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Comments on the ADT wrongful death house fire case / call list notification
February 7, 2020
Comments on the ADT wrongful death house fire case from January 28, 2020 article / call list notification issue discussed
            As usual, great article on January 28, 2020 on the merits of good contracts, something many don't understand or think is important to make sure contracts are written correctly and actually signed by the subscriber. I did want to make a clarification so that everyone understands technically what occurred with respect to ADT and its central station.  The article seems to infer that ADT got a fire alarm and fully cleared the event and that's why a tragic loss of life occurred.
            In fact what happened is that ADT did not install a fire alarm system. The ADT system installed was a simple intrusion detection system with no fire/smoke sensors at all.  What happened that night was that ADT received a tamper signal for a glass break detector and later an expansion module trouble, both pre-defined in the E300 series of the contact ID range as trouble signals, which, as most of you know, troubles would normally notified  either by SMS, EMAIL, Push Notifications or a phone call.  In this case ADT did call everyone on the call list to tell them that they had received trouble signals.
            The actions ADT took were correct in this case and the case should have been dismissed, but it does call into question another issue, one of them being the caller ID presented on the phone when ADT called.  The plaintiffs stated that that call came up as “unlisted” but there is no elaboration on whether this was a home phone or cell phone. Today most central stations I talk to, including big and small ones, have anywhere from 65% to 75% of all calls made to premises and call list numbers go to voice mail.   At Rapid we run at 73%, despite all that we have done for custom caller ID and CNAME lookups in order to make is easier. Clearly there needs to be some work done in this area in order to get notifications to users quickly and efficiently, continuing to call when we are only successful 25% of the time seems like a big waste of resources to me.  Both technology and user training need to adjust to the current trends of American citizens which will include Enhanced SMS, Email and push notifications to apps.
    Keep up the good work.
Morgan Hertel, VP of Technology and Innovation
Rapid Response Monitoring
            If that homeowner had any sense they should have sued for lack of smoke coverage.  National companies, and a lot of smaller companies, seem to be ignorant companies / sales people wanting an easy sale so they can run to the corner national company and sell the paper.  They sell these systems and give away a free smoke detector not properly monitoring the premises per NFPA 72 fire code creating a death trap.  I have heard these homeowners who buy these systems believe that smoke travels to the highest part of the house because they were told that by an ignorant sales representative from the national company that does not know any better.  If this person who sued for wrongful death knew any better and if this house was typically to 90% of the other end users homes, then they could have sued for improper coverage.   But hey I’m not their lawyer.  
Eddie Harden, President 
Prestige Alarm and Specialty Products, Inc.
Fire Alarm Business 25 years
Trussville, Al
            Lucky for you, not their alarm company either.  Morgan makes a good point that the alarm system apparently did not include any fire detection devices and the signals received were trouble signals, responded to within industry standards.  Of course the significance of the case for the alarm industry is that the contract provisions held up and insulated ADT from liability, even if negligent.
            Eddie makes a great point as well.  Companies need to be careful when installing professionally installed and monitored alarm systems, especially considering all the hype in advertising and websites.  Note that the Court in the ADT case mentions that the contract saved ADT from all that hype, but, believe me, it could have gone the other way.  How many homeowners have prevailed on alarm companies to install “just one smoke detector at no additional cost” and then think they have full fire alarm protection?  
            You must protect yourself by using properly drafted and executed contracts.  The Residential All in One should be used in a residence and you should also be using the Disclaimer Notice, especially when you are installing a system you know is not NFPA or code compliant for fire alarm, or deficient from a custom, practice and manufacturer recommendation for other systems.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301