S.O.L. with ADT

Over the past five decades, I have made it a practice not to use my television talk shows or columns as a forum for airing personal problems and complaints. I do, however, believe that it’s possible for some universal good to result from exposing certain kinds of individual tribulations. My experience with ADT is just such a case.

ADT is a leader in home security systems, which is evident by the fact that they seem to have more yard signs posted than a campaigning politician (excuse the metaphorical redundancy). Bigger is better, or so I thought 11 years ago when I signed with ADT. In any event, I made it clear then to the ADT rep that my primary concern was fire protection, which he, and the subsequent installer, assured me, would be taken care of. If a fire broke out, the smoke would trigger our ADT detectors, which would sound a shrill alarm to alert any inhabitants, and send an immediate call to the nearest fire station. My wife Pam and I have enjoyed peace of mind ever since, that is, until late last month, when we discovered that what we had actually enjoyed was a false sense of security.

On the morning of July 16, Pam was broiling a few slices of bacon, when all of a sudden she smelled and saw smoke billowing from our new oven. A huge blaze developed (which we later learned was probably caused by some sort of short in the oven element) and the ADT smoke detector sounded off immediately – just as the sales rep had promised a decade ago. As I went to fetch our fire extinguisher, I asked Pam to call 911. I was sure that ADT had alerted the fire department, but I was just acting on instinct, and instinct tells you to call 911 in these kinds of situations. About five minutes later, a half dozen fire trucks arrived. By then I had managed to put out the flames, nevertheless, Captain Chris Pope had his men make a thorough inspection of the premises, then bring in huge fans to blow the smoke out of our house, which looked like a scene out of the movie Backdraft.

I can’t say enough good things about the Kernersville Fire De- partment. They arrived in a timely fashion, and were thoroughly professional and proficient. At the time, I was also having similar thoughts about the folks at ADT. After all, it was their monitoring that brought the firefighters to our aid. Our security system had worked. There was no real damage to the house, everyone emerged unscathed (except for the ends of my hair which were singed by the oven flames), and the money I had paid to ADT for the past 11 years was money well spent. Or so I thought.

Several days later when the dust had settled, it occurred to me that no one from ADT had ever called the house to see how we were, either during the fire or afterward. I had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The thought occurred to me that KFD responded solely because of Pam’s 911 call, and not to any alert from ADT. I subsequently called and spoke at length with KFD Captain Bowman and asked him to retrieve any and all logs and computer read-outs from the morning of July 16. His findings were conclusive: ADT never monitored the smoke detector alarm, and never called anyone to summon help. I spent the next day speaking with several ADT representatives, each of whom confirmed what Captain Bowman had told me. Said one rep, “I’m not seeing anything from July 16 for a fire.”

Suddenly that sick feeling I had earlier just got worse. I realized that if ADT had failed to respond a few days ago, then chances are they would have failed to re- spond on any other day since our service began.

I naively believed that ADT would issue a sincere apology and offer to refund every cent I had paid them for the past 11 years. That didn’t happen. And so I cancelled my “service” with ADT, and called Caudill’s Security, a local, second generation company with a stellar reputation. They had a new security system installed in less than 24 hours, and their technicians gave me their mobile phone numbers in case we ever had concerns or questions, day or night.

Meanwhile, I went online to research ADT, and read of numerous instances in which other people had similar experiences.

I also read through ADT’s website which states, “In your home, anything less than continuous and accurate fire and smoke monitoring is unacceptable”. I almost choked when reading those words. Or maybe I was still choking from the smoke that ADT didn’t report.

So what lessons have I learned from this harrowing experience that I can pass along to others? First of all, make sure you have a working fire extinguisher located on every floor of your house, and check them periodically to verify if they’re full. Also, make sure every member of you family knows how to use the extinguisher. The second lesson is don’t sign up with ADT, and, if you already have, cancel your service, and hire a reputable locally owned company.

By the way, ADT’s slogan is, “Get security you can count on every day of the year”. I guess July 16 just wasn’t their day. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).