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Ky. 9-1-1 director offers advice on medical alert devices

Nave warns of medical alerts that don’t provide information to emergency dispatchers
6.6.22 – Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (Ky.)

People considering a personal medical alert device should select one that connects to a call center, because the person who receives the alert will have the user’s location and other information and can contact 9-1-1, advises Paul Nave, director of Owensboro-Daviess County 9-1-1 in Kentucky. By contrast, devices that connect directly to 9-1-1 are less useful if the user can’t speak because they don’t provide location information, Nave says.

Owensboro-Daviess County 911 director Paul Nave is warning people who purchase personal medical alerts make sure the alert connects to a live call center.

Nave said medical alerts that contact 911 dispatch when activated and rely on the person being able to talk to a dispatcher won’t be effective if a person is unable to speak due to illness or injury.

“There are multiple devices you can subscribe to,” Nave said. Some services will connect to a call center when the person activates the alert, while others dial 911.

Nave said the issue with an alert that call 911 directly is the device won’t send any data needed to locate a person such as their address. With such devices, dispatchers get no information to help narrow down the device user’s location, such as the cell tower nearest to the alert signal.

“We don’t get your address or information. All we get is a voice,” Nave said. But a person who can’t speak won’t be able to tell dispatch their location.

The devices don’t have phone numbers, so “we can’t call you back,” he said.

Medical alerts that connect with call centers have monthly fees. Nave said those call centers will have the subscriber’s address, phone number and other information, so the call center can contact 911 and relay that information to the dispatcher, even if the person using the device can’t speak.