The traditional way to keep your home and family safe has been to install a security system and link it with a professional monitoring company that will automatically contact emergency services when the alarm system has been triggered by a fire or intruder.
Professional monitoring companies have existed for many years and can quickly report emergencies in a home to the proper authorities for quick response. However, according to Safety.com professional security monitoring from industry leading companies like ADT and Vivint can start at between $29.99 and $35.99 per month.
Self-installed security systems, like SimpliSafe, are more economical, with monitoring starting at $15 per month. However, even the cost of SimpliSafe monitoring jumps to $24.99 per month when you start adding optional extras such as remote management, SMS/email notifications, and camera recording/video storage.
Now, there are lower cost home security options available from less well-known providers, such as Rescu, an app-based solution that partners with Alarm Relay to offer monitoring for as low as $8.95 per month.
Before getting into my review of Rescu, it’s important to explore the pros and cons of self-monitored home security systems.
Self-Monitored Security has Inherent Limitations
Today’s smart home’s can be configured to notify the homeowner when an event is detected by a security system integrated with the smart home processor/hub in their home. Notifications may either be a feature of the smart home’s smart phone app or sent using a third-party notification service such as Pushover, Prowl, or Vybit. When the homeowner receives a notification that there is an emergency in their home, they can use a smart phone app to view security cameras in their home and validate that it isn’t a false alarm (if they aren’t at home) and contact emergency services to send the police, fire department, or an ambulance, depending on the nature of the emergency.
However, self-monitoring is a more complex proposition than it appears on the surface.
If you have friends in different time zones that don’t think about whether it is 5:00 a.m. or midnight in your time zone when they send texts, or instant messages, with cute pictures of their cat, you may have implemented “Do Not Disturb” on your electronic devices to get a good night’s sleep. In this case, if you are traveling, you may be oblivious to an emergency at your home until the next morning when you get up and check your smart phone for messages that arrived over night. If a 2:00 a.m. notification was for a fire in your home, at this point there may be nothing left of the home but a pile of ashes.
Depending on how your smart home notifies you of events in the home, there may be a solution for this. If your smart home is integrated with the Pushover notification service, then notifications can include a priority.
Pushover notifications with their priority set to “High Priority” or “Emergency Priority” will bypass “do not disturb” settings. In addition, notifications set to “Emergency Priority” will be repeated indefinitely until the notification is acknowledged by the user. This is ideal for a heavy sleeper who might otherwise sleep through an important event taking place in their smart home.
The Prowl notification service also includes priority levels and an “Emergency” level priority that will bypass “do not disturb” settings. However, unlike Pushover, there isn’t a way to make a notification repeat until it is acknowledged. Finally, the Vybit notification service doesn’t include the ability to set a priority.
It is also important to realize that if you are traveling in an area with no cell phone coverage, even a Pushover notification with the priority set to “Emergency” isn’t going to reach you.
What to Do When Self-Monitoring a Home Invasion?
Your smart home alerts you that an intruder is in your home. You open an app on your smart phone and sure enough you can see an unknown person walking through your living room carrying your TV. What do you do?
If you are out eating dinner at a local restaurant, or visiting neighbors, the answer is very simple; you call 9-1-1. On the other hand, if you are on vacation, or traveling on business, the problem is more complicated.
Calling 9-1-1 when you are traveling is going to link you with emergency response personnel in the location where you make the call. The assumption is that the emergency is taking place at your current location; not hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away where your home is located.
I spoke with Nicole Whittaker, 911 public safety communications manager for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho about this issue. She said, “If someone calls 911 while traveling, their call will route to the 911 dispatch center where they are (technically where their phone is) located versus their home area. If they call 911 in their physical, geographical location, they can be asked to be transferred to their home dispatch center.
Most public safety answer points (nationwide) have an ability to do a “terminal query,” which allows them to run a query/search that will provide them with a contact number for the agency they searched for. At that point, they can either transfer or provide the number to the caller. This does delay contact with their home agency since it means searching for the number (especially so if it’s not a neighboring agency that the center would have readily available).
However, if you are traveling out of the country, calling 9-1-1 isn’t even an option. There is little chance that calling the equivalent of 9-1-1 in the country you are visiting is going to be able to link you with emergency services where your home is located.
Rescu is a Lower Cost Monitored Home Security Option
Rescu is an app-based, lower cost alternative to full professional monitoring. The Rescu app can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Rescu allows you to very quickly and easily send for emergency services, including fire, police, or an ambulance. A subscription to Rescu can be purchased on a monthly basis for $7 per month or on an annual basis for $59 per year. Members of a family, living at a single location, can share a single subscription.
After downloading the Rescu app, you will need to either create an account or sign in using your Facebook or Google accounts. Once you have signed in, you will set up dispatch addresses where emergency services will be sent. Any number of dispatch addresses can be added to the Rescu app, including your home, office, or the home of elderly parents that you are caring for. Each dispatch address will include a friendly nickname to make it easier to select in an emergency.
In addition to notifying the appropriate emergency service when you request them through the Rescu app, text messages can be automatically sent to family members, neighbors, and friends. People you want to notify simply need to be entered into the Rescu app as emergency contacts.
To allow you to become familiar with the operation of the Rescu app, it will be in “test mode” for the first three days after it is installed. While in test mode, you can try all the different features of the Rescu app without notifying emergency services.
Rescu offers a less expensive alternative to professional monitoring, though it does require the homeowner to be an important link in the chain between an emergency taking place in their home and emergency services being dispatched to address it.
Hands on with Rescu
Rescu is very simple to use. I had an opportunity to work with it in test mode.
To dispatch emergency services, you simply select your dispatch address from the dropdown list at the bottom of the app, press one of three buttons to select either police, fire, or ambulance, and then press the send alert button. After an alert is sent to emergency services you are provided options for canceling the alert or initiating a phone call to emergency services.
All of the above is kept as simple as possible so emergency services can easily be contacted when the user is under a great deal of stress.
The configuration settings of Rescu can be accessed by pressing the menu icon in the upper left corner of the app. The user can edit their emergency contacts, account information, view the alert history, enter existing health conditions, and create a support request. In the upper right corner of the app is an icon that allows the user to view recent dispatches.
The information entered into the existing conditions section of the app will be shared with emergency services. Examples include information about an existing cardiac condition, that an individual is hearing impaired, etc. This allows emergency services to address any special needs and so best practices in medical service delivery can be applied emergency services personnel.
You Can Still Just Call for Help No Matter Where You Are
While not as convenient as Rescu, there is a no-cost alternative for homeowners to report emergencies at their home when they are traveling. Again, according to Nicole Whittaker, “The more efficient way to go about it is for the caller/customer to put the non-emergency number of their home agency in their phones and contact them directly, skipping the middleman.
For our agency (and with many others), 911 and non-emergency calls route to the same dispatch center and would be answered by the same people whether the person calls directly or is transferred in from another center.”
Storing the non-emergency contact numbers of your local emergency services is cheap insurance for addressing emergencies at your home when you aren’t there.
- It may be faster than calling the local 9-1-1 service when you are traveling and having them lookup the number and transfer your call.
- You can use it when traveling overseas
- If you are in an area with poor cell service, where a notification from your smart home may reach you but making phone calls is problematic, you may be able to find a local land line and use the number stored on your smart phone.
Conclusions About Rescu and Other Security Options
For those that want the confidence that emergency services will be immediately contacted when there is an emergency in their home, there isn’t a substitute for professional smart home monitoring. However, professional monitoring comes at a price.
When a smart home is configured properly to notify homeowners of events taking place in their home, including break-ins and fires, self monitoring is a viable alternative. Emergencies can be easily and quickly be reported using an app (like Rescu), by calling 9-1-1, or by calling your local emergency services number directly if you are out of town.
However, a homeowner needs to understand the limitations of self monitoring. For example, if you are in an area with no cell phone service, you won’t receive the notification and you won’t have any way of contacting emergency services to report the problem.