Setting Off Alarms

My dual-chamber pace is blue tooth and it sets off a lot of store alarms.  Home Depot I shop at sets that alarm off going in and going out.

A few weeks ago I walk down through the mall here where I live and set off most of the store alarms if I walked close by them.  The young kids don’t know what to do when I walk in and the alarm goes off.  I have given up trying to explain it is my pacer blue tooth setting.

My pacer with all the scar tissue does set off the airport scanner as it is not an X-ray but a radio wave looking for body mass areas.  I set them all off all the alarms and get the pat-down every time.  It’s not a big deal anymore.  This is my new normal.


18 Comments

Weird

by AgentX86 - 2022-01-08 19:27:42

It can't be the Bluetooth or everyone's cell phone, headphones, and even watches would be setting them off.  Almost all (all?) new pacemakers are Bluetooth.  Mine is (4yo).  I can see it on my phone occaisionally (when it wakes up looking for its mate).

Not buying the security scanners either. They're specifically designed so pacemakers don't affect them. Thousands of false positives would be a major PITA.  Scar tissue is irrelevant.

Bottom line: I'm not buying the story.

Skeptical

by Marybird - 2022-01-08 21:16:54

I have the same make, model of pacemaker as Stache reports to have, ie, a St. Jude Assurity MRI + dual chamber, model PM 2272, with Bluetooth wireless technology, have had it for a bit over 2.5 yrs. While I can't vouch for setting off airport scanners, as I haven't flown or even gone near an airport since 2010, and have no plans to fly in the foreseeable future, I have gone into Home Depots, shopping centers, stores and have yet to ever set anything off. That pacemaker bluetooth technology is set up to communicate wirelessly with its paired monitor/ transmitter, period, nothing else. 

I am not sure how it happens but it can . . .

by Gemita - 2022-01-09 01:22:49

Take a look at a 2015 Pacemaker Club link below and it is not just the members posting in the link.  When my husband and I first got our pacemakers (both Medtronic, in 2018) we would regularly set off a few store alarms (particularly supermarkets Morrisons and Tesco).  I felt like a thief too and everyone was looking at me.  It didn't bother my husband.  We have now made friends with the security guards!  

Something has changed because this no longer "regularly" happens, although it most definitely can still occur.  We reported it to the management and told them about our pacemakers.

I guess my main concern would be whether any of this, however mildly, could affect the heart?  Probably not, but IAN MC's comments on effects of electromagnetic radiation on the sinus node in hypersensitive individuals was of interest nonetheless.  If Ian sees this post, may I ask whether your cardiologist ever reported the findings of his colleague's research?  Anything you can tell us on your discussions with your cardiologist would be of interest Ian.  

https://www.pacemakerclub.com/message/28926/tag-alarms-in-shops

Stores

by IAN MC - 2022-01-09 07:41:40

I am reporting in as requested, Gemita ........ your wish is my command !

First of all, while I have never set off a store alarm , I accept totally that Stache has.; It may be his pacemaker causing it, it may not !

The reason I first got a pacemaker ....like many of us ....was because of episodes of symptomatic bradycardia. My heart-rate would suddenly fall to around 35 -40 bpm with an accompanying feeling of faintness

Before ever getting a pacemaker , I attempted to find trigger-factors for these episodes. While most were happening quite randomly, without any doubt entering two particular stores were guaranteed to cause my bradycardia . Within seconds of entering these stores, my heart-rate would fall and I felt faint. One day I re-entered the store several times and reproduced ( and recorded ) the results. I showed my cardiologist these findings and he was quite interested as his registrar was involved in a research project looking at individuals who were hypersensitive to electromagnetic radiation ( his registrar has since moved on and I never did follow it up .).Since getting a PM the 2 stores are no longer a problem.

I see that the World Health Organisation recognises EHS  ( Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity ) as a real condition and interestingly lists " heart palpitations " as one of the symptoms.

I also found that walking through airport metal-detectors had the same bradycardic effect before I ever got a pacemaker.

We should always remember , where hearts ( and  probably pacemakers) are concerned that other people may have totally different experiences  to ourselves,

Ian

IAN MC

by Gemita - 2022-01-09 11:18:31

Thank you for reporting in so promptly Ian. You are well trained.

What an interesting history leading up to your need for a pacemaker and I know you are not the type to imagine these things.  You clearly correlated some of your bradycardia episodes with entering the Stores and you confirmed these also by recording your falling heart rates too at the time.  Now that you have your pacemaker, have you ever noticed any additional palpitations or sudden symptoms when entering the said Stores or are you now completely free from any symptoms?  

I pass through security systems as quickly as possible now to avoid triggering alarms.  I am glad Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity is regarded as a real condition for those who believe they are affected in some way.  I attach a link for any member interested in reading a critical review on this subject.  Thank you again Ian for your help

https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-020-00602-0

Looking into it

by Gotrhythm - 2022-01-09 16:31:48

Very interesting. We have at least two incidences of people reporting that their pacemakers set off store alarms.  

One of those people says it used to happen a lot, but doesn't as often anymore.

Are the pacemakers themselves the cause, or is there some sort of interplay between some pacemakers and some people, maybe that can change over time. 

It seems to me this could be a good subject for a survey. How many others have had the same experience but were afraid to mention it lest they not be believed, of laughed at? We don't know, and we won't know unless we ask. 

A survey on this subject could be useful to our members, and maybe add to the body of knowledge about pacemakers generally.

Gotrhythm

by Gemita - 2022-01-09 18:09:10

I think what might be a good idea is to start off with a Poll with just a simple set of questions which can be kept in view to hopefully get a quick indication of the number of members who might be affected.  If meaningful numbers are seen, then we may take it further.  

Shall we make a list of possible short questions for the Poll, say 5 in number?

It has happened to me...

by stillshocked - 2022-01-09 21:15:43

My ICD has set off some store control devices.   Not as much as it used to.  I would contact my clinic if it happens a lot.   The manufacturer tracks this stuff. 

Interpreting data

by Persephone - 2022-01-10 11:57:20

Interesting issue.  An aspect of attempting to decipher it is the lack of a controlled study.  When I read Stache's and others' comments, I remembered "yeah, there was that time at Target when the alarm went off when I was leaving".  Yes, I remembered the experience, but maybe someone else was exiting at the same time with a purchase where the RFID tag was not deactivated at check-out.  Too many variables, in my opinion.

I'm With Persephone

by Marybird - 2022-01-10 16:04:00

Though I'm too old to say anything but "never say never", I still have to wonder how the folks reporting their pacemakers/ICDs setting off store or airport alarms know that it's their device responsible for the alarm, instead of perhaps a stray piece of metal somewhere on their person or baggage that's actually set off the alarms?

Is it RFID alarms that are going off- as in the shoplifting prevention systems where the chip is removed after purchase, not being removed and getting out the door? That'd be a cross-connection, of sorts, of bluetooth wireless systems, which if it occurred often would need to be addressed by both the RFID manufacturer and the pacemaker manufacturer, I'd think. I haven't had that experience, though I do recall seeing my daughter's pacemaker ( she has a dual chamber Medtronic ) name and some sort of an ID number- I guess it was, come up several times on her car's dashboard monitor on a list of available nearby bluetooth devices, along with our phones. My pacemaker never has done that, though.

 

Gemita

by Gotrhythm - 2022-01-10 16:06:41

I think a poll would be a great place to start. It would be interesting just to know how many people believe they (or their pacemakers) are setting off store alarms.

If you want help compiling a list of questions, count me in.

Poll

by Gemita - 2022-01-11 08:36:13

Thank you Gotrhythm.  Your help would be valuable.   Our PM Club polls only allow for a single question and predefined answers but if we pitch these right we should get some useful feedback.  Have a think and I will too and then we can compare notes.

I agree with others that there are many potential causes for activation of a store’s security alarm system and not always caused by someone walking out with unpaid goods!  

My personal experience though following implant, was that the security alarm of my Supermarket started to regularly sound as I tried to enter or leave the store, particularly if I lingered near the entrance for too long collecting/returning my trolley.  Passing through the security area quickly was less likely to trigger the alarm.  Often there was no one else within the area to account for this happening, so it was natural for me to assume the problem was on me or possibly with my new pacemaker.  

The whole experience was upsetting every time I had to explain to the Security guard that I had a pacemaker and perhaps that was triggering the alarm.  I eventually spoke to management who confirmed that the settings of their security system were highly sensitive and might well be picking up something on me.  Since those early days, I now only rarely have problems with this particularly supermarket but I certainly still seem to be rather too easily activating other store alarm systems for it to be a mere coincidence.  Strange indeed but definitely believable for me.  I will ask Medtronic for their thoughts although I am reassured that no harm will come to me or to my pacemaker.

Anti-theft technology

by AgentX86 - 2022-01-15 01:21:40

Sorry for the late response but I've been busy and had to refresh my memory...

There are three kinds of store anti-theft systems.  Each has its use and it's pretty easy to tell which being used.

1) Electro-Magnetic: A low frequency EM wave is sent to the tag that causes an audio spectrum, which is analyzed and .  The resultant audio spectrum is then sensed and decoded.  The sensor strip is  magnitized to enable and demagnetized to disable.  This is the sort of system a library would use for checkout, since it can be turned on or off by magnetizing or demagnatizing the sensor.  In this example, the sensor is usually insereted into the spine of the book.  There are other uses but it's obvious that this system is in use because the item has to be swiped on the counter, or some such, to demagnitize the sensor.  Because this is done with low-frequency electro-magnetic and accoustical interfaces, and paceemakers are non-magnetic, there is a zero chance of a pacemaker setting this off.

2) Radio Freqency Identification (RFID):  This sytem uses a somewhat higher frequency radio wave to excite a tag, which stores this energy until it has enought to "answer" the querry with some pre-programmed information.  This sort of tag can return information about the item, perhaps inventory number or some such.  The transmission is somewhere arounf 8MHz and is very short range  (perhaps a few feet).  The frequency used is somewhere around 8MHz, where Bluetooth and WiFi are in the 2.4GHz band.  This is 300x the frequency used by RFID tag and is very short range. The tags require a fixed and accurate transmit frequency to couple enough energy into the tag for it to work. These tags are quite large and require the specialized tool to remove without damaging the item.

3) Acousto-Magnetic:  The opposite of Electro-Magnetic, really.  A 58kHz audio signal is passed to the tag which mechanically vibrates two strips in the tags, which then emit a radio wave at the same 58kHz frequency.  A very narrow-band receiver looks for this "exact" same frequency from the tag.  The frequency used isn't anywhere near any tramsmitters used in a pacemaker. Pacemakers don't respond to 58kHz, either.

The bottom line is that a pacemaker is not setting off any of these systems.  Something might be but it's not a pacemaker. These anti-theft systems have improved drastically over the past few years.  False positives are rare, more likely are tags haven't been removed or deactivated.

Whenever such an alarm goes off, I usually just walk on.  They can either detain me (and open themselves up to a massive false imprisonment suit) or let me go on my way (I give 'em a dirty look if they come close ;-). Same for showing receipts. I paid, the item belongs to me, and if they insist on searching me without cause, well... They have to catch me in the act, which isn't going to happen.

Polls

by AgentX86 - 2022-01-15 01:28:26

Gemita,

It's not necessary to do the poll through the club's software.  There are several free sites, like SurveyMonkey, that are intended for this purpose. Medical questions should probably be avoided but things like this could be worded in a way to not even use the word "pacemaker" if people are worried about privacy.

Anti theft technology

by Gemita - 2022-01-15 13:00:47

Thank you very much AgentX86 for your time in setting out the three store anti theft systems.  I note and sincerely “respect” all your comments.  I am going to have to try to adopt your policy of ignoring any false alarms in the future and walk straight on without any embarrassment or fear.  I am currently in discussion with Medtronic and the two supermarkets in question to see if I can throw any further light on this problem so having your information AgentX86 will help me to understand what might be going on.

Unfortunately alarms sounding as both my husband and I enter our two favourite supermarkets has happened to us often enough in the past and continues to occur occasionally.  It is certainly not a rare event.  Security staff have also confirmed to my husband that he is certainly not the only one who tells them about a pacemaker and that he certainly won’t be the last either or the last to be stopped.  Perhaps the metal in the pacemaker is triggering their alarm systems as some elderly shoppers with pacemakers slowly pass through security systems at entrances/exits, since clearly walking quickly through the entrance or exit is less likely to trigger any alarm.

A Poll.  I will ask Tracey_E who is able to set up Polls on the Pacemaker Club, whether we could arrange for a simple Poll to be displayed on this subject as we log on.  This will be much easier than providing a link for another Survey.  All we really want to know is: 

Some members have reported that their pacemakers appear to have set off a Store's anti-theft alarm system.  Has this ever happened to you?

Yes frequently

Yes, once or twice

No, never

We only want to get a general indication of how widespread this problem might be, nothing else at this stage.  

Anti-theft poll

by AgentX86 - 2022-01-15 14:42:35

Hi Gemita.  Perhaps add an answer of "I don't know"?  I couldn't answer the above question as it stands because there would be no way to know if the alarm were set off by a defective/antique sensor, the person next to me "liberating" something, or perhaps a tag that wasn't removed or deactivated. These failures in the system aren't rare.  There are many reasons for these alarms and it would be difficult to assign fault without some work and the cooperation of everyone in the area.

Good point AgentX86

by Gemita - 2022-01-15 15:56:18

I will ask Tracey_E, if she will allow a Poll, to add an answer of "I don't know", for completeness.  Thank you so much for your help once again

Excellent Information

by Marybird - 2022-01-18 14:28:22

Thanks, Agent, and Gemita, for looking into and work on a questionnaire about the setting off alarms issue.

Sounds as though from Agent's information it isn't very likely that a pacemaker would set off the type of anti-theft alarms that he describes, might it be that when it occurs it's because of a metal detector type alarm that responds to the titanium in the pacemaker?  I have no idea how those work, and had only one place ( pre-pacemaker), where I set off a metal detector alarm.

Or any other type of alarm,,for that matter. Not an alarm, but there was still the few times that my daughter's pacemaker was shown on her car's dashboard screen list of nearby wireless devices ( along with our cell phones). That only happened a few times, though. 

You know you're wired when...

You have a dymo-powered bike.

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