ESX Panel: To PERS or Not to PERS

Speakers underline necessities for monitoring PERS
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BALTIMORE—Monitoring PERS and mPERS is different from monitoring traditional alarms, ESX 2015 panelists said in the “To PERS or Not to PERS” educational session, and those who can’t handle all that monitoring PERS entails in-house might be better leaving that the market to central stations that can.

Yaniv Amir, president of Essence, Justin Bailey, COO of AvantGuard, and Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, were the panelists. Joe Miskulin, central station manager for State Farm, served as moderator. Essence produces security equipment for its global customers. Avantguard and Affiliated both are monitoring centers that monitor PERS devices, including some from Essence. Additionally, AvantGuard has a separate sister company, Freeus, that manufactures PERS as well.

The speakers opted for a true discussion, taking chairs off the stage, turning off the projector and the microphones, and asking attendees to move up to the first row, making the session an impromptu "roundtable" based on questions and answers.

Miskulin polled the room, having attendees state their interest in the session and PERS in general. Some attendees said they have PERS in their centrals but were looking to improve the offering, some were looking into PERS as a possible offering for their company and others just wanted to know more about the technology.

Do the panelists typically use the normal pool of operators, or are PERS operators separate, Miskulin asked.

AvantGuard started by having operators come to work each day to do one or the other, Bailey said, but separating operators into two different sections proved a better idea.

Certain operators gravitate more toward PERS monitoring than others because they feel more fulfilled by the work than others, Bailey said. Additionally, handling PERS alarms can be more taxing than traditional burglary and fire alarms, which underlines the need to find—and train—the right operators for the job.

Oppenheim underlined the point that, until centrals can provide the training and support needed for PERS operators, the accounts should be outsourced to monitoring centers properly equipped.

This prompted an attendee’s question: How do the panelists prepare PERS operators for when calls have unfortunate outcomes?

Bailey answered, saying that AvantGuard keeps coaches on staff to help operators after tough calls, such as when a caller dies, even just letting them “vent a little bit” can help as well as mentally preparing them for such events.

Oppenheim added that a majority of PERS alerts are accidental button presses or seniors looking to test the system. These false alarm calls are then either positive or neutral, he said.

Miskulin asked the panelists if they monitor mPERS as well. MPERS, standing for mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems, are devices that are not hooked to an installed system, but instead send an alert directly to the central station.

Bailey quickly pointed out that the market for mPERS is fast growing. Though, AvantGuard currently monitors fewer mPERS than PERS.

“mPERS will be the frustration of EMS, not PERS,” Oppenheim said. When a PERS is activated, emergency response knows where the end user is: in their home. With an mPERS, EMS might not be able to tell from the device the location of the end user in a large building.

Bailey said, “Statistically, with the current mPERS demographics, they’re typically home [when they activate an alarm].”

For home use, Oppenheim said that a traditional PERS system is more effective, more reliable and does not need to be recharged frequently. However, mPERS has a wider appeal, with applications in the lone-worker setting.

Related to EMS’ response, Oppenheim said that the No. 1 accessory with a PERS system is a lock box holding a building key. This box, accessible to responders through the central station, gives them access into the building without breaking down a door.

Another difficulty, Amir pointed out, is that traditional PERS devices work with a receiver, and mPERS devices rely on individual integrations within the central.

An attendee asked: What kind of medical information do central stations have on file, to give to PERS alarm responders?

Bailey said that, were central stations to keep such information, it could become outdated quickly and seldom updated. The most important information is age and gender, he said.

Later in the session, an attendee asked a question on a specific mPERS application; seniors with a tendency toward long road trips. Panelists said mPERS work there, too.

Amir pointed out that “wearables”—a term becoming increasingly popular in the security and technology spaces that could even apply to PERS pendants—can make seniors uncomfortable. “What we’re trying to solve [is] … most seniors stop wearing the pendant.”

Amir said that this dilemma led Essence to the question, “How do you passively monitor someone?” One way, which Essence provides, is a motion sensor, just to let caregivers receive simple information, such as if and when the senior has entered the bathroom.

Amir pointed out that sensors like these could elevate conversations between loved ones, eliminating more basic questions. Instead of needing to ask a senior “Did you go to the bathroom today?” or “Have you left the house?” loved ones have the space to ask, “What have you read lately?” or “How’s the weather?”

Many senior citizens are uncomfortable with technology monitoring them in general, which has impeded the deployment of cameras or other technologies.

Another attendee asked about the current PERS and mPERS demographics. “We are seeing a slightly younger demographic in the mPERS segment,” Bailey said, but there’s not a remarkable age difference.

One attendee asked: What is the average subscription length of a PERS customer? Amir said that he’s heard the figure of 27 months, but that was a rough estimate. Oppenheim said that it is generally “more than two years, less than three years.”

While attendees saw this as a grim figure, Oppenheim said that this short span is not always due to the death of the user, but possibly a change in residence—moving into a nursing home or with another caregiver.

An attendee asked the panel about how customer creation costs of PERS devices compared to that of other alarms. Oppenheim said that the cost is generally lower because the system doesn’t need as much installation and the equipment is less expensive than standard security systems. Though, this does not factor in marketing.

Miskulin pointed out, early in the session, that it was difficult finding panelists for a PERS educational session for one main reason: few wanted to openly talk about it. Attendees noted this secrecy as well; it appeared to be a point of competition that some are hesitant to release.

One smaller standout aspect of PERS monitoring is thanks and feedback, positive letters sent to the central. “Caregivers are so appreciative that the system worked and protected their loved ones,” Oppenheim said.