Dansville native, security employee Heather Madonia visits family she helped save from fire

Madonia, of Dansville, receives an award for her role in aiding a Joplin, Missouri, family's escape from a house fire.

Chris Potter
The Evening Tribune
Dansville native Heather Madonia is presented with ADT's LifeSaver Award outside the Joplin, Mo. home she helped save as the Whitlock family and Joplin first responders look on.

DANSVILLE — Heather Madonia hails from a close-knit family in Dansville with a tradition of service. 

Her father, Malcolm Jarvis, is a former chief of the Dansville Fire Department who remains active with the volunteer outfit. Madonia took a different path, but, through her role as a dispatcher with ADT, she is also on the front lines of public safety — albeit sometimes from a thousand miles away. 

Such was the case Feb. 23, 2020 when Madonia summoned lifesaving aid for a family in Joplin, Missouri, from her work station at ADT’s national monitoring center in West Henrietta. 

Last week, a year to the day, Madonia traveled to Joplin to meet the family and receive the LifeSaver Award, the highest honor from ADT, a private home security company. The recognition event was held at the family’s home, recently restored after the fire.

“We can’t jump through the phone to help them. All you have is your words, and that’s it,” said Madonia. “It’s very rewarding to go and meet the family. It was an opportunity as an individual and a company that we could tell them how much they’re appreciated as well. They were wonderful, very appreciative. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was a great experience.” 

Dansville native Heather Madonia at her ADT work station while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Madonia has been with ADT for close to 10 years, but that February night will forever be etched in her memory. A smoke alarm in the Joplin home triggered a high-priority alarm at ADT that came in around 12:30 a.m. A monitoring video shows the aggressive fire leaping from the porch to the interior of the house, where a 5-year-old child was sleeping on a couch just a few feet away. 

Madonia coolly and calmly went to work contacting the family and local first responders on the ground in Joplin. 

“We have a one-touch system. Seconds are critical, and we respond accordingly,” she said. “We worked on the call list. This happened so quickly and so much was going on.” 

Madonia said a Joplin police officer was in the area and also called in the fire, helping the kids get to safety as the flames spread inside the home. 

“Between that, my notification and the neighbors being alerted, the fire department’s response was four minutes, which was amazing,” she recalled. “They had a great response. The home had significant damage, but they were all able to get out. The kids were amazing. Mom and dad were nearby and they came right away. There was a dog in the back area of the property and everyone was out safely.” 

The Dansville police and fire departments sent a patch with Madonia to share with their Joplin counterparts in a sign of solidarity. Madonia credited the family’s smoke alarms and ADT monitoring system with making the difference. 

Dansville native Heather Madonia is embraced by Amanda Whitlock after receiving ADT's LifeSaver Award outside the Whitlock family's Joplin, Mo. home she helped save.

“It’s like a relay race. Everyone has to do their portion and then you pass it off to the next team member,” she said. “We do our thing with the monitoring and alarm systems. Smoke detectors are critical. I have a first responder family, so I know how important that is. A monitored system has an added bonus because if you’re not home and you have a pet at home or someone who is immobile, we’re calling out to you to make you aware. There’s just a much quicker chance of something turning out positively.” 

The structure was repaired and the family of four returned to the home in December. For Madonia, meeting them was more confirmation that she is working in the right field. 

“I feel very invested in trying to give back or contribute. I’m kind of wired in the sense that I like to be on my toes at the keyboard,” Madonia said. “I love to work with people. I’ve dealt with escalations and people that are stressed and scared. I’ve been on the phone with children and elderly people that can’t hear or they’re afraid. I’ve had fire alarms, medical alarms, burglary alarms, you name it.” 

The Whitlock family of Joplin, Mo. outside their home. Dansville native Heather Madonia was presented with ADT's LifeSaver Award for her actions when a fire broke out at the Whitlock home in February 2020.

Madonia has been working from her home in Dansville for much of the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She will often receive 150-200 calls per night. 

“You have to be ready. Most of them are false alarms, thank goodness. You just don’t know,” she said. “I may take 200 calls and the last one or the very first one could be something serious. You have to treat it strictly according to our training because you just never know. 

“It’s a sobering reminder that monitoring is essential. Smoke detectors are a really big deal. Keep your batteries charged. It could have turned out very differently had the protection not been there.”