How we test personal alarms

We put personal alarms through our rigorous test method to find the most reliable.

Will it work in an emergency?

Personal alarms aim to give people a way to communicate quickly in emergencies. Normally this is via a single button, which then either dials or sends an SMS to contacts configured on initial setup (self-managed), or a 24-hour monitoring plan which can then alert an ambulance or contacts. 

Personal alarms can be used for two-way conversation as well. 

CHOICE tested the self-managed plan for several devices on the market. All of these are worn around the wrist or neck.

Ready to buy? See which models we recommend in our personal alarm reviews.

Our expert testers

With their 30-plus years' experience in the laboratory, we're proud of our expert testers. They've seen all kinds of gadgets come through the labs and they focus on the basics as well as the finer details so that when it's time to buy, you can be sure your new purchase will work well.

How we choose what we test

Why do we choose one personal alarm over another? There are a number of reasons for this, but our priority is to test what you will see in the shops. That means that sometimes we might not cover that one brand that has one model that's sold 100 units in Australia, and instead focus on the big brand models that you'll most likely see in the retailer. How do we know what's in retailers? We check current market figures to see what's selling well. We'll also include models that you've requested; if a lot of members want it, we're going to test it.

When we know what you want, our buyers go out and use member funds to buy the personal alarms from a variety of retailers, then bring them in as-is – this means we get what you'd get, so we can be sure the results are what you'll find, and not 'tweaked' any way.

How we test

Reception and tracking

Our tester Scott O'Keefe undertook several extensive journeys to track each of the devices, testing their mobile network reception, GPS accessibility, and battery life to find which ones perform the best. Reception testing was conducted from a number of areas, including a shopping centre, normal house and a black-spot area. Calls were made to the device, and SOS sent from the device. Scott also conducted two longer multiple-stop journeys to see whether the GPS tracking functionality was effective throughout busy areas of suburbia.

Ease of use 

A good user manual is essential, and this is the first thing we look at. We also check whether each product has email and telephone support. If the device needs a SIM card to be inserted, we assess how easy this is to do, however most come with the SIM pre-installed. Configuring – and in some cases reconfiguring – each device is assessed, and scored based on how easy this is to do. Also assessed, where applicable, is the ease of sending an SOS, recharging, using buttons, the shape of the device and whether it is easy to grip and carry.

Test criteria explained

Overall score

The overall score is a combination of the reception and tracking performance and ease of use, weighted as follows:

  • Reception and tracking (50%)
  • Ease of use (50%)

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

Ready to buy?

See our latest personal alarm reviews or check out our buying guide for help on what to look for.

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