What happens when you call for help on a Big Button Mobile phone


An emergency button is pretty much a standard feature on phones aimed at older users, but what each phone does when a customer presses the button is often a little grey.

There is no neat solution. When you make a call on a phone it’s pretty reasonable to assume you are listening at the earpiece. If you get voicemail then you’ll hang up and try again.

When you press the emergency button, typically because you’ve fallen, the handset makes a call but if it then goes through to voicemail you are not in a position to do anything about it.

What the phone needs to do is assume that it will reach an answering machine and then require a person at either end to provide the intelligence to distinguish between a real person and a machine.

This usually takes the form of asking the person answering to send a tone from the keypad. It means that all the people in your emergency call list have to know what to expect.

Ideally you’ll rehearse the emergency procedure with all the people on your emergency button call list so that they know what to expect, but the actions the phone takes veries from phone to phone/


Geemarc CL8400

Geemarc CL8400 big Button mobile phone showing slider on rear

This has an emergency slider on the back of the phone. Sliding to the left sends an alarm call and a text message to up to six numbers in turn to call for help in an emergency, it also sounds a loud alarm tone. If the number it calls is busy or the call is hung up the phone goes on to the next number and continues through the list until you switch the CL8400 off. The sliding action is easy to do but less prone to accidental triggering than the buttons found on other phones. It is also much easier to stop as you can just slide it back.


Beafon S700

The Beafon S700 showing the button labelled SOS

An SOS button on the back of the phone.  You can save five numbers to be called by a single press of this button.  They will be automatically dialled in turn. During the SOS call, a warning tone sounds so the person  you’ve called knows that it is an emergency. If you cannot get through on the first number, the second number will be called automatically. If you cannot get through on the second number, the third number will be called etc. The Beafon S700 switches on the hands free function at full volume and at the same time, when the call is answered, the pre-recorded voice will be heard saying  ‘please press 0 to continue’;  The conversation will begin after pressing 0; otherwise, it will hang up automatically in 14 seconds; and then begin to dial the next number, until each number has been dialled three times.


Doro 410 and Doro 610

Doro 401 with the emergency button big button mobileAn emergency button on the back of the Doro 410 can be trigged by holding it for three seconds or pressing it twice within a second.  The Doro 410 can hold up to five numbers in an emergency number list and  will send an emergency text message to all the numbers in the list. The phone will then dial the first number on the list. If the call is not answered within 25 seconds the next number is dialled. Dialling is repeated three times or until the call is answered.


Panasonic KX-TU301

The Pansonic big button mobile phone showing what panasonic call a Priority buttonPanasonic calls the button on the back of the KX-TU301 a priority call button. You need to press and hold it for three seconds or press it three times within three seconds. The phone beeps and sends a  text message to a  number you’ve previously set up. It keeps beeping unto the text is sent.  The phone also dials the first of up to five numbers on an emergency call list. If it receives a busy tone, the number at the end is not answered for 60 seconds or the person at the other end busys the call. If the call goes to voicemail the emergency call is ended. The Panasonic manual is the only one to mention this eventuality.

112 & 999

You are not supposed to put the standard emergency call numbers in the short code list. adding them to an automated system is officially prohibited. What would work better is to sign up to an emergency service such as Aid Call these services typically cost £20 a month but they are really meant for pendant system alarms and not mobile phones. The Care industry is used to the BT system which is 99.999% reliable, as we all know mobile phone networks are a long way off this.

If you are dialling by hand it’s best to use 112, the european emergency number as this has priority access, it will even work when you only have a signal from a network other than your own.


Simon Rockman