Highland Park ordinance unlikely to start trend

Friday, June 1, 2007

HIGHLAND PARK, Texas--Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association, said Highland Park's new fire ordinance is the only one he's aware of "where a city requires a homeowner to install a fire alarm system [up to NFPA 72 standards] under a city ordinance and even goes a step further requiring homeowners who install a burglar alarm system to install a fire alarm system as well."
Highland Park is in a position to do what other communities would not consider because "I don't think there's a single resident there that's not a multi-millionaire. You cannot even buy a piece of property there for under a million," Russell said.
"Requiring homeowners in a lot of communities to buy a system that can cost $1,000 or $2,000 is not the same thing as requiring that of a millionaire," Russell observed.
The Highland Park public safety department does its own alarm, fire and medical monitoring. Residents may use an outside monitoring company, but the $27 monthly monitoring service is provided and billed to the 10,000 residents here along with their water bill.
Larry Gentry, alarm coordinator in Highland Park, said the ordinance enjoyed 100 percent support from the council. One of the motivations behind the ordinance, Gentry said, was a desire to ensure alarm installation is done by licensed installers. In the past, when residents have done remodeling, they had unlicensed contractors install fire alarm systems.
"The objective is to make sure that the people who do the work have the license to support it," Gentry said. "You can't just bring someone in to do construction then have them pulling wires the next day. If you do the fire system you've got to have the license. If you do the burglar [alarm system] you have to have the license to do that."
Gentry said he worked with Russell to get the word out to area installers.
"On the positive side, I believe Highland Park will become one of the safer cities as far as damage caused by fire, and requiring alarms to meet codes benefits area alarm dealers who install, maintain and inspect fire and burglar alarms," Russell said. "There's a definite upside to forcing [homeowners of] more expensive homes to put in fire alarms, and there would be a definite upside if everyone in the world could afford that," Russell said.
Where else might a similar ordinance pass? "Maybe Hollywood?" Russell said.