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Waterproof Medical Alert Systems

There are several medical alert companies that claim their pendants and necklaces, as well as wall buttons, are waterproof. But that assertion raises a series of questions. How important is it that the device be waterproof? What constitutes “waterproof” and who determines that classification? And, finally, how does the potential client know a brand’s claims are true?

Waterproof Medical Alerts- Why is it important?

Does it matter if a medical alert device is waterproof?

To put it simply, yes. A waterproof medical alert button is more of a safeguard for the one relying on it. This device is meant to provide peace of mind for the wearer and their caregivers.

In conjunction with other health issues, whether one is aging in their home or residing in senior housing, falls present a serious risk. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most likely rooms where falls can occur. Anywhere where there is water, there’s the chance of slipping. Bathroom floors, tub or shower floors, and other surfaces may be slick with moisture. Having the best quality and most reliable medical alert button could make a world of difference.

It should also be noted that when a medical alert button on a neck pendant or wristband is submerged in water or is even just coated with droplets, that coating of water may affect the quality of the speaker and microphone, muffling voices, making communication more difficult. It is recommended that the wearer run several tests as soon as they set it up. The wearer or caregiver can then decide if the results are satisfactory or if the medical alert system should be returned.

What Does Waterproof Mean?

“Waterproof” is one of those terms that gets thrown around rather casually. In fact, there are at least three basic designations regarding the effects of water on an electronic device (which includes cell phones, cameras, watches, or medical alert buttons, among other items). The designations are waterproof, water-resistant, or splash-proof.

The proper designation is made based on the International Protection Marking Code, also known as the Ingress Protection Marking Code, and commonly referred to as the IP Code.

The IP Code, published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, rates various devices’ resistance to both solid and liquid threats. The scale used employs a 0 (no protection) to 6 (maximum protection) point scale for solid matter and a 0- to-8-point scale for liquids. The ideal code for your medical alert button would be either an IP67 or IPX7. The “6,” if used, would mean it was dustproof, and the 7 is currently the highest rating available for a medical alert button.

The rating of 7 means the medical alert button is safe in the shower and tub. More specifically, it means that the device could be submerged in water for up to half an hour at a maximum depth of one meter (about 39 inches). However, it should not be worn when swimming.

Even a medical alert button with a rating of 7 for liquids is not protected against pressurized water jets. For that kind of stress, one would want a device with a combined rating of IP68/IP65. To be clear, the watches many of us wear daily – despite manufacturer claims – are not waterproof but rather, at most, water-resistant.

According to the International Electrotechnical Commission site, the only device worthy of the rating of an 8 for liquids protection is a scuba diving watch which, depending on the manufacturer, may be waterproof to a depth of more than 3,000 feet.

While there is no such thing as a truly waterproof button, the highest IP-rated button, if used appropriately, could save your loved one’s life.

Who Determines If a Device is Waterproof?

The testing to determine whether a device is water-resistant to some degree or technically waterproof can be done by an independent lab, by a certified testing body, or by the manufacturer of the device in-house.

While every testing lab is obliged to follow the protocol as put forth by the International Electrotechnical Commission, there is always the possibility of error, whether intended or not. There have been instances when the laboratory staff, shall we say, interpreted the protocol in their own way, achieving a rating that their product would later fail to live up to.

Not to be melodramatic, but such a failure in a medical alert button could be lethal.

Waterproof or Water-Resistant Medical Alert Systems

That a medical alert button should meet the IP57 or IPX7 rating is only reasonable. However, beware of the possibility of faulty testing as well as the sometimes misleading or at least confusing information found in product reviews or at manufacturer websites.

For instance, many reviews claim one top medical alert company's button is waterproof, and the company's site itself alternates between the terms “waterproof” and “water-resistant”. (For the record, their devices are water-resistant.)

Bottom line: don’t rely on what you read. After making a list of the companies whose products you like, you’ll need to call and speak to a representative to make a purchase or get more information. Ask what the IP Code is. If the representative doesn’t know, request to speak to their supervisor. If necessary, politely but firmly ask for the phone number of corporate headquarters, or whatever department is appropriate. If it comes to it, do an online search, or just move on to the next company on the list.

And, finally, after you’ve selected a medical alert button, test it several times during the first few days, and on and off over time, to be certain it lives up to the IP Code assigned to it. Your life, or that of your loved one, could depend on it.