You won't find much choice of alarm units in high street shops. So where do you start?
Local authorities run some 300 alarm schemes around the county. These are mainly run by housing or social services departments. In Scotland, they're run by social work departments, and in Northern Ireland by health and social services boards.
Most schemes are open to local authority tenants, private tenants and homeowners. Charges vary depending on the service and the local authority, but they generally cover renting and maintaining the alarm, along with the response service.
Many schemes will have a set of eligibility criteria that you'll need to meet. For example, they might give priority to older and disabled people, and those who live alone or with someone who is also frail.
Some local authority schemes take on people outside of their area - this might be an option for you if your own local authority does not run a scheme.
Most alarm schemes are members of the Telecare Services Association (TSA). Contact them for information on schemes that operate in your area.
Some housing associations have alarm schemes for their residents, and some extend their services to non-residents too. They operate in the same way as local authority schemes. Again, contact the TSA to find out about housing association schemes in your area.
Age UK runs a personal alarm service through a company called Aid-Call. They will provide you with an alarm unit and trigger, and they run a response centre that will contact your friends or family in an emergency. There are a range of payment options. Contact Age UK for more details or visit the webpage Age UK - Personal alarms.
A number of other charities provide alarm services for their beneficiaries.
Most alarm manufacturers and distributors sell or rent directly to the public, although others only sell to organisations. You may be able to buy an alarm through telephone or security shops, or through centres for disabled people. Some security firms that mainly monitor burglar alarms also take on community alarm clients.
If you know which alarm you want, try asking the manufacturer where you can buy or rent their products.
The TSA can tell you which commercial firms are members.
Finding a good alarm service
A good community alarm service will respond to your calls reliably and sympathetically. To make sure you're signing up for a good service:
- Check that they're a member of the Telecare Services Association (TSA). All TSA members have to meet or be working towards certain standards set out in its code of practice. The majority of UK services are members.
- Make use of our Community alarms checklist - it sets out the details of what a good service should provide.
- You could also talk to the centre staff and to people already using the service. Ask to be put in touch if you don't already know someone.
Last updated: October 2012