a volunteer to ensure that all is well. The service is available in rural areas. The service retains a list of support people to be contacted should the call not be answered. If support people cannot be contacted and there are reasonable grounds for concern, emergency services are contacted to investigate.

Telstra Call Delay Hotline Feature

  • This allows the user to dial a pre-arranged phone number by simply lifting the receiver and waiting four seconds. This feature requires a Telstra approved telephone and a local exchange which is compatible with easy call facilities.

Mobile Phones

  • Mobiles are lightweight and easy to wear attached to a belt or kept in a pocket. Emergency support numbers can be saved to the contact list and even set as 'spped dial' numbers which means only one digit has to be dialled for the corresponding phone number to be dialled.

Cordless Phones

  • These can be carried around the home and may provide sufficient back up for the relatively fit elderly living at home. Some cordless phones also have an intercom facility. As with mobiles, some numbers can sometimes be saved to the phone.

Require assistance?

If you require advice or assistance in choosing relevant AT products for your needs, please call our national ILC Infoline 1300 885 886. You will be connected to your local state/territory ILC for the cost of a local phone call.

** NT callers are automatically directed to ILC in South Australia.