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Personal alarms, monitoring systems (telecare) and key safes

Read about personal alarms and monitoring systems to help you stay safe and independent at home

Technology and devices can help you stay safe and independent at home.

Personal alarms and monitoring systems can alert call centres or carers if you experience a problem, either at home or outside, such as a fall - you may hear this called telecare.

Key safes can allow family, carers and emergency services to access your home if you cannot get to the door.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms allow you to get help if you have a problem or a fall at home, or if you wander off when out of the home.

They can be:

  • carried or worn, for example around your wrist or your neck
  • a button or pull cord in your home to use if you need help

Types of personal alarms include:

  • basic alarms, which make a loud noise to alert people nearby
  • alarms which send an alert to a family member’s pager or phone
  • monitored alarms, which alert a 24-hour monitoring service that something is wrong
  • fall detectors, which can be built into your personal alarm or be a separate device
  • GPS tracking alarms, which allow family and carers to know where you are

Buying a personal alarm

Basic alarms can be quite cheap to buy but you may need to pay more for a monitored alarm or a GPS tracking system.

Read the Which? guide to personal alarms, including what to think about before buying an alarm.

Monitoring systems

Monitoring systems can also help you to stay safe at home and alert someone if there's a problem.

There are 2 main types of monitoring system:

  • systems that are connected to a monitoring centre
  • smart systems that send updates directly to family or carers – you may also hear this called mobile health

They can include sensors that detect:

  • movement
  • doors opening
  • room temperature
  • flooding
  • incontinence
  • smoke or gas
  • appliances that have been left on

They will then send alerts to family, carers or a monitoring service. Some systems can also adjust or turn off appliances if they detect a problem.

Systems can also include security features, such as an intercom that shows family who's at your door and allows them to open doors for you.

You can change the system to include what you need.

Buying monitoring systems

You can get basic home security systems online or on the high street.

For systems connected to a monitoring service (telecare), contact the Telecare Services Association. You can search for providers and get advice on different products and services available.

Costs vary depending on your package. There's usually an installation cost followed by a monthly charge.

Get help with costs of monitoring systems

Some councils provide monitoring services. They're usually basic systems. Contact adult social services at your council and ask if they provide them. If they do, they'll arrange a home assessment.

GOV.UK: apply for a community alarm

A key safe is a small box you lock that holds a key. This means carers, your family or emergency services can get into your home if you can't get to the door.

A key safe is fixed to an outdoor wall. You use a code – that you can choose – to open it.

Buying a key safe

You can buy a key safe online or on the high street. The more expensive key safes work the same way as cheaper ones but they're stronger and heavier. Some key safes are police-approved.

Choosing a personal alarm, monitoring system or key safe

When choosing and alarm or monitoring system, it may help to think about:

  • is it right for you – are you comfortable using it?
  • what you want from an alarm or system – does the product have what you need?
  • whether a product has good reviews, a guarantee and options to return it if it’s not right for you
  • what support you will need to help you operate it
  • shopping around for the best price

Further help

Open all pages about Social care and support guide