New false fire alarm ordinance could cost offenders $1,000

Friday, July 31, 2009

FLUSHING, Mich.—A new false fire alarm ordinance slated to go before the Flushing City Council for final approval on Aug. 10 could end up costing offenders $1,000, and—according to one industry professional—could be the start of a trend. The ordinance had its first reading and approval at the July 13 city council meeting and, if approved at its August meeting, will take effect around the beginning of September.

The proposed ordinance will impose the hefty citation beginning with the third violation in a calendar year.

According to Flushing City manager Dennis Bow, the ordinance’s stiff fines are an attempt to recoup the cost of unneeded fire department dispatches from the worst offenders. “There are a few complexes in the city that have as many as three runs a month. That’s where the problem is. They have very sensitive alarm systems … Often if they’re burning toast it automatically calls 911,” Bow said, explaining that while the ordinance will cover both residential and commercial buildings, single-family homes will most likely not be dramatically affected. “I can’t remember where a resident has had more than two runs during a year—most people don’t have one during their entire existence—but to have more than two a year gets a little costly.”

Industry liaison Bill Cooper is chairman of SIAC’s Coordinated Alarm Reduction Effort. Cooper said this sort of steep fine is something he’s seeing more of out in the field in his work for the CARE program. “It may be a developing trend, and I say that with the thought in mind that more and more cities are looking for—I don’t want to call it a money grab—but they’re looking for sources of funding to replace losses in revenue and declines in budget,” Cooper said. “And while this one is extreme, one can understand their plight. If somebody has three false fire alarms, maybe they ought to take the steps necessary to correct the problem.”

Bow said as of yet there were no industry representatives involved in the creation of the ordinance.