Family loses everything after fire alarm fiasco

Alarm never sent signal

VALRICO, Fla. - A Valrico family is asking what went wrong after their home and everything they own went up in flames. 

Hillsborough County Fire Investigators blame an electrical problem for the blaze that consumed Pamela Noto's home. The fire destroyed pictures and everything else that can't be replaced, including the family's beloved pets.

For the Notos, who were not home that night last August, a burning question lingers.

The family paid ADT for fire coverage, but when it mattered most, the alarm failed them.  A history report the Notos say they obtained from ADT shows their panel never sent a signal to the customer-monitoring center.

We spoke with three security experts, including Pierre Bellemare.  He says when problems do occur, any one of multiple factors, including bad wiring, programming errors, or a faulty phone line connection can disable an active alarm.

Bellemare's company and others are increasing their use of cell phone technology, which is considered more reliable than land lines.  But the number one action he recommends for alarm owners is to make sure they test their system regularly.

That same history report indicates that neither the company nor the customer tested the system since late 2010.   But a test conducted in 2010 showed it was working after the family switched phone services.  

We asked the past president of the Florida Alarm Association to look at pictures of the alarm panel and wiring, post-fire.  Bob Worthy told us it was programming problem.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

I emailed ADT pictures of Noto's alarm along with the expert's opinion, and asked for a response.  

In an email, ADT responded. "Our technicians made numerous attempts to schedule a service call to investigate her case, but were refused access. We always recommend our customers test their systems at least once a month and any time they change their phone service provider to ensure they are connected to our alarm monitoring centers."

Now if you want to test your own system, it is simple.  Contact your monitoring company, ask them to put your system on test, and they can walk you through their testing procedure for any portion of your home system.  The company will let you know if there are any problems.

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