Alexa Emergency Assist — what it is, how much it costs, and how it could save your life

Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen)
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Amazon has stepped into the DIY home security arena with Alexa Emergency Assist, a service that leverages the company's Alexa smart speakers to listen for signs of distress in your home, and then connect you with emergency services. 

Alexa Emergency Assist replaces Amazon’s Alexa Guard Plus security subscription feature which could be armed to listen for activity and control your smart lights and smart plugs while you were away to make your home appear occupied. If you're thinking of signing up for Alexa Emergency Assist, here's everything you need to know about the service. 

How does Alexa Emergency Assist work?

Think of Alexa Emergency Assist as an affordable alternative to Life Alert — it's available from any room with an Echo device as long as you have Wi-Fi.

Alexa Emergency Assist will use your Echo speakers to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarm sounds; If an alarm is triggered Alexa will announce on every Echo device that an alarm has been detected and instruct you to leave the home and call for help. You will also receive a Smart Alert on your mobile phone where you can listen to a sound snippet of the alarm, or Drop In on the device if you’re away from home. The Smart Alert also includes a pop-up that enables you to call for help from your mobile phone. 

Unlike some of the best DIY home security systems, which can automatically notify emergency services, you'll have to contact the fire department yourself, or reach out through Alexa Emergency Assist.

If you say "Alexa, call for help," you'll be connected with a trained live agent 24/7. This professional will then work with you to quickly identify the issue and loop in your local police, fire department, or ambulance depending on the situation.

While agents have access to your home address and the room from which you made the call, they are not dispatchers. They instead work for Rapid Response Monitoring Services—a third-party helpline that calls your local emergency services. You can share household medical information (such as medications or allergies), up to 25 emergency contacts, and passcodes with this service through the Alexa app to streamline first responder efforts and keep family members aware of your emergency. 

In the future, the service will support the detection of broken glass. 

It is important to note that Emergency Assist calls are cloud-based and will not work during power outages or if you’re experiencing internet connectivity issues. That means if thieves cut power or your router is burned in a fire the option to use the service goes out. If your call is disconnected or you hang up without speaking to the agent, the agent may attempt to call back your Echo device. If the call is not answered, the agent will call up to three of your Emergency Contacts to check in and request permission to dispatch local emergency services. 

How much does Alexa Emergency Assist cost?

Alexa Emergency Assist costs $5.99 per month, or $59 for the entire year. It's currently available only in the United States. 

What devices work with Alexa Emergency Assist?

Currently, Alexa Emergency Assist works with every generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Flex, Echo Studio, Echo Spot, and Echo Show. According to Amazon, you can also call Urgent Response from third-party Alexa-enabled devices that support Alexa Communications. 

Alexa Emergency Assist is not supported on Alexa-on-the-go devices, such as the Echo Auto and Echo Buds.

How do I set up Alexa Emergency Assist?

To setup Emergency Assist, open the Alexa app, tap the More tab and select Alexa Emergency Assist. This will take you to a dashboard where you can enter the “Your Information” section to review your profile information and verify that your emergency address and phone number are correct. 

From the “Your Information” page, tap “Manage” to add critical information such as any medical conditions or gate codes which is useful to first responders. 

To setup Emergency Contacts, return to the dashboard and tap “Add/Remove” to add people that you want to be notified in case of an emergency. If you would like to enable Smart Alerts, tap the settings wheel again, then “Smart Alerts” to select the types of alerts you'd like to receive.

Amazon recommends having at least one Echo device in each room. Even if you don’t want to outfit your home in an army of smart speakers, you can strategically place the Echos you already own close to the smoke or carbon monoxide detectors that you want to monitor. 

Is Alexa Emergency Assist worth it?

Compared to the best DIY home security systems, Alexa Emergency Assist is far more affordable. Its monthly cost of $5.99 is about half that of the least expensive professional monitoring service from Wyze Home Security

However, there are some caveats. For one, if the power or your internet connection drops out, you won't be able to use Emergency Assist through your smart speakers; most home security systems have either a battery backup, cellular backup, or both. 

Secondly, Alexa Emergency Assist doesn't provide active monitoring, like more professional systems do. In the event of a fire, break in, or other emergency, you have to initiate the call to Emergency Assist. 

Finally, Emergency Assist only monitors for smoke alarms and your voice calling for  it; more comprehensive systems can also monitor doors and windows opening, water leaks, and movement inside or outside of your home. 

However, Emergency Assist could be useful for someone who's elderly or less mobile; in the event that they need help, they could simply call out for assistance. 

My townhome is equipped with basic detectors so this service makes sense as it effortlessly links them to the internet and my home security system. If the monitoring service expanded its offerings to allow you to arm cameras (such as those built into the Echo Show devices or security cameras) and have agents proactively reach out about detection alerts from fires or intruders I could see Alexa Emergency Assist as a must-have feature. However, as it stands the $5.99 per month is a capable service that may be too niche for most smart homes.

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Hunter Fenollol
Senior Editor, Smart Home

Hunter Fenollol is a Senior Editor for Tom’s Guide. He specializes in smart home gadgets and appliances. Prior to joining the team, Hunter reviewed computers, wearables, and mixed reality gear for publications that include CNN Underscored, Popular Mechanics, and Laptop Magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest cooking gadgets, you can likely find him playing a round of golf or out with friends feeding his paycheck to a QuickHit slot machine. Hunter started his career as an intern at Tom’s Guide back in 2019 while in college. He graduated from Long Island University Post with a degree in Communications and minor in Advertising. He has been vlogging ever since the iPhone 4 took front-facing cameras mainstream.