“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” – a slogan that has become as permanently ingrained in our memories as “Got Milk?” or “Just Do It” from Nike. Life Alert Emergency Response is one of the earliest and most successful pioneers of their industry with continued widespread use and remains a household name. They back that up with a large, well-staffed and trained monitoring center with a solid track record of success.
However, as the years have gone on and technology has advanced, Life Alert might have gotten a little too comfortable with their success at the top, and haven’t done much to innovate over their 30+ year run. They are also one of the most expensive options in the industry, not only in up-front cost, but require long contracts with no free trial, making the minimum investment in the service higher than any other system we’ve seen.
So let’s get into what Life Alert gets right and where we feel they could improve:
Where Life Alert Could Improve:
High Cost and 3-year Minimum Contracts:
If you take a look at Life Alert’s website, it’s not easy to get an idea of the service’s cost or contract lengths. Instead, they want you to call in to their sales team in order to even get that information in the first place.
Pricing for Life Alert’s base pendant-only plan goes as follows:
- Activation fee: $96
- Monthly cost: $49
- Annual cost: $684
- Total 3-year contract cost: $1,860
This makes the minimum investment needed for the service for the base plan total just under $2,000 before adding on any further options. If you add on a shower button, that price goes up to $2,580 over three years, and adding the GPS function brings that total to $3,402 over the same period.
With the monitoring service they provide coupled with their strong reputation, it stands to reason that there would be a monthly cost associated with the service. However, there is a predatory element to how these prices are structured in a few different aspects:
1) The Shower Button:
The way the pendant and shower buttons work is by sending a signal to the base unit, which is connected to a phone line to signal their medical alert staff. The only difference between the two buttons is in their form factor, with the pendant being worn on the body and the shower button sticking to the wall of your shower.
From the call center’s perspective, there is no additional monitoring cost associated with having two buttons, only additional equipment cost. However, instead of just adding to the base activation fee to cover the cost of the button itself, they structure it into additional monthly cost.
The shower button adds $20 a month to your contract, meaning that button ends up costing $720 over the course of that three years — far and above the actual equipment cost. By charging monthly for that button, they are charging an additional 38.7% over the base contract despite having taken on no additional costs aside from the manufacturing of the button itself.
2) Long Minimum Contracts
A lot can change in three years. You or your loved one may be in a strong situation for using a medical alert system such as this now but that could change for a number of reasons. By locking their users into such long contracts, they guarantee themselves revenue regardless of the customer’s needs, and they can be difficult or impossible to get out of.
Other well respected competitors to Life Alert offer similar services on a month-to-month basis and offer free trials to allow you to see how their service fits your or your loved one’s lifestyle.
3) Requires Sales Call to get Pricing
By intentionally not including any pricing details on their website, potential customers are forced to enter into a sales call to get these details in the first place. This puts customers in a siloed position to engage with a salesperson, and makes it difficult to cross-shop other similar services while being pressured to make a purchase.
Life Alert offers essentially three services:
- Emergency alert and dispatch functionality from the pendant, shower button, or mobile phone.
- GPS tracking for emergency staff to find you, and for those who are a wandering risk.
- Family members can be alerted of emergencies
Despite being one of the oldest, most well known, and most expensive systems on the market, Life Alert offers some of the least functionality of the industry. Ironically, given the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” slogan, Life Alert does not feature the fall detection technology that some of its competitors do.
Life Alert also cannot distinguish between different emergency situations without directly speaking with the user. Other services allow you to alert for medical, fire, or police response without the need to speak to a dispatcher as to the nature of the emergency.
Life Alert also does not provide additional coverage for spouses, meaning couples have no way to bundle or share services and need to pay for two subscriptions. This can be costly for seniors on a fixed income.
What Life Alert Gets Right:
Large, High-Quality Dispatch Center:
Life Alert maintains a large and well responsive call center that is CSAA Five Diamond certified (like most emergency alert centers). With one of the highest staffed dispatch centers in the industry, Life Alert is able to maintain a solid response time.
Because of this, Life Alert does maintain a reputation for quality in actual use of their services.
Long Battery Life and Warranty:
While the pendant and shower buttons are expensive pieces of equipment, they are fully waterproof and the battery can last up to 10 years in each device. The base station also offers battery backup functionality for up to 72 hours in case of a power outage in the home. The equipment is all covered under warranty for free replacement as well, though we were unable to determine the duration of the warranty.
Users can choose to have an emergency contacted in case of an alert through a push notification. This could be a family member, friend, or a close neighbor. This can bring additional help from nearby to come to your aid while emergency services are being dispatched.
The Rescu App and Other Alternative Emergency Alert Systems:
There are plenty of other emergency alert systems on the market that offer similar functionality over Life Alert for lower cost, more features, and without the long contract durations.
The Rescu app is a different take on the idea, solely utilizing a mobile app to contact emergency responders. With just two taps on your phone, Rescu will immediately dispatch your choice of medical, fire, or police to your saved location – all without the need to talk to the dispatcher on the nature of your emergency, putting more control in your hands no matter the situation.
Because you can save different addresses for emergency responders, you can dispatch police to your house when your home security cameras detect an intruder or a fire truck if your smoke alarm detects a fire.
For full dispatch functionality, Rescu Prime is only $5 a month, or only $60 a year with no contract terms needed. This includes immediate ambulance, fire, and police dispatching along with friend/family notifications and the ability to add pre-existing medical condition information to be sent along with the dispatch. This gives first responders the information needed to triage any medical issues you may be having with the proper context for your health needs.