Emergency responders access to a locked home. How do they get in?

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I am currently researching PERS (personal emergency response systems). One lingering question I have is how emergency responders gain access to a home that's locked. As I prepare to convince my mom on using such a system I'd like to be able to tell her what happens if she pushes the button including how the responders could reach her if her doors are locked (they usually are). Do most responders carry tools for unlocking locked doors or do they have to break in?

19 Comments

Yes, they do carry tools. Firemen will wield a "Halligan" married to a flat head axe, driving it with a "Persuader" (16 lb sledgehammer). Police often use a compact ram or a dandy hydraulic spreader. All work quite well, even on steel doors.
Do these tools do damage requiring a carpenter to repair?
You can get a realtor's lock box to put a set of keys in or you can install a lock that has a number pad.
Ba8alou has the best answer. They're (realtor's lock boxes) $15 on ebay.
I don't think my mom would be willing to deal with the inconvenience of a lock box during her daily comings and goings. And if she was, would she would have to give the combination to the 911 operator?
You put a spare set in the box, she doesn't have to unlock it everyday. I think there is probably a way of registering the combination with the emergency alert people so that THEY give EMS the combo. You might also get good answers to these questions from the company itself. They surely have dealt with this before.
We bought a lockbox at the hardware store. The medical alert company knew the combination and would give it to any emergency response team they contacted.

In the worst case scenario, if the responders had to break down the door, that is still better than an unattended emergency.
16 lb sledge ? oh my , i guess that WOULD peel a steel door jam .
Ask for a spy or hinge number lockbox, both use a number combination that can be given to the medical alert company. Then find a safe place outside the house to place it, somewhere where it won't get buried in the snow [depending on where you live] or where it won't get rusted out quickly. Or you can put it on the front door handle as long as your Mom doesn't panic at the idea of her extra house key being in a box on the front door.

Realtor lockboxes can only be used by licensed real estate Agents, plus in the larger metro areas the newer lockboxes require a coded credit card that is updated daily via computer attached device to open. You might be able to find an older out-of-date spin dial model that would be ok to use.

ejwachter, as I recall on another posting, you mentioned your Mom might be having short-term memory issues. If that is the case, would she be able to remember how to use a medical alert device? And that it is to be used in emergencies only?
Oh yes, of course, a lock box could be off to the side so mom won't have to deal with it. And, in one review of the Freedom Alert PERS I read that even the 911 call center people can keep a lock box combo associated with a certain address.
And regarding her short-term memory loss and using the PERS, well there's just one button to push so I'm assuming (maybe wrongly) that most older folks can manage that. I think if she get's in the habit of wearing it then she'll use it. Thank you all for the thoughts and comments.

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