How Fall Detection Works

  • March 28, 2023
How Fall Detection Works

None of us plan for emergencies. Many medical alert devices come with an automatic fall detection option to prepare for anything. This advanced technology, which comes as an optional feature on many medical alert devices, provides an added layer of security. If you are unable to press the help button on your device after a fall, automatic fall detection can be a live saver.

Read on to learn more about how automatic fall detection works so that you can decide whether you'd like to include this feature in your personal emergency response system (PERS).

How Does Fall Detection Work?

The fall detection feature is designed to activate in the case of a sudden drop — most commonly a fall. Fall detection helps you receive the help you need without pressing the help button. This technology is built into many medical alert wearable devices, including some watches or wrist wearables that come with fall detection.

Fall detection works by incorporating three basic elements that operate together to provide added security.

1. Precision Sensors

Fall detection systems utilize accelerometers. This tool uses low-power radio wave sensors at three separate axes to monitor your movements. These triaxial accelerometers use the same technology available within smartphones and smartwatches to measure vibrations in three directions:

  • X: Across the waist
  • Y: From head to toe
  • Z: From the posterior upward

2. Fall Detection

Triaxial accelerometers use a specialized algorithm that measures a sudden drop. The sensors detect abrupt changes to your body's movements by evaluating your:

  • Body position
  • Physical activity
  • Acceleration or movement smoothness

If the intelligent technology determines that these three variables are within a danger zone, it will activate the fall detection alert. Once the device is activated, a medical alert device's fall detection feature sends an alert to your company's monitoring center without you pushing a button. However, in the case of a fall, you should always push the help button if you can.

3. Emergency Response

With the fall detection feature enabled on your medical alert device, a call is placed within seconds of detecting a fall. Highly trained life safety consultants use your device's two-way speaker to evaluate your situation and determine how best to help you. Most often, this means a life safety consultant will speak to you through your device, and you can answer in the same way. If you don’t answer, emergency services will be called and sent to your location.

Who Needs Medical Alert Devices With Fall Detection?

Older adults most commonly use medical alert systems with fall detection features. As we age, we become more prone to falling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that adults 65 and older fall every second of every day. While most are minor incidents, falls are tied with motorcycle crashes as the leading cause of injury among this age group. The faster you get help after a fall, the better your chance of recovery.

However, older adults are not the only people who can benefit from medical alert devices with fall detection. Anyone of any age who is at risk of falling due to their health or lifestyle may benefit from having a medical alert with a fall detection option. Here are just a few other individuals and groups who may need this life-saving feature:

  • Those who live alone: People who live alone are more at risk of experiencing a fatal fall as there may be no one around to help in an emergency.
  • Those with chronic medical conditions: Many chronic conditions put you at a higher risk of falling. Some illnesses cause imbalance, dizziness, vertigo, or even loss of consciousness. A medical alert device with fall detection ensures you get the help you need if you experience an emergency. This benefit is ideal for people with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and other conditions.
  • Those who participate in extreme activities: If you are outdoorsy and like to engage in intense activities like rock climbing, hiking, or long walks on your own, fall detection brings a layer of added security.
  • Those who take certain medications: Sedatives and other medications can put you at risk of dizziness or falling, so you should take extra precautions.
  • Those with balance issues: Issues with your ears, brain, or muscles can cause you to feel off balance. If you’re dealing with these types of issues, a medical alert with fall detection is a good choice.

Common Fall Detection Questions

Need more information about fall detection? Here are some frequently asked questions that could give you the answers you need.

Can Fall Detection Accidentally Go Off?

Yes, fall detection can go off accidentally. Wearable medical alert devices are designed to detect fall-like motions. If you drop your medical alert, help button bracelet, or pendant, a false alert may occur. However, many fall detection systems will wait and evaluate your movements for a few seconds after detecting a fall. Medical Guardian devices with fall detection have the option to cancel false alarms. One device will provide a five-second cushion before the monitoring company reaches out to you. During that time, you can cancel the alert.

If a false alarm goes through, just let the life safety consultant know that you did not fall and do not need assistance.

Does Fall Detection Work 100% of the Time?

Although fall detection sensors and algorithms are highly sophisticated, they do not work 100% of the time. The main reason is that they are calibrated to prevent triggering false alarms for smaller motions like setting your help button down on the table.

The precision triaxial sensors are specially calibrated to accurately detect the most common movements associated with a fall, including speed, angle, distance, and motion after the incident. However, slower movements, such as sliding off a sofa or bed onto the floor, are not as easily detected. These situations may still require you to press the help button to call for help.

Fall detection technology works most efficiently when the device is worn around the neck and the alert sits at the breastplate. While fall detection could still work when wearing the device on a belt clip or wrist, the best placement for detecting a fall is around your neck.

How Will Emergency Services Know Where to Go?

For medical alert devices equipped with GPS, your monitoring center can pinpoint your location and tell emergency services exactly where they need to go.

What Types of Fall Detection Options Are Available?

Whether you're more of a homebody or you enjoy getting out and about, many medical alert devices come with fall detection:

  • Home-based fall detection: Although home-based systems rely on a base unit to connect you to your monitoring center via cellular service or your landline, most include a wearable help button resembling a necklace or wristband.
  • On-the-go fall detection: Unlike home-based systems, mobile medical alert devices can go with you anywhere. Most have a lightweight device that connects to cellular service. You can sync this with a wearable wristband, necklace pendant, or even a smartwatch to ensure you're protected no matter where a fall occurs.

Learn More About Fall Detection From Medical Guardian

If you want true peace of mind, it's time to reach out to Medical Guardian. We offer fully customizable medical alert systems and products to fit your exact lifestyle and needs. Fall detection is an optional yet affordable feature that provides a layer of extra security in case of an emergency. Browse our medical alert systems, take a quiz to find the best device for you, or contact our professionals for assistance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Medical Guardian is a leading provider of innovative medical alert systems that empower people to live a life without limits.

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