Bay Alarm Medical is a big name in the medical alert business. For years they’ve earned some of our highest ratings, and our latest check-up confirms that Bay’s still among the best. We recently tested their full lineup for seniors, which includes a unique in-car alert system plus the typical medical alert buttons: GPS buttons, wearable in-home buttons, and wall buttons. While response times weren’t ultra-speedy, emergency help was always live within 30 to 45 seconds. Also, two people can share a monitoring plan, and service might cost half what it would elsewhere.
It’s worth mentioning that Bay Alarm Medical has AARP’s endorsement. This gives us a little extra peace of mind, since AARP doesn’t hand out endorsements willy-nilly! Overall, Bay Alarm Medical offers a mix of high-quality plans with moderate pricing. But there are a few things we discovered that you’ll want to consider. So let’s jump in and see how these alert systems measure up against other top options out there like Medical Guardian and LifeFone.
We like how Bay Alarm Medical is a family-owned company. While some other brands are swayed by stockholders, Bay holds fast to its roots. This shows in how they treat their customers… and with a bit of sleuthing, we found that employees seem satisfied, too. Of all the anonymous reviewers who’ve worked there, about 85% would recommend a Bay Alarm Medical job to a friend. Even more impressive, 100% approve of the CEO!1 This is the kind of company we like to support.
Like many seniors, Bay Alarm Medical has weathered lots of storms. It’s part of Bay Alarm, a home security provider founded just after WWII. Everett Westphal founded Bay Alarm in the San Francisco Bay area in 1946. Later his sons took charge of the company, and under their leadership Bay Alarm Medical was established. Then, in 2016, the Westphal brothers were inducted into the Security Sales & Integration Industry Hall of Fame.2 The company now serves about 130,000 accounts and maintains an A rating with the Better Business Bureau.3
In our experience, signup was simple. We chose a plan online, and it only took a few minutes. You can also get started by phone, but we like the design of Bay Alarm Medical’s website, so that’s where we went to order our alert system. The homepage shows a cheery cartoon of a subscriber and his caregiver. The whole site uses easy-to-read font sizes, and you can easily find what you’re looking for.
One small gripe we had was regarding the chat box: If you want instant answers from an online agent, you need to enter your name and email address. We closed that box and instead found answers from the Bay Alarm Medical FAQ page.4
FYI: Bay Alarm Medical lets you avoid long-term contracts. When you return the equipment, they’ll stop charging a monthly monitoring fee.
Now it’s time to choose from the alert devices. If you choose from more than one category (home/car/GPS), then Bay will automatically apply a discount. We liked how there were no surprises, as the total was calculated right there for us to see. For example, they don’t charge an activation fee, and shipping is free. This is nice, but keep in mind that “no-fee” policies are becoming more common with medical alert systems today.
Every Bay Alarm alert system comes with a month-to-month monitoring agreement. Thankfully, you won’t be locked into a long-term contract, unlike with some of Bay Alarm Medical alternatives. However, if you or your loved one no longer needs the service, you’ll be charged for monthly monitoring until you return their equipment. So just keep that in mind.
Setting up medical alert equipment is always pretty easy. With Bay Alarm Medical systems, you plug a base unit into a phone jack on your wall or the 12v outlet in a vehicle, then follow the prompts for a connection. And for the in-home systems, you can easily repeat the process for setup at a new location like an office, a hotel, or a relative’s house. This works as long as the location has a landline. As far as Bay’s mobile alerts go, the 4G LTE GPS button works pretty much anywhere you get AT&T service.
For the best range on in-home buttons, generally you’ll set the in-home base unit in a central part of the home. It has a 1,000-ft range, which we’ve found is above average compared to the competition (most offer 600 ft. – 1,000 ft. range). We also got a four-pack of wall buttons that can be used to call for help. These panic buttons were easy to set up with peel-and-stick adhesive strips, and their batteries are supposed to last for five years.
Did You Know: Bay Alarm’s in-home alert pendants can stay charged for up to five years. A green light shows that power is strong. When battery power gets low, the company sends replacement equipment for free.
The final part of setup had us make a test call. Note that during registration we were able to specify certain people (like caregivers or family members) to be contacted when our button was pressed. We instructed Bay Alarm Medical to contact our neighbor as well as 911.
Using a medical alert device is easy. For the in-home wearables from Bay Alarm Medical, we had two or three ways to get help in emergencies:
As for the mobile GPS button, it has two-way voice built in. This gadget is surprisingly small, which we like! It can fit into your front pocket, and a slip-away cover helps ensure that you won’t push the button accidentally… although if you do, you can easily cancel the call. Another great option for mobile help buttons is GreatCall (they sell senior-friendly cell phones, too).
Note that Bay’s on-the-go button needs to be charged almost daily, unlike the home-only devices. A charge might only last for 32 hours if you’re especially active.
Pro Tip: Automatic fall detection can be life-saving, but the technology isn’t perfect from any brand. In case of emergency, a person should press their medical alert button if possible.5
When we compare medical alert devices from different brands, we notice that some are bulkier than others. We like how the Bay Alarm Medical in-home options are relatively lightweight and sleek. They’re waterproof too; you can wear one in the shower/tub and while washing dishes.
The GPS button is likewise small and lightweight. We think it’s most comfortably kept in a pocket instead of worn around the neck. This on-the-go device is safe to wear in a drizzle, but it’s only water resistant whereas the indoor-only pendants are waterproof. This helps explain why you might want an in-home device as well as one with GPS. Medical Guardian offers a hybrid in-home/mobile model, which we think is neat!
With Bay Alarm Medical you pay only for monitoring, not for basic equipment. The only equipment charge would be for an optional Bella pendant, and/or a second button for another adult.
Each device has a 24/7 connection to emergency operators. The primary monitoring center for Bay Alarm Medical is located in California (hence the name Bay Alarm). In case of extra-heavy traffic or power outages at the center, calls can be forwarded to operators in Washington or Utah.
The typical wait time for help is about 30 to 45 seconds. It could be faster! Every second seems longer when you’re worried. That’s why you might want to check out Philips Lifeline. Although Philip’s doesn’t offer the best all-around value compared to Bay Alarm Medical, they do have the fastest response times in the industry. Still, you can count on Bay to be there, and they’ll automatically have location data based on your address or GPS signals.
FYI: Bay Alarm Medical didn’t offer the fastest response times we’ve experienced, but we found their agents and service to be reliable and consistent.
We care a lot about customer service. After all, choosing a medical alert company is a big decision, plus you’re probably looking for a long-term relationship. In our experience, Bay Alarm Medical is a definite leader in terms of customer service. And as mentioned above, they have an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Emergency help is of course available 24/7. You can get help by phone or online chat. Regular customer service hours are 6 am to 6 pm PST Monday-Friday, and from 8 am to 4:30 pm on weekends. Helpful videos are posted on their website, too.
Bay Alarm Medical offers three main choices: in-home units, mobile GPS buttons, and a combination of both. The prices below are for monitoring, and remember that two people can share a monitoring account. This is a nice touch, and it’s not something we see all the time. Equipment is free for the first person. For a second person there’s a one-time equipment fee. For example, a second in-home button costs $34.95.
Here’s the full lineup of Bay Alarm Medical alert systems:
A Basic Protection set includes a base unit and your choice of a lanyard button (a neck pendant) or wrist button. Starting at $19.95 per month, we can say it’s one of the best deals in the industry, especially if you share coverage with your spouse. Keep in mind that the price bumps up to $29.95 per month for cellular monitoring (no landline required). You can also add fall protection for an extra $10 per month. The basic features include:
Bella charms are fashion jewelry pendants that can dress up or disguise medical alert devices. Note that a charm covers the front of an indoor-only button that’s worn like a necklace, leaving the emergency push-button accessible. Bay Alarm Medical has three or four designs for sale, starting at $27.95 each. We like that more brands are taking this fashion-forward approach for seniors. But we’ve found that Bay does it best.
It’s natural to worry when your teen or elderly parent takes the wheel. Thankfully, Bay Alarm Medical offers an in-car alert system, which is fairly unique to this brand. Sensors detect if a vehicle is involved in a fender bender or more serious trouble, and instantly the Bay Alarm Medical call center gets notice. Offered at $29.95 per month, the technology works faster than a regular Bay Alarm Medical alert system, and caregiver tracking can be included. Features of the In-Car Medical Alert include:
Pro Tip: Caregivers can connect to Bay Alarm Medical accounts via a mobile app. The caregiver connection allows live GPS tracking and trip history logs for Bay’s in-car alert systems and mobile devices.
A slight disappointment is that important features like non-landline service and fall detection cost extra. But we found this to be pretty standard for the industry. We think Bay Alarm Medical prices are pretty low and are especially good deals if you’re protecting two people on one account. Here are special benefits and optional add-ons:
Tip: Vial of Life is a dramatic term that simply refers to a sheet of information about someone’s medical essentials.6 With your free Vial of Life kit, Bay Alarm Medical can ensure paramedics will know where to find important information about the person they’re helping.
Above we covered main features like signal range and two-way talk. Now let’s look at optional add-ons…
Lock Box — When rescue workers are called to action, they might break down doors to save the day! It would be better if they had a house key, right? A lock box lets you set a key aside in case of emergencies. Basically, it’s a combo lock with storage space, and it can attach to a door or gate. Bay Alarm Medical will tell the combination to paramedics during dispatch. The lock box is either free or costs $34.95; it depends on the alert device you order. If you’re really interested in getting a free lock box with your order, Medical Alert is another safe bet.
Free Monitoring for Spouse — The shared monitoring deal makes Bay Alarm Medical a best buy for lots of couples. As explained above, your first in-home button is free, and you pay only for monitoring ($19.95 per month and up). For no extra monitoring charge a second adult (at the same address) can share the plan; you’ll only pay a one-time fee of $34.95 for the second button. We found this to be a great feature, as most alert brands we’ve tested charge for spouse monitoring. That said, another great alert company for couples is One Call Alert.
Wall Buttons — Wall buttons give emergency backup when you aren’t wearing a medical alert device. You can place these in high-risk fall areas like the shower, stairway, and kitchen. Pushing a button will call for help and allows two-way voice communication through the base station, just like a medical alert pendant. Bay Alarm Medical will monitor one button for $3 per month or four buttons for $10 per month.
GPS Tracking for Caregivers — Caregiver Tracking is an additional $5 per month, as far as we know. It allows family and caregivers to check the location of their loved ones with a mobile app, including live location and a trip history. This works with the 4G LTE GPS button and with Bay Alarm Medical’s in-car alert system. We like how Caregiver Tracking can add peace of mind if an older family member is starting to show cognitive decline, or if a teen is starting behind the wheel. You can even set boundary alerts for when a person leaves a specified area.
Vial of Life — Vial of Life is a simple way to share medical history in case of emergency. It’s a sheet of personal medical info that’s kept in a protective plastic sheet with a magnet for attaching to a refrigerator door. As mentioned, Bay Alarm Medical gives you one free Vial of Life kit per account. Each additional kit costs $8.95. You will want an extra kit if both you and your spouse have alert coverage, or if you have an extra-large home.
Equipment Protection — Bay Alarm Medical ships equipment for free. But if you lose your base unit in a flood, or if a power surge fries your device, then you’ll be on the hook to pay for replacements. Optional protection costs $5 per month. We tend to not choose this sort of add-on… but it might be right for you.
Fall Detection — Fall detection can be a lifesaver. For an extra $10 per month, this feature can be added to an in-home or on-the-go neck pendant. The science isn’t 100% accurate, but generally it can sense a fall and automatically call for help. We think it’s worthwhile. After all, protection for slips and falls is a big reason why many people shop for medical alert devices in the first place!
Call Circle — This free service was mentioned above but bears repeating. If you like, Bay Alarm Medical can contact certain people in addition to emergency workers. You can also specify whether Bay should call 911 before or after they call a personal contact. Personalized instructions can be set with the Client Information Form you get during signup.
We enjoyed our latest round of Bay Alarm Medical testing. It feels good to work with a trustworthy company, and they have systems to meet just about anyone’s needs. But keep in mind that if you or your loved one is especially frail or isolated, unlike some other services, Bay doesn’t offer daily check-in calls to verify your safety. With that said, they do offer caregiver GPS tracking, and that’s enough peace of mind for most seniors and caregivers.
Again, the pricing is very competitive. Equipment is free and two adults can share a monitoring plan. Also, Bay Alarm Medical guarantees that your rates won’t increase, even though you won’t be signing a long-term contract. We really like how they don’t play games with surprise fees or by making cancellation a hassle. Our one frustration was with a 35-second wait for an emergency operator. Beeps let us know that the system was working, but still we felt a little impatient.
All in all, with Bay Alarm Medical you know that a pro will field your call. The combo of corporate transparency, high quality equipment, and fair prices makes this choice a perennial favorite of ours. You can try service free for 30 days. If you decide to cancel, you’ll only pay return shipping for the free equipment.
GlassDoor.com. (Retrieved April 2020). Working at Bay Alarm Medical.
BayAlarmMedical.com. (2016). Bay Alarm Brothers Inducted Into Security Sales and Integration Industry Hall of Fame.
Better Business Bureau®. (Retrieved April 2020). Bay Alarm Medical Rating.
BayAlarmMedical.com. (Retrieved April 2020). Frequently Asked Questions.
Northeast District Department of Health. (Retrieved April 2020). NDDH Vial of Life Program.
Northeast District Department of Health. (Retrieved April 2020). NDDH Vial of Life Program.