DEFENDERS INVESTIGATION: Slow response times in home alarm systems


by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

Posted on December 23, 2013 at 11:40 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 27 at 4:21 PM

AUSTIN -- If you own a home security system, you expect a quick response. That’s not what one woman recently experienced when she needed it to work the most.

For the first time in 55 years, Larue Jones will spend Christmas without her husband, Terry.

"It was like we were Velcro together. We had made the remark that we were going to set the record for longest married and stuff," said Jones.

They never got the chance. The morning after Christmas last year, the electricity went out in their home in Wimberley. That meant Terry's oxygen machine stopped working. He suffered from a chronic lung disease and needed that oxygen to live.

His wife's first thought was to rush to the kitchen to find the ADT alarm system panel. She pressed ADT's medical emergency button several times and waited.

"It was for them to call me and ask me about the problem, but they never responded," said Jones.

When the alarm system didn't work, she called 911 herself on her land line phone. According to an ADT event history report obtained by the Defenders, the alarm company called her cell phone while she was at the hospital at 8:29 a.m., more than an hour after Jones pressed the medical keypad four times.

"I just looked at it that they didn't hold up their end of the bargain," said Jones.

The KVUE Defenders found this isn't the first time ADT customers have complained about a slow response from their home security system. In 2011, a Detroit couple claimed ADT never called them after its alarm system went off.

To demonstrate, they intentionally set off the alarm for a reporter and waited for the company to call. It never happened.

"The response time is not surprising at all," said Kent Morrison, an Austin security expert with more than 20 years of experience.

Morrison said home security systems can provide a false sense of security if homeowners rely solely on their alarms.

"Any kind of two- to four-minute response is just movie stuff. That's not real life," said Morrison.

The KVUE Defenders called and emailed ADT asking for an explanation on what went wrong with the Jones' system. In a two-sentence e-mail, a spokesperson in Florida did not address Jones' complaint, writing "We always encourage customers to use a primary and a back-up form of communication, such as [a] cellular [phone], to connect their alarm systems to ADT's monitoring centers and to regularly test their systems."

A few hours after arriving at the hospital, Terry Jones died. While his wife said she doesn't know whether ADT's delayed response contributed to her husband's death, she's still frustrated the only time she needed it to work, it didn't.