Radio Interview with Donna Gail: Senior Breakfast Club
February 8, 2013
I was recently invited to speak, on-air, with Donna Gail, host of the Senior Breakfast Club.
The Senior Breakfast Club is a local radio show that airs every Saturday. Based out of Rockbridge County, Virginia, it provides seniors with news, health information, interviews, drawings, events and activities.
In this segment, Donna and I chat a little about my role here at Bay Alarm Medical and the importance of having a medical alert system for the growing population of seniors in America.
Intro: Good morning! Welcome to the Senior Breakfast Club, with your host Donna Gail.
Donna: David, let me introduce you to me seniors. David works with a company called Bay Alarm-, is it Bay Alarm Medical?
David: It is bayalarmmedical.com. That’s really just how you would search us.
Donna: Now the reason this is relevant to my seniors is because Bay Alarm Medical basically provides the, what’s the standard name for it? The necklace that you press the button when you fall down.
David: It’s the same thing every time. Nobody quite knows what to call it, those commonly used terms. It could be a medical alert system, or medical alert.
Donna: Now there are lots of medical alert companies, they’ve been around for a while. They’ve all been very different, provided different quirks and gimmicks, and all of this kind of stuff. It seems like in recent years, some of the alarm companies, the folks that have been doing house alarms for years, thought that they should also be doing medical alerts. Lots of different ones have tried their hand at it, but Bay Alarm sort of stood out to me, because I wrote a blog for Heritage Hall, and I did some research on what was the best medical alert company. Yours came out tops on so many different rankings, but you also had an unbelievably bargain basement monthly rate. To be a legitimate company, normally when you see rates like that, you worry that you’re dealing with an illegitimate fly by night company, but Bay Alarm has been in California doing business for over 20 years?
Donna: Whoa, I missed it! 66 years.
David: Bay Alarm is actually the largest family owned and operated alarm company in the nation.
David: Yeah I know, it’s really funny. It’s almost as if you just need to scratch the surface, and on every point, if you just research a little bit, you end up talking with us. We’ve been around twice as long as the next longest provider, as far as alarm systems of course. How we got into this business was that the clientele that they had as commercial and residential customers and clients asked us to provide it because they love us. So we finally did all the research and looked at every possible option out there, found the way to do it, and the found the one that we can recommend. Being who we are, being that family-owned and run alarm company, had we not found that, we wouldn’t be in the business.
Donna: Increasingly, people are trying to stay at home, they’re trying to age at home as long as possible. The medic alert button is a key tool in doing that. It has been for a long time, and it can mean the difference between life and death. But like we were talking about, there are a lot of differences between the different medic alert systems. What do you think makes Bay Alarm the choice for my seniors?
David: It isn’t that we just win in one area, meaning either cost, or the reliability of the service, or the customer service. We beat seemingly, as far as I can tell, it seems like everybody out there on every category, almost significantly.
Donna: When it comes to the medical alarm systems, what do you think are the priorities?
David: My mom has this service, and I needed to work. It’s got to work. So when we found that, then we also go, you know, it’s a need, right? So we had to make that financially available to everybody, and getting down to that $19.95 a month pricing, if you can prepay for the whole year. Now there’s a caveat on that, but there are really no other costs. It’s just a need, people have got to have this when they decide it, and we need to get it in front of them because we need to take care of our elders. There are our elders, and there’s a responsibility there. I am a fan of independence and freedoms, so I believe in what I do, and I believe in why I’m here, and I believe in the product and the way we do the service. That’s kind of a short answer. The long answer is just to give you the places to go research. Jump on www.bayalarmmedical.com, call us at 1-877-522-9633, and you can get down to the specifics of how this applies to you, which is really going to be the deciding factor for a person.
Donna: It’s redundant for me to ask that question, because I wouldn’t have you on my show if I hadn’t done the research myself. Actually, your model, is it water-resistant?
David: It is water-proof.
Donna: It is water-proof, ooh that’s even better.
David: But yeah, and so realize that yes, wear it in the shower, wear it in the bathtub, put it through the washer, it’s going to work. That’s the kind of reliability we’re talking about. The pendant itself has a 5-year battery life, but you can’t take the button and dive 100 meters under the ocean, okay? You might impair its water-proofness.
Donna: I was going to say, one of the things that’s so scary to me as I was doing this research is how as the deeper I go on different systems, they seem like they were the perfect system, and then you find out that you couldn’t wear it in the shower. Well that’s where most falls happen.
Donna: I would find out little things like that about different systems, and when I did the research on your system, it’s like every area that I expected to be disappointed, I wasn’t. Explain to people the process of how it happens. Let’s say you’re in the shower, you fall, you press the button. Do you talk into the button?
David: That’s such a great idea, and it doesn’t work. You can’t talk into it. If you’re able to speak into the button, you’re impairing the possibility of the water-proofness, right? So now all of a sudden, yeah you can talk into it, but you can’t wear it in the bathroom. That’s a problem.
Donna: It’s useless to you.
David: Exactly, and the other one is to be able to give the pendant a button that’s going to do that, that’s going to require a lot of battery. Now you’re taking it off to charge it every day like you do a cell phone.
Donna: And then you fall?
David: Now you have it off. Exactly what we don’t want, right?
Donna: Right. So is there a box that is hooked up somewhere in the house?
David: Correct. You do talk into the main unit. The tendency is to centrally locate it. The unit itself, as you can imagine, is built for this kind of response. So the sound card that’s inside of the unit, it’s high-resonance, which means that it projects itself and it picks up a lower level voice, or-
Donna: A voice from far away.
David: Yeah, or a voice from far away. Thank you.
Donna: So you press the button, suddenly they’re available to talk to you on your box. If they can’t talk to you, they’re sending somebody your way.
Donna: Okay, we’re going to take a short break, hear from one of our sponsors, and when we come back, we’re going to be talking about the importance of, where is this call going? Call centers, it’s the one thing most people never even research.
Donna: Good morning. You are rejoining the Senior Breakfast Club with Donna Gail, and I’m visiting this morning with David Meistrell from Bay Alarm Medical Company. We are talking about medical alert systems. We were just moving on to the topic of the call centers. When you press that button, where is that person on the other end sending you help? Do you know anything about that call center?
David: Yeah, and it’s a great question because the call center is extremely important. The call center itself, the literal building, is built like a hospital, meaning it has backup generators because what if their power goes out, right?
Donna: Yeah, what if you fall right in the middle of a big storm?
David: Right, people don’t think about that, like what happened in New Jersey. If you have a call center that’s in New Jersey that’s in your neighborhood, and that gets taken out, it has no other backup system, and itself the building that the dispatchers are in doesn’t have backup generators, they’re not up and running, like a hospital has all the backup generators. So that building that these dispatchers reside in has to be built to that standard, as well as not be built in any kind of a danger area that has been designated as either earthquake, avalanche, or tornado alley. Not only that, you need to have another one of those, at least one more, in another state.
Donna: So if a tornado does unexpectedly hit a non-tornado area-
David: It does come along, exactly, an unexpected storm that you couldn’t predict, yeah.
Donna: So where are your two call centers located?
David: In Washington State and in Ogden, Utah. Then we have also a call center that’s related, it’s also in California.
Donna: Okay, so you have three call centers.
David: Correct. When you press the button, it sends a signal immediately, simultaneously out to two locations, because what if the routing of the location on that number is cut?
Donna: You won’t have a backup.
David: Exactly. So it’s simultaneously making two phone calls.
Donna: A lot of these medical alert companies have just sort of sprouted up as money-making things to do. People have never done this for a living and then suddenly, they open up one of these. You guys have been in the alarm business for 66 years, so this isn’t something that you’re just learning as you go.
David: Correct, and we’ve initially done everything 100% correctly with the redundancy of the systems, it’s the kind of service that we provide, and we can do that at a lower rate because you’re talking about a company that has the ability to do that, because it owns its own buildings and things like that. You’re getting economies of scale, that helps you with the price, and we also don’t need to, where other places are compelled to, do television commercials. So we’re not passing on costs to you, we’re passing on savings to you, because we don’t do big television spots and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, which you have to recoup those costs somewhere, right? So they go into the unit and that kind of thing. That’s why we end up being significantly lower across the board, which is great because that’s where we want to be, and that’s what we want to provide. We’re here to serve.
Donna: And then you do a good job. It never fails that people come to you.
David: It really doesn’t.
Donna: It’s like you don’t have to run a TV ad because I did the research, compared everything, and I came to you, and I said, I like you, come on my radio show.
David: That’s the point, that’s really what I mean, is that if you really just scratch the surface, you’re going to end up looking at us. No matter what angle you take, whether it’s a consumer affairs rating, or it’s the Better Business Bureau, or it’s going to be Consumer Advocates, we won the number one ranking for the nation again this year. It’s not just that we won in one category and therefore won the whole thing. We won in every category.
Donna: Now some people are drawn away by gimmicks, little freebies that are offered by the different companies. Do you have any gimmicks? Do you do freebies?
David: Well yeah, in a sense. I think it’s very straightforward though. I think what we do is that, for you guys, for your listeners and that kind of thing, we were talking about doing a promotion.
Donna: Oh that’s right, I almost forgot about that. Anybody listening this morning that hears about Bay Alarm Company on my show, they will give you a discount if you put in SBC, Senior Breakfast Club, SBC, onto the promo code spot on their website, or just tell them the promo code when you talk to them on the phone. They will give you like a dollar off for every month. Instead of paying $19.95, you’ll pay $18.95.
David: You just go to www.bayalarmmedical.com. If you’re talking to us, we’ll walk you through it. If you’re at bayalarmmedical.com, you just put in that promo code, the SBC.
Donna: And that’s for Senior Breakfast Club, SBC.
David: Exactly, the Senior Breakfast Club, so we’ve already kind of said, let’s do something for you guys and help you guys out across the board, all of your listeners. We’re giving you $3 off of the quarterly style pricing, and $12 off of the annual, which makes the annual pricing of $19.95 a month become $18.95 a month. When you do that, there are literally no other costs. There’s no tax, there’s no shipping. It couldn’t be more straightforward. So while you could say, yeah there’s a promotion, we want you to do it, we’re going to get you the good price, it’s not a gimmick, because when you do that and lock-in that price, you’re locking that price in for the life of service. That’s the cost for [inaudible 12:50].
Donna: Oh, so it’s locked in for the life of service.
David: For life of service, it will never go up. [inaudible 12:54].
Donna: So if they need this for 20 more years, it’s going to always be $18.95.
Donna: That is too cool.
David: I know. That’s who we are, that’s our responsibility. That’s what we’re here for, for our elders, and believing in what we do. Like I was saying, my mom has this.
Donna: Tell them the story about the lady who lived alone in New York, and she had a medic alert system, and nobody responded. This is an awful story, and it just goes to show how important it is which medic alert service you use.
David: I had a guy call me from a New York fire department and say that the worse call he’d ever been on, this was about a month ago, he says, I got call, we got into the lady’s house, of course they forced their entry, didn’t have a lock box in place. They forced the entry in, and she had been laying on the floor for three days.
Donna: Oh, heavens.
David: She was still around, and he said, it was the worst call I’ve ever been on in my life.
Donna: Oh, she was probably so scared.
David: So they contacted us. You’ve got to be kidding be.
Donna: Now let’s talk about the lock box issue, because I don’t think a lot of seniors realize this, that when they call the ambulance, they may not be able to get to the door to let them in. So the ambulance crews end up having to break in. I don’t think seniors realize it, that cost is theirs, that fixing that broken door is not going to happen by the ambulance guys. They’re not just going to come back the next day and fix your door.
David: Yeah, they bring ladders and hoses. They don’t bring extra doors and windows.
Donna: Exactly. But people don’t think about that. If you’ve never been in that situation, you don’t think about it.
David: You’re exactly right.
Donna: You don’t know that, and you just assume somebody’s going to take care of it, right? Well no, it’s got to be you, and you’re in a fixed income, how are going to replace that door, hire a carpenter to come out there? So the issue of lockboxes, what do you guys do about lockboxes? Do you provide them?
David: We have a lockbox available. It’s really simple, you just order it along with your order. It’s an additional one time cost of $34.95. It secures, it’s like the real estate agents use to show homes. It has a padlock top and it has a lockbox bottom where you set the four-digit code that you set. Then you inform us of where you put it and what the code is, and we hand that off to any emergency responder.
So picture, you hit the unit and you don’t respond, and then we follow the call list you’ve given to us, and let’s say we call two people, and then we call 911 and they’re on the way. We give them the lockbox, they walk in the door, because this is what happens. If you get into an incident, and typically 75% of people fall in their own restroom, hence the waterproof button, not taking it off, they want to not only try to get to the phone, you want to try and open the doors so they don’t kick it in.
But you don’t realize that, like you’re saying. You’re unaware of it until you’re in the process, and people further injure themselves trying to open up the door so that they don’t kick it in. It’s a very scary situation, and you’re not aware, and you’re like, what are they doing, suddenly on top of it, adding insult to injury, so to speak.
Donna: I found a lot of companies that gave away the lockboxes, but what you don’t realize is that what you’re paying on a monthly level is so much higher, and the quality of service that you’re getting is so much lower, that that’s why they’re doing that sort of as gimmick kind of thing. That’s what I meant when I was talking about gimmicks and stuff.
David: That’s the point, is that’s the gimmick. Why we do that is you may not lock your door. Some people don’t still, I know that seems amazing, but there are those. Some people have a key somewhere where they feel comfortable, or they go somewhere and get some other device, or maybe they have one, so we put it a la carte. If it works for you, great, we have it, yes, think about it if you want to. You’re going to have it with us, and we’re familiar with our lockbox.
So we prefer it. You’re saving, compared to most other places, about $5 a month, so in a year you’re saving $60 rather than $34.95. It is gimmicky, you’re absolutely right. We’re here offering the $18.95, the $23.95 quarterly for your listeners if they put in that SBC code They’re getting that, and they’re locking that price in forever.
Donna: Now, back on that lockbox issue. This is something that I had a policeman that was talking to me about the other day. He was talking about how even people who know enough to get a lockbox so that their key is accessible to the emergency personnel, they get picked up by the ambulance crew, the go off to the hospital, they come back home, and their house has been robbed, because not everybody that works on the ambulance crew is necessarily honest.
Donna: And so the one thing you have to remember is that when that code has been given out to an ambulance crew, it needs to be changed for the next emergency.
David: You are so spot on. That is brilliant, thank you. Yeah, that’s a thing that people miss, is exactly that. Don’t trust strangers, and who knows? Someone might be telling someone else, you know?
Donna: You just never know who somebody’s talking to after they use that code to get into your house. They might have walked into your house and seen some beautiful, really expensive stuff that they knew they could sell, great electronics. Then they go back and they think about it, and temptation gets to them. You just never know. This guy may have been on the ambulance crew for a week.
David: Exactly. Really a whole gamut of added level of security, because I think it’s really, really important, especially for seniors.
Donna: Now you’re a nationwide company, you mail the system to folks that order it. They plug it in, and its good to go.
David: Well we are. We’re nationwide of course, and all you’re looking out for this system is having a land-line phone line, that’s it. The system plugs in the same as a phone.
Donna: Oh, we almost forgot to tell them that, because a lot of people have discontinued their land-lines, and they’re going totally with cells. But to have one of these services, and that’s with everybody, not just this company, every company, if you’re going to have any kind of alarm system, you have to have a land-line phone.
David: You do, you do. Believe it or not, in this age of technology and advancing, and of these wireless ideas and devices, it’s that simple. You want it that way, because if the power goes out, you’re phone still works. Our system has a backup battery that last up to 38 hours.
Donna: Now is there any kind of backup for if the weather is so bad that the land-line is down?
David: There is no backup for that, but that is the most reliable system. If you have a cell system, the battery goes out, now your phone service doesn’t work. The only things, the system is built by the AMA’s recommendations. The majority of falls, 75% of them, happen in the restroom. One other little addition is a wall button placed in the bathroom that’s a remote, wireless button. That’s the one other thing that you want to be assessing, is that makes sense, recommended by the AMA, to sure things up in the area of greatest vulnerability.
Donna: That button in the bathroom would be because sometimes, human nature being what it is, people take the necklace off to go take a shower, even though they know they’re not supposed to.
David: Two other things to consider with this system. You can also attach CO detection and smoke detection.
Donna: Oh really?
David: Depending on your state, it can be required by the state. They’re starting to fall. About half of the states now require that everybody have CO detection. Then you’ve got smoke detectors. You can add sixteen detectors to this unit. You can have two loved ones with pendants. You can have an alarm wall button on the porch, in the bathrooms, at the bottom of the stairs, in the laundry room. You can have three smoke detectors, two CO detectors, one near the stove, and then one near the gas heater.
You can shore this up so that when that dispatcher comes onto the unit to assist, they know who they’re taking care of. If they find the individual unconscious, we have the medical information about allergies, medications, conditions, so that they’re making an immediate first response done correctly the first time.
Donna: That’s the other part I hadn’t thought of, that the emergency personnel is going to get the medical information from you.
David: Exactly. Everything is coordinated, and it becomes bullet-proof. They come in, they find an unconscious individual, they take care of them appropriately the first time. It’s just brilliant, it’s just so smart, and it covers everything.
Donna: If you add all of those things, all of those different buttons, and smoke, and CO, does everything you add add to the monthly cost?
David: If you’re going to add a CO detection and a smoke detector to this unit, you double the price. It becomes $39.95 a month, still very palatable for that kind of coverage. So it’s just another $240, that’s the way to think of it, make it real simple there. If you’re going $39.95, you’re also going to be locking in that price. We were very fair and very straightforward, so we make things really easy for people.
Donna: A lot of the different companies that I’ve called, the price has just sort of waffled and changed. It was hard to pin down what it was actually going to cost you. It just seems like they played a lot of games, and there were a couple of companies, yours and one other, that were just straightforward.
David: Yeah, and I hear that all the time. Call them! They talk to us and they’ll see, and they’ll go, what?
Donna: When I was taking care of my parents years ago, I had called about getting one of these necklaces for them, and by the time I finished talking to these different companies, it was like it was going to cost me like $70 a month or something. I was like, how can that be? I just gave up right there. I thought, oh, these things are too expensive.
David: Yeah, it’s not right, it’s not fair.
Donna: And then you see these other things on the Internet now that are like $10 a month, and you know they’re fly by night. They don’t have the ability to back it up with that price. You just can’t do a service like this at some point for a certain amount.
David: You can’t do it because what you’re talking about is, you need to have those call centers that are built like hospitals with dispatchers that handle up to 170 languages we handle, and those people only take these calls. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’re UL-certified, which is that little stamp that you see on everything that verifies the quality of an electronics item, UL. UL certification also is about the quality of electronics around in this kind of area service. They have to meet strict qualifications.
In that regard they are and have landed also as five diamond, where we rank number one, they’re ranked number one. They’ve taken calls for 30 years, they’ve handled millions of calls. If they only take these calls, usually the only calls they’re seeing, they’re coordinated with the individual’s information, and they’re certified for this, and they exist in buildings that can’t be taken out. Were that to happen, they have a backup. Everything has a backup plan.
Donna: The blog that I wrote on this subject when I did the research for this, if people want to read it, they can go to www.heritagehallmarks.blogspot.com, www.heritagehallmarks.blogspot.com. I would offer this imitation to my seniors or to anyone that ever listens to this interview.
If you have a problem with Bay Alarm, and you don’t agree with all of the ratings that are on the Internet with reviews and all of that stuff, email me. Tell me about it. I can’t personally guarantee any service for any provider that comes on my show. All I can do is do my best to research them so that I’m not bringing shady characters onto the show.
But just by virtue of the fact that I brought them on my show, if they’re not doing the job for you, I’d like to know, because I don’t want to bring them back on my show. Itsdonnagail@aol.com. I-T-S-D-O-N-N-A-G-A-I-L at aol.com. I will call David and tell him what you said, and they will fix it.
David: Oh, we will. Tell us what’s going on so we can correct things, and we get it done immediately.
Donna: I’ve been in touch with David off and on for almost a year now.
Donna: So I know he’s not fly by night. We’ve been planning this interview for a year, and then my grandson got cancer, and different things have come up, and it’s just been something. But you’ve been very patient, David.
David: Well, yes.
Donna: And you’ve been very kind. Thank you so much for coming on my show.
David: Thanks Donna, I appreciate it.
David: Bye, bye.