Bay Alarm Medical is headquartered in Concord, California. Not surprisingly, it’s located in the Bay Area, as Concord is about 22 miles northeast of Oakland.
When you visit the company’s page, the first thing you’ll notice is probably a cartoon character named Grumpy Grandpa. That guy pops up a lot, sometimes with his adult daughter/caregiver in tow. I would describe him as a mascot of sorts, though he’s listed first on the “Meet the Team” page at Bay Alarm Medical’s website. That’s right; he even gets top billing over the president.
But a lovably cranky cartoon character mascot isn’t the most notable way Bay Alarm Medical tries to set itself apart. There’s also the company code of ethics. Rule 1 on the list is “no telephone cold calls” for non-customers, and Rule 2 is “zero tolerance for high pressure sales.”
Why have a code of ethics? The company says, “We believe a lack of knowledge about the medical alert systems market among the aging contributes to a higher level of susceptibility to deception, fraud, and unscrupulous business practices. Protection of the senior and aging population is Bay Alarm Medical’s principal concern.”
That all sounds good, but the people behind Bay Alarm Medical are not running a charity here. The company still wants to sell medical alert products; it just doesn’t want to be jerks about it. Let’s take a closer look at the products offered by Bay Alarm Medical.
Equipment & Tech
BAM says its In-Home Medical Alert system is the most popular system for seniors. It consists of a base station and transmitter. The base station goes in your house and usually plugs into an electrical outlet, though you can also use a phone jack if you prefer.
The transmitter is worn as either a necklace or wristband. Chances are, no one will notice it unless they’re looking for it specifically.
One of the most impressive features is the clarity offered by the two-way communication. If there’s an emergency, it won’t sound like you’re talking to a dispatcher on cheap walkie talkies from a big box store. Instead you’ll get what the company calls “crystal clear’ two-way talking. If you find yourself hurrying to answer the phone, you can stop that once you install this system. That’s right; you can use the in-home medical alert system to pick up your phone from anywhere in the house where service reaches.
The 32-hour back-up system provides a critical lifeline in case of a power outage. With any luck, your power will be restored within a matter of hours. But if you’re dealing with a bad ice storm that’s severely compromised power lines, you can know you’ve got over a day of backup.
One of the best things about retirement is the freedom to travel. But travel shouldn’t mean sacrificing your sense of personal safety in any respect. That’s why this system is portable. Go ahead and visit the grandkids for the holidays. All you need to do is pack the system in your suitcase, then plug it into a landline once you arrive at your destination.
If you’d prefer on-the-go protection, check out the mobile GPS system. The built-in GPS tracking means family members and emergency responders can find you regardless of if you’re in the park, at the mall, or somewhere else.
The In-Car Medical Alert system is another option. If you can still drive safely but worry about the possibility of a medical emergency while you’re behind the wheel, this product can give you some extra peace of mind. Plug into your cigarette lighter to get around-the-clock crash detection plus GPS tracking and live 2-way communication.
The vehicle locator helps loved ones know when a family member has arrived at their destination safely. If they know you’re driving 20 minutes across town to meet a friend for cards, you don’t have to worry about texting them to say you’ve arrived.
They can even set up geofencing boundaries at home. That means that if you leave the virtual perimeter, your loved ones will get either a text or e-mail alert.
Like a lot of things, this tech also works well for young people. If your family has a new teenage driver, you can check on them via this system. It’s a way to give them freedom while also ensuring they aren’t blowing off marching band rehearsal to hang out at their best friend’s house.
With technology this advanced, you may think you need a high-end car that’s made in the last couple of years for this to work. You do not. It will function just as well in a sedan from 1999 as it will in a fancy sports car from 2019. As mentioned earlier, all you need is a cigarette lighter in your vehicle. The built-in back-up battery ensures you don’t need to panic if your battery goes out without warning.
Monitoring & Features
The technology works with landline, but if you’re one of the many people who don’t have one of those anymore, you’re still covered. BAM also has cell phone and GPS coverage options through AT&T. If you have at least three bars, you should be good to go. And you don’t have to be a pre-existing AT&T customer to use the network.
If you accidentally hit the help button, you’re not in trouble. Simply respond to the dispatcher and tell them it was an accident. Because if you don’t respond, they’ll assume something is up and start contacting others, including emergency services.
But how long does it take for a dispatcher to respond when you really need help? BAM lists its response time as 45 seconds or less, which seems a bit longer than the industry standard. It’s still well under a minute, but every second can feel agonizing when you’ve had a fall and fear you’re injured. It’s worth considering if a faster service might be better suited to your needs.
The service comes with a 30-day risk free trial. You’ve got until the thirtieth day to send it back if you’re not happy. We should note that the “full refund” does not include shipping. You’ll still be on the hook for that.
One of the best features is the automatic fall detection. No one plans to fall getting out of the shower in the evening or getting out of bed in the morning. Taking a tumble can leave you stunned and out of breath, and the adrenaline in your system may make it tough to think, “I should get checked out.”
That’s where automatic detection comes in and proves more than worth its $10 a month price tag. It’s supposed to minimize false alarms and only detect “high-impact falls.” The company says all automatic fall detection buttons are prone to what it calls “small levels of inaccuracies.” But it sounds like it shouldn’t go off if you do something minor like almost trip over your dog.
Every home has some areas that are riskier to navigate than others. BAM offers wall help buttons for placement near those sharp corners and rickety staircases.
You can also provide emergency contact information when you sign up. Let’s say you want to notify your sister and daughter when something happens. All you have to do is provide their names and contact info.
One more noteworthy feature is BAM’s refusal to make customers sign long-term contracts. Other places require you to commit to a year or two or three of service, but that’s not the case here.
Installation & Usability
The pendants are waterproof enough for you to wear them in the shower or bath. You shouldn’t go deep sea diving with them on, but they can handle some water.
There’s no available professional installation. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to sift through complicated instructions before you can set up your medical alert system. BAM offers a couple of ways to get your system up and running. They’ve got a video demo page if you prefer to learn that way. If you’d rather see things in black and white, read the 4-step setup with pictures.
At the end of set up, you’ll be connected to a dispatcher. Tell them you’re testing the system, and they’ll thank you and let you go.
The company also makes free consultations available if you need some guidance to figure out what works best for your situation.
BAM operates monitoring centers in Ogden, Utah and Rexburg, Idaho. The two systems are full duplicates of each other. That redundancy means that if there’s power outage in Rexburg, you’ll still be able to get service through the Utah location.
BAM also lets you fill out something called The Vial of Life. It sounds mysterious, but it’s not. It’s basically a medical information sheet you keep in your house. If you’re allergic to certain medications or on certain prescriptions, emergency responders can just look at the card and be good to go.
Cost & Pricing
All plans come with constant monitoring. First you choose the service you want, picking from In-Home Medical Alert, Mobile GPS Help Button, In-Car Medical Alert, or a “Bundle and Save” Option. Then you choose from Basic Protection, Preferred Protection, or Premium Protection. Those prices change depending on the service you select. For example, here are the prices for the In-Home Medical Alert package.
- Basic Protection: $19.95
- Preferred Protection: $39.95 Includes AutoFall Detection, 4-Pack of Wall Buttons
- Premium Protection: $59.95 Includes AutoFall Detection, Lock Box Service, Wall Buttons, Mobile GPS Help Button with AutoFall Detection
Mobile GPS service is priced as follows: $29.95, $39.95, 49.95.
In-Car Medical Alert is $29.95, 49.95, or $59.95.
Really want a bundle? Choose from Bundle Plus for $59.95, Bundle Preferred for $69.95, or $79.95.
The standard medical alert button is $2, or $8 less than the automatic fall button detection. But depending on your budget, the extra $8 a month could be worth it if you’re worried about, say, breaking an arm and being unable to reach the help button.
Each plan also includes free spouse coverage, by which they mean monitoring. You’ll still have to pay $2 for a basic button or $10 for an automatic fall button.
The Caregiver Tracking works with the Mobile GPS button. For an additional $5 a month, you’ll get features like geofencing.
Bay Area Medical’s overall devotion to transparency is worth applauding. But their pricing structure feels needlessly complicated in some ways, especially since it claims it wants to make things easier for seniors to understand. On the bright side, the company does offer some help picking out a plan if you need it.
Once you get past the selection process, the customer service is solid. The response time of 45 seconds doesn’t sound too long on the surface, but that 45 seconds could feel more like 10 minutes when there’s an emergency.
There’s no need to sign on for a long-term contract, and the month-long free trial is an ideal way to try before you commit to going exclusive.