Blog

06 Feb 24

Choosing the Right Personal Alarm: Monitored Alarm vs Auto-Dial Alarm

Sheridan Howe | MePACS Products & Services

Recently, personal alarms were in the news, and not for a good reason. The 2023 Choice Shonky Awards found that auto-dial (also known as non-monitored) personal alarms are unreliable and hard to use, or as Choice wrote: “An emergency device that you can’t rely on in an emergency? Sounds pretty shonky to us”.

Many people are confused or unaware of the differences between monitored and auto-dial personal alarms, so in this article we explain the features and benefits of each alarm type and compare the two, so that you can make a more informed decision.

What is a monitored personal alarm?

A personal alarm is a small device that can be triggered in an emergency or activated to call for help when needed. The device can be a small pendant or watch, with features such as falls detection, GPS, 2-way voice communication and water resistance.

A monitored personal alarm is connected to a 24/7 emergency response centre which promptly answers every call, day or night. At MePACS, our Australian emergency response team is professionally trained to quickly assess and handle emergency situations efficiently, providing reassurance and comfort in an often stressful time. As part of our duty of care, we stay in contact with the client until help arrives and inform their closest contacts.

With a monitored personal alarms, the client’s medical details are kept securely on file and updated as needed. In an emergency, we share the relevant emergency information with emergency services so they can tailor their response and prioritise as needed.

 

What is an auto-dial personal alarm?

An auto-dial personal alarm is also a small device which shares similar capabilities and features as a monitored alarm. The key difference is that the alarm is not connected to a response centre. Instead, once the alarm is triggered or activated, it relies on a pre-programmed list of contacts to respond.

When an auto-dial alarm is activated, it automatically dials the first number on the pre-programmed list, hence the name. If there’s no response, the alarm will call the next number, and so on. The number or contacts the alarm can store varies and ranges between 5-10 for most brands. Some devices can also send an SMS to contacts on the list and include Triple Zero (000) as one of the contacts.

Some auto-dial alarm can store some basic medical information, however they do not share the information with the programmed contacts or emergency services.

 

Pros and Cons

While the actual devices used for both Monitored and auto-dial personal alarms are similar and share many functions and features, the key difference lies in the level of safety and duty of care that each product delivers. A monitored alarm relies on a professionally trained response team that is available around-the-clock, giving people and their families confidence and peace of mind. An auto-dial alarm relies on a personal network of family and friends, who may or may not be available when called upon.

While a person with low care needs might find an auto-dial alarm sufficient, a person with higher care needs, a history of falls or an underlying medical condition will likely greatly benefit from a monitored alarm with 24/7 emergency response.

  Monitored Non-Monitored (Auto-dial)
Guaranteed response 24/7, 365 days a year ✔︎
Quick response ✔︎
(Within 2 minutes)

(Can be delayed until a contact answers)
Professional responders trained to handle emergencies ✔︎
Relevant Medical information shared with emergency services ✔︎
Stay in contact until help arrives ✔︎
Upfront device cost ✔︎
(No device cost for the Home Alarm)
✔︎
Monthly monitoring charge ✔︎
(No contract, cancel any time)
SIM card included in cost ✔︎
(Only included in the first year)
Call and SMS charges included in cost ✔︎
(Only included in the first year)

 

Is the price right?

Price is often a deciding factor when choosing an alarm, so it’s important to note that there are cost differences between monitored and auto-dial alarms.

Both Monitored auto-dial alarms usually have an upfront device cost. This device cost varies depending on the brand and type of alarm, but is usually around $350-$800. Some home based monitored devices, such as the MePACS Home Alarm, do not have an upfront cost (except for a small installation fee).

A monitored alarm also has a monthly monitoring fee which covers the professional emergency response service and any call charges from the alarm. An auto-dial alarm does not have a monthly fee since it operates independently, but there is often an annual fee that covers the SIM card and any calls and SMS charges

 

Conclusion

Choosing between the two alarm options ultimately depends on individual preferences, budget, and most importantly, care needs.

Because auto-dial alarms don’t have a monthly monitoring cost, they’re cheaper than a monitored alarm in the long run. While this makes them a popular choice for many people, it’s important to note that Choice can’t recommend any of the auto-dial alarms they reviewed since 2017 because in real-life situations they claim “We’ve found these devices are unreliable at best, and often simply don’t work”.

It’s also important to understand the trade-off in terms of safety, independence and peace of mind for the wearer, their family and carers. With a monitored alarm and 24/7 dedicated emergency response, everyone involved can rest assured knowing that prompt and effective help is always available during critical times.


With over 30 years’ experience in Australian healthcare, MEPACS is dedicated to the safety and peace of mind of all Australians. Contact us on 1800 685 329 to find out more about our monitored personal alarms and emergency response service.