Alarm Ordinance Watch
Suffolk City Council on May 6 heard an update on the false alarm reduction program the city is implementing. The ordinance requires alarm system vendors and owners to be registered with the police department and with Alarm Tracking and Billing (ATB), a third-party company engaged to track and bill repeat false-alarm offenders. Alarm system vendors will pay a $100 registration fee annually, while users will pay $25 annually. There also are fees attached to false alarms. The ordinance allows registered alarm owners one false burglary alarm without a charge. After that warning, the second false alarm can result in a $25 fee; the third, $50; and the fourth or subsequent, $100. For a false robbery or panic alarm, the first gets a warning; the second, $50; the third, $100; and the fourth or subsequent, $200. For those who aren’t registered, every occurrence of a false alarm can cost $100. Fire and medical alarms are not included in the false alarm reduction program. Billing for false alarms began June 1. Suffolk has an online class to learn how to reduce false alarms available at www.atbservices.com/suffolk.
According to an April 29 story in the Romeo Observer, the village of Romeo Police Department has amended the alarm system ordinance with tougher guidelines that will penalize homeowners and businesses for frequent false alarms. Under the old ordinance, six false alarms were allowed in a calendar year, Chief Greg Paduch told the Village Board at its April 20 meeting. Now, only two false alarms will be permitted without a fine. Paduch said in the past it wasn’t unusual for police to routinely respond to the same business three to five times per month. Under the new ordinance, a letter will be sent to the business or homeowner when they have reached two false dispatches. On the third false alarm, they will be fined $50, the fourth will carry a $100 fine, the fifth will be $200 and the sixth will be $300. False dispatches six and up earn a fine of $500. Offenders have 30 days to pay the fine. The board voted to approve the amended ordinance 6-0.
The San Diego city council on April 20 approved dozens of fee increases, including those assessed for false alarm dispatches. The city council approved the bulk of the $6.7 million in fee increases sought by Mayor Jerry Sanders in an effort to help close a $60 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year. The penalty when police respond to a false burglar alarm at homes and businesses will rise, though the exact dollar figure of the fee increases approved by the city council was not immediately available. The fee increases will raise as much as $2.6 million for the San Diego Police Department alone. SSN
The Dayton Daily News on April 1 reported Dayton Fire Department officials were saying large high-rise commercial and residential buildings downtown are the biggest culprits of why they make more false alarm runs than actual fire runs. The sizes of the buildings mandate a large dispatch from the department; which includes four stations and at least four vehicles, including a fuel-guzzling ladder truck. The DFD pushed hard for city commissioners to pass a fire ordinance that fines repeat offenders. The ordinance calls for a written notice if crews respond to two false alarms at the same location. The third false alarm in a year warrants a $50 fine and the fourth is a $100 fine. The fines go all the way up to $250. The seventh time, the fire department is allowed to disconnect from the alarm system.
IREDELL COUNTY, N.C.
The Statesville Record & Landmark reported on March 31 that beginning April 1, false fire alarms will mean the possibility of a fine. An ordinance, adopted by the Iredell County Board of Commissioners, will impose civil fines on what are called excessive alarms - more than three in a 12-month period. The city of Statesville instituted a policy of charging for false alarms a number of years ago. The fine process is as follows: One to two in a 12-month period: no fine; three to four in a 12-month period: $50 civil penalty; five to six: $100; seven or more: $250. The alarm ordinance effects every business, home, church, factory or any other type of occupancy that has any type of automatic or manual fire alarm system. The money collected through fines will go back to the volunteer fire department whose district includes the building where the alarm is activated. There is an appeals process that assures an appeal will be heard by at least two members of the Iredell County Fire Tax Board, a group which includes one commissioner and other members appointed by the board of commissioners.
GARDEN CITY, N.Y.
The Garden City News Online reported on March 27 The Garden City Board of Trustees voted to implement fines and fees related to false alarms. In a revenue-enhancing move, false alarm violators will receive a $50 fine if there are three within six months. There will also be an annual $75 registration fee for residents and $100 for businesses to have an alarm.
The Bedford Police Department issued notice March 10 it intends to enforce more stringently a 1981 ordinance regarding fines for false alarms. According to BPD Chief Dennis Parsley most false alarms are generated by problems with equipment. “A number of alarm holders have been advised of problems with their alarm systems but have yet to address and correct the problems. This results in constant false alarms which present an unacceptable danger to officers and citizens alike.” Parsley re-established the Alarm Board, a three-member panel authorized to oversee alarm use. The board decided to allow alarm owners until June to resolve their issues. At that point, only three false alarms will be allowed per 12-month period. A service charge of $25 will apply to the fourth and fifth alarms. Following that, each false alarm costs $50. Parsley noted alarms triggered by severe weather conditions will not be counted.
A March story from Greenwich Time reports the town is looking to increase it’s take for services provided. For example, there were $85,250 in unpaid fines levied by the town for false fire and burglar alarms as of Feb. 9, according to the report. Selectman Lin Lavery said the town should consider charging interest on unpaid fines, which it currently does not, and raising fees for false alarms and to register security systems. The town currently charges $10 to register an alarm. Residents and businesses are allowed one false alarm per year without being penalized, with the fine schedule starting at $50 for a second false alarm, $100 for the third, $150 for the fourth and $200 for each subsequent infraction. “Just looking at this one item, the first thing I would do is raise the fees,” Lavery said. The number of alarms registered in Greenwich is currently 6,734. The fine for failing to register is $20, which Lavery and some members of the Alarm Appeal Board also want to raise.
LAKE ALFRED, Fla.
The Ledger reports a new law tentatively approved in February would subject Lake Alfred businesses and residences to fines of up to $500 if police or firefighters respond to multiple false alarms from private security alarm systems. City commissioners approved the proposed ordinance 5-0, and it was scheduled for a final vote March 2. The law requires obtaining an annual $25 permit for a business or home alarm system, according to City Manager Jan Shockley. Failure to register could result in a $100 fine. Up to three false alarms in a year would not result in a penalty, but the owner would be subject to a $50 fine if police respond to the fourth and fifth false alarm. That increases to $100 for each of the next two false alarms, $250 for the eighth or ninth incident and $500 for the 10th false alarm or more in a year.
The Warren Record reported a new county law that went into effect Feb. 16 could start costing you money if you have an alarm system. Under the false alarm ordinance adopted earlier this month by the county commissioners, Warren County fire departments and Emergency Services will provide a maximum of two free false alarm responses to alarm users in each calendar year. Additional false alarms responded to may be charged a user fee. In addition, the ordinance makes it illegal for anyone to activate an alarm without just cause. Fees charged for false alarms over two per calendar year are $50 each for alarms three through five and $100 each for alarm responses over five. Alarm users will have 72 hours to appeal to the Warren County fire marshal if they feel their alarm was justified. The fire marshal’s decision is final. All alarm users started with zero alarm responses as of Feb. 16, the date the ordinance went into effect.
CHERRY HILL, N.J.
The CourierPostOnline.com reported on Feb. 13 The Cherry Hill township council had good reason to significantly increase the fine for false alarms. False alarms have been a problem for township emergency responders, particularly police, and some businesses and homes have been repeat offenders. The township hopes a $1,250 fine to help motivate those business owners or homeowners who haven’t gotten around to fixing their malfunctioning alarms to do so. The ordinance approved 7-0 by the council Feb. 9 only applies to repeat offenders - those businesses or homes where there are more than three false alarms in a month. The fine for those repeat offenders had been $350.
The city of Annapolis is considering a new false alarm ordinance. The Website hometownannapolis.com reported two city aldermen, Alderman David Cordle, R-Ward 5, and Alderman Sam Shropshire, D-Ward 7, introduced legislation at a City Council meeting Feb. 9 that would impose fees on repeat offenders in false-alarm calls. Under the proposed city ordinance, two false alarms may be incurred during a revolving 365-day period. Upon the third, fourth and fifth false alarm, the resident or business owner will be assessed a $100 fine. The fine increases to $200 after the fifth false alarm. Aggrieved residents and business owners will be able to appeal to a board established by the Annapolis Police Department, which will administratively review a petitioner’s claim for relief.