Sacramento, Calif. looks at false fire alarm ordinance

SSN Staff  - 
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Fire department officials here want to start fining businesses and homeowners whose alarm systems habitually going off when there is no emergency, according to an April 18 story in the Sacramento Bee.

Captain Jim Doucette with Sacramento City Fire says false alarms take firefighters away from any real emergencies that may be happening.

The city's Law and Legislation Committee is scheduled to discuss an ordinance April 22 that would levy fines on businesses and homeowners whose fire alarms go off in error three times or more. The first false alarm would result in no action, and the city would send a warning letter to property owners after a second false alarm. The third false alarm would result in a fine of $350. Fines for a fifth false alarm could reach as high as $450, a city staff report shows.

False alarms represent roughly 15 percent of responses by the Fire Department, about 8,700 calls a year, a staff report states. Nearly half of those false alarms are caused by lack of maintenance.

“Response to automatic fire alarm system false alarms resulted in fire stations being unavailable for actual emergency response hundreds of times last year,” the staff report states.

Other cities—including Fresno, Roseville, Stockton and Yuba City – have programs similar to the one being proposed in Sacramento.

If approved by the committee, the proposed ordinance would be passed on to the City Council for adoption.