Missouri House Burns Down – ADT Never Received Fire Alarm Signal

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Following up on the “No alarm company is perfect” theme, here is a sad tale about a Missouri woman who lost everything when her house burned down. While the alarm company in question happens once again to be ADT, the real point of today’s post is to draw the important distinction between “old school” systems and the next- generation alarm services offered by the smaller, nimbler companies – like FrontPoint.

Kim Conner spent six years turning a 1930’s-era barn into a home, doing much of the work herself. Her efforts were even featured on the HGTV television show “Re-Zoned.” But she says that she was awakened in the early morning hours by the wail of her bedroom smoke detector. “As I headed downstairs, I could see flames coming up the front wall,” said Conner, who managed to escape and called for help from her cell phone as she watched her home burn to the ground.

What Happened

She says that the fire started in the corner of a utility room, just 20 feet from an ADT fire alarm system that never went off. “I had no reason to believe it wasn’t fully functional,” said Conner, who says that ADT told her that they had no record of a fire at her residence. “I told them I paid them for eight years to protect my property and my life and that they had failed me, and all the lady said was, ‘Well, I do apologize for that.'”

What We Don’t Know

It’s possible that the system had no monitored smoke or heat sensors – especially since ADT has normally charged more for fire monitoring, even though it does not increase a company’s monitoring costs to do so. ADT also charges a premium for the fire detection sensors themselves. The customer’s statement does indicate that the system was equipped for fire monitoring, which in this case did not work. It is also possible the fire prevented the alarm system from communicating, which is more likely if the system relied on a traditional phone line, which most ADT systems do.

After the Smoke Cleared

ADT’s response is very interesting, and I want to respond to the points they raised in a statement to FOX 4 about the Conner fire:

“We recommend that anyone with an electronic security system test their system periodically to ensure it is communicating properly with the customer monitoring center. If a customer has a question regarding their system, including instructions on how to properly test it, we encourage them to call 1-(800) ADT-ASAP.

While monthly testing is standard alarm industry advice, and is even written into most monitoring agreements, few homeowners test their system in such a disciplined manner. Some of today’s advanced systems that rely on GSM cellular monitoring are auto-tested every day, and will report any communication failure immediately. We know, because that’s the way Alarm.com technology works – and Alarm.com is the cellular foundation of every FrontPoint alarm system.  

“To help provide an added layer of protection, ADT recommends customers use an additional or secondary method of communication, such as a cellular back-up, to help assure alarm signals are transmitted to an alarm company’s central monitoring station.”

Recommending cellular monitoring (which requires higher equipment costs and significantly higher monthly rates with an ADT system) after the fact is all well and good, but again, the great majority of ADT systems happen to be phone-line based – and are just as vulnerable to phone line cuts and other threats as the system that failed to work in this situation.

FrontPoint strongly recommends the addition of monitored fire detection to every household alarm system, at no extra monthly charge. Plus, our wireless smoke and heat sensor costs only $64.99 – a fraction of what you’ll pay with other companies – and you’ll probably save that amount on homeowners insurance in the first year. We want every FrontPoint system to have at least monitored one smoke and heat sensor: why take a chance when we’re in the business of protecting homes and families? One more reason why FrontPoint is the nation’s leader in interactive, wireless home security – it’s just the best alarm system you can find.

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