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Community alarms

If you're worried about having a fall and not being able to get up again, a community alarm lets you call for help from anywhere in your home. You carry a small portable trigger which allows you to set off an alarm telephone call at the press of a button.

Tunstall LL4000 community alarm


  1. Introduction (this page)
  2. Things to consider
  3. Who will receive your calls?
  4. Getting an alarm
  5. Using an alarm
  6. Checklist
  7. Test reports
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to DIEL - Advisory Committee on Telecommunications for Disabled and Elderly People, Housing Corporation and Royal National Institute for Deaf People (now Action on Hearing Loss) for funding this project. Our thanks also go to residents and staff of Circle 33 Housing Trust and others for demonstrating the alarms in our photographs.


Over one and a half million people in the UK use community alarms. Most have their calls answered by a local alarm centre.

This report explains how alarms work, and gives details of where you can get an alarm and who will be receiving your calls. We've explained the basic choices you'll need to make when deciding on an alarm, along with checklists to help you see whether an alarm or service is up to scratch.

Having a good community alarm can give you the confidence to continue living at home independently, knowing that help is at hand if you need it. In fact, once you have a community alarm, you should not use it only for emergencies. Press the button whenever you feel concerned and need reassurance and someone to talk to.

How community alarms work 

Here's what might happen during a typical alarm call.

1. The fall

Tom is working in the garden when he trips on the edge of the patio.

2. Setting off the alarm

There's no one in calling distance, so Tom pushes the alarm button on his wristband trigger. That sends a signal to the alarm unit in the house, to automatically dial the call centre.

3. The call centre is alerted

The centre receives the call from Tom's unit and his details appear on a computer screen. The operator tries to talk to Tom but he is too far from the unit to hear.

4. Help arrives

The centre rings Tom's daughter, who lives in the next road, saying there might be a problem, and she comes round straight away.

5. Up and around

Tom just needed help getting up this time. He was back in the garden the same afternoon, but knows the system will work if he has a bigger problem.

For details of other ways in which calls may be answered, see Who will receive your calls?

You can also download the original report: Calling for help: A guide to community alarms (PDF). However, note that this was published in 2003, and some of the models reviewed are no longer available. Up-to-date contact details and other information are only available in the web version.

Last updated: October 2012

Introduction | Next: Things to consider