Alarm Ordinance Watch

SSN Staff  - 
Sunday, March 1, 2009

YUBA CITY,

The Appeal Democrat reported Yuba City is getting stricter on false burglary alarms to free police department resources. The Yuba City City Council voted 4-0 on Feb. 3 to adopt an ordinance to repeal and re-enact the security alarm systems chapter of the Yuba City Municipal Code. The ordinance allows residences and businesses only three false alarms every 365 days before facing fines, compared to the two free false alarms allowed every 90-day period under the current code. The ordinance is intended to encourage residents to try to fix problems causing false alarms.

BRISTOL, Tenn.

The Bristol Herald Courier reported the City Council on Feb. 3 settled on a service fee for excessive false alarms that is much lower than what the city’s police and fire departments actually lose when they respond. The issue underwent more than a month of debate, leaving some members of the public, as well most city officials and council members, unsure of what fees would be appropriate. In the end, the council unanimously approved a range of fees - not with the intent to recover all costs but with the aim of making people aware there is a problem. Owners of automatic alarm systems in homes and businesses that initiate an emergency response will be handed a bill for $25 for any verified false alarm beyond three in a 12-month period. That rate will remain the same for up to six false alarms. On the seventh, the fee increases to $50, and after 10 or more false alarms are verified in a 12-month period, the fee goes to $75. The new law went into effect Feb. 20.

ATLANTA

PBA Online, Atlanta’s PBS station reported on Jan. 21 the City Council hopes to squeeze $3 million from people who have multiple false alarms at their homes or businesses. On Jan. 22, the 15-member city council voted unanimously in favor of increasing fines and simplifying the penalty process regarding fire and burglar alarms. The City of Atlanta has long had penalties for multiple false alarms, but since 2005, it has gathered no false alarm fine revenue. Councilmember Anne Fauver said in a statement that police were administering the program, and they basically stopped giving citations. Fauver is behind the proposed ordinance, which she thinks will help the city out of its current budget hole. The ordinance gives a pass the first time a false alarm goes off. But after that, penalties range from $200 to $1000. Under the ordinance, citations would be enforced like traffic tickets through the city’s municipal court, and would allow for appeals.

AUBURN, Wash.

The Auburn Reporter reported on Jan. 14 that members of the Municipal Services Committee were reviewing the latest draft of the city’s false alarm ordinance.

Some of the many recommendations for the revised ordinance are a charge of $100 for each false burglar alarm, $200 for each false holdup, robbery or panic alarm (while false alarm fees will ultimately be charged for every false alarm, during an initial education period the fee for a first alarm will not apply under the ordinance); a requirement that alarm companies train all of their operators well enough to limit the number of mistakes; a requirement that all alarm users or alarm companies make two verification calls - the first to the location of the alarm, the second a follow-up to a second line - before calling 911 or other emergency responders. The Municipal Services Committee estimates 194 alarm companies would be affected. Installers of new panels would also be required to incorporate new technologies into the control panels to cut the number of false alarms. The revision would not require a modification of existing panels. A $24 residential and commercial annual registration fee and $12 senior discount.

LOS ANGELES

The Los Angeles Times on Jan. 12 reported Los Angeles City Council’s public safety committee

approved a policy requiring alarm companies to make sure every homeowner and business owner who installs an alarm has submitted the required permit and paid a $31 fee before the alarm is installed. More than 90 percent of Los Angeles burglar alarms are false, City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said in the Times, and LAPD officers burn up 15 percent of their time responding to non-emergencies. Last year, the city collected more than $8 million in false alarm fines, Greuel said. Fines begin at $115 for each false alarm handled by the Los Angeles Police Department.

MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa.

According to the Daily item, a new alarm ordinance was passed in October by Mahoning Township supervisors and requires residents to register their alarm systems and ultimately face penalties for false alarms. The ordinance took effect Jan. 1. Letters were distributed to homeowners and landlords noting that alarms should be accounted for. The scale of fines rises for each incident: a warning notice will be distributed for the first two events; events three and four result in a $100 fine; events five and six will result in $150 fines; events seven and eight a $200 fine; event nine a $250 fine; and from event 10 and on owners face a $300 fine.

MONTREAL

According to a Jan. 8 story from the Westmount Examiner, the city of Montreal Fire Department was to begin charging repeat false fire alarm offenders as much as $2,700. According to the article, apart from the cost in wasted resources, fire department officials are also concerned that occupants of buildings where there are repeated false alarms may eventually begin to ignore an alarm’s signal to evacuate. The new ordinance was to go into effect Feb. 1. Owners of alarm systems that have produced two false alarms in 12 months will receive a bill from the City of Montreal. The amount to be paid, ranging from $100 to $2,700, will be determined by the number of interventions and the type of building where the alarm went off.