An alarming trend: False alarms afflict responders
A series of fire alarms dragged Hillsboro firefighters to Container Services earlier this month only to find that Container Services was not having a burst of arson but rather issues with its alarm system, which that caused repeated automatic notifications.
Faulty alarms have cried wolf for emergency services at least once a week and as often as six times a month since the start of 2022.
Emergency medical services may call in police as well for assistance in entry to places that, as it later turned out, they didn’t need to be in. And some alarms are activated multiple times in a short period.
An alarm system in a care facility caused confusion this winter when dispatchers received an alert. An ambulance attendant who knew the system had been deactivated ended up canceling the call.
Most care facilities use internal call systems on pagers to alert nurses to residents’ needs, whether those are medical or otherwise.
“There are times when our call lights get activated by accident by a resident, but it only rings to the staff in house and never to any first response system,” Bethesda Home administrator Sara Hiebert said.
Home medical alarms don’t usually work that way. Most medical alert systems provide subscribers with a button pendant to press if they have an emergency, such as a fall or difficulty breathing. Many also automatically activate after sensing movement or noise caused by a fall.
An operator at the alert company will speak to the resident via the alarm device, then relay information to a county dispatchers.
“We get a phone call saying an address, a name, and a situation,” Marion County’s head dispatcher, Linda Klenda, said. “Sometimes, they’re not able to make contact with anybody, so we send someone to do a welfare check.”
Marion County dispatchers frequently are contacted by LifeAlert, Home Buddy, Monitoring Center, and Lifeline.
Faulty alarms blended with actual emergencies put more strain on ambulances, which earlier this year frequently had to drive distances longer than usual to find available beds. Emergency buttons on smart devices being hit can pull time away from dispatch as well.
There are countless accounts of medical alarms saving lives, however — at least once a week, alarms give attention to some-
one who needs them. They’re especially beneficial for cardiac and respiratory emergencies, which can make speaking difficult.
Last modified April 21, 2022