ADT Lawsuit (failed to notify fire department...)

While ADT (and other security & safety monitoring companies) has a million customers and so the odds of something going wrong sometimes are greater than zero; a story like this sure reiterates that monitored security isn’t a sure thing.

I wonder if the exact detailed statistics are published anywhere or if they would be revealed upon discovery in this suit - though it will almost certainly be settled out of court, unfortunately.


That one just looks like human error. Sadly, it happens, even with 911 operators: sometimes the system does everything right but a human clears the alert when they shouldn’t have. It’s a tragedy, and of course ADT should be held accountable, but I don’t think it changes anything much.


Really want to put my two cents in here as a security install specialist. It occurs to me from reading the article that ADT likely never received what they called an “alarm response.” The building was on fire, and the first signal they received was from a glass break sensor. Anyone working in the industry is well aware that if the cover of any device is popped open, the system will send a tamper signal to the monitoring center. High temperature likely caused the tamper to trip, which is what sent the signal. Protocol for a system fault isn’t the same as an alarm signal. Would you want authorities contacted when a battery gets low on your system? No you wouldn’t. The article never stated she had fire/heat sensors that sent signals, and therefore it makes perfect sense that the operator would simply clear the alarm in the middle of the night sense they couldn’t get ahold of the owner. It likely wasn’t an alarm, it was a trouble on the system.


I wouldn’t say “it makes perfect sense”.

While I have not read the text of the actual Lawsuit, the article summarizes 2 key points

  1. There was an alarm for a “broken glass window” 90 minutes before the manual 911 call. The failure to escalate this to authorities is a concern, unless non-escalation for burglary attempts is in accordance with the monitoring plan purchased by the Customer.

  2. The second “alarm [sic]” (2 minutes later) may indeed have just been a system-fault (“failure of the keypad”) report. The basis of the suit, however, is that ADT fraudulently misrepresents what should happen in this scenario. Of course, the details matter (the wording of advertising, sales representatives, and the actual contract) and will determine the merits of the case.

This was not a “low battery” report - it was “a failure of the home system’s main keypad” that happened 2 minutes after a glass-break alarm. Don’t tell me what I would or would not want from authorities in this situation: Indeed, I absolutely would want authorities contacted (after the standard verification phone call to owner / family process). A home invader / burglar (i.e., presumably whoever broke the glass window to enter the home), could quite likely follow that entry with brute force destruction of the keypad in an attempt to disable the alarm system.

Again, this depends a lot on the details of the contract and services promised. If the promised protocols and services were not provided, it is hopefully a rare situation - but steps should be taken to prevent “human error”, such as requiring a supervisor to clear an alarm in cases where nobody can be contacted.

But one reason I’m posting this here is as an alert to consumers who purchase monitored security & safety services, that they need to read their contracts (and options?) extremely carefully and understand the limitations of the promised services.

I would be interested in reading the actual contract in order to determine if the expectations implied by the lawsuit are actually reasonable or not. Does the contract, for example, state what exact procedure(s) are to be followed upon a “glass break alarm”? Does the contract state what procedures are followed upon a “keyboard failure”. Does the customer have the option to upgrade these procedures? Do the sales reps and installers have an obligation to recommend fire/smoke sensors and get informed consent of the customer to positively decline such sensors (initials on the contract; such as one does when declining optional insurance on a rental car)?

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I think it might come down to the alarm being “Armed” or not. If Armed “Home” or “Away” and the glass break sensor alerts, then I expect my paid alarm service to call me and the backup. If no answer, then they are obligated to notify the authorities.

My paid security service does call me and request verbal password if the smoke detector or glass break sensor alerts even if the alarm is not armed home or away. I was surprised by this and kind of wondered why. They don’t call for open/close sensors or motion. I’m not sure they are obligated to notify authorities of smoke/glass if the alarm service is not armed?

So yep, the legal devil is in the details/contract and knowing if the alarm was armed or not when the tragedy happened.


@tgauchat, I haven’t read the article yet, but was this one of the “SmartThings” ADT systems?

Not likely, the events occurred in 2016.

ADT received two alarms at a burning Topeka home in August 2016.

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@JDRoberts, that’s good.

No… This isn’t about the SmartThings “ADT Security Hub” specifically.

But the “lessons learned” apply to all monitored security & safety systems: i.e., read the contract and be sure to use a reputable central monitoring supplier, or otherwise consumers might as well not spend the money.

The lessons apply. I was just curious/worried this was a ST/ADT recent article… like I said I hadn’t read it yet.

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