Personal Emergency Response Systems – One year later

Readers may recall around a year ago I used an analogy of a 1970’s James Bond movie to describe the introduction of Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) into the Algarve and how this was a major step forward in in the world of public safety, not just the safety of special agents.
So what is a PERS, what does it stand for and how can this make your lives more secure? A year later, what developments have taken place and why does Safe Communities Algarve as a crime prevention association feel that this small device is a revolution in public safety and security?

What is it and range of applications?

PERS are small mobile devices that you can carry with you at any place 24/7. Whether you are walking in the countryside, cycling, driving or gardening, simply pressing the button in an emergency will bring you into direct contact with bilingual operators, who are on hand 24/7 and will know your exact location and coordinates. The operators can then contact the relevant emergency services depending on the nature of the emergency, as well as relatives. It works anywhere in Portugal. As far as Safe Communities Algarve is aware, there is now just one provider of the system, the device being known as Guardian.
The range of applications for PERS is considerable. For instance, your children who want the independence to go to school by themselves, your teenage daughter who goes out on weekends, sports and active people, people living in isolated areas or those who see themselves as a target for mugging/robbery – there is a whole range of people who would find use in a personal emergency response system.

The operating system

So how does Guardian work? In an emergency, you simply push the SOS button. An encoded message is received within seconds at an emergency monitoring centre. The user’s personal details are displayed automatically and your exact location and coordinates displayed on Google maps. The trained operators open a two-way speech channel with you through the device. Having determined the nature of the incident and if emergency services are required, the operators will contact the emergency services with all the relevant information required. The operators remain in direct contact with you providing reassurance whilst the emergency services are on the way, and the channel is only closed once you advise the operator that you are safe.
This of course is a far cry from the 1850s, when in the USA Edwin Holmes coupled a spring to a door, and connected this to an electrical circuit and a bell, thus resulting in the first household alarm.
It is understood that during the last year the PERS has been supplied to many people living in the Algarve, which has ranged from the elderly living alone, to sportsmen and to those who simply feel that they need the reassurance of a system that can put them immediately in touch with someone in case of an emergency.

PERS versus the mobile phone

Some people have asked me why not simply carry a mobile phone and use that in case of an emergency. Well, there are many differences, particularly in the few seconds that may be available to contact someone in an emergency. I have spoken to victims of crime and some had perhaps a few seconds only to contact someone before the actual attack took place – hardly time to be trying to dial an emergency number, describe the nature of the emergency and where you are – not to mention finding the phone in the first place! Also, in case of an accident, having the reassurance of simply being able to press a button and speak to someone who is professionally trained and able to help can simply be a life saver.

Latest developments

As a major step forward, the companies that operate the PERS have developed Guardian Plus +, a premium service offering round the clock medical and security reassurance and peace of mind. This joint initiative is between two well-known Family Medical Centres in Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago, in collaboration with the HPA (Hospital Particular do Algarve), and the security companies fast response service, who will respond directly in the event of an emergency. This service is available in the Golden Triangle and areas including Loulé extending towards São Brás.


PERS was tested by Safe Communities Algarve about a year ago when it was first introduced into the Algarve. We were very impressed then and are even more impressed today. It does what it says on the tin.
Also, the battery life lasts seven days without the need for a recharge. Unlike household alarms, which can be relatively expensive, PERS are now available starting at less than €20 per month depending on the service required.
For the Algarve – where language can be a problem – it is a major plus to have a translation service on your belt or set of keys as a minimum, and then all the resources and training behind it makes for a great safety net and back up when it is needed.


Safe Communities Algarve considers this system is a lifesaver and the number of applications are considerable. It is a major step forward in public safety. We never know when we may be faced with a medical emergency, an accident or become a victim of crime. More details can be obtained by contacting Safe Communities Algarve.
By David Thomas
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David Thomas is a former Assistant Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police, consultant to INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In October 2011 he founded Safe Communities Algarve an on-line platform here in the Algarve to help the authorities and the community prevent crime. It is now registered as Associação Safe Communities Algarve, the first association of its type in Portugal. 913 045 093