September 2007 - Posts
New Jersey fire officials are proposing retroactive fire sprinkler installations be required in all business and residential high-rise
occupancies. The state is the first in the nation to propose such a requirement, according to a newspaper report.
“Most fire departments have ladder trucks that can go up 75 feet. Above that, the only way for firefighters to get access is up the stairs lugging everything,” Fire Commissioner Arthur Londensky told the The Star-Ledger. Londensky is also president of the New Jersey Fire Protection & Prevention Association (NJFPPA). http://www.nfsa.org/index2.htm
To illustrate his point, firefighters ignited waste paper cans in two tiny model bedrooms. The first room was engulfed in 1,000-degree flames in less than three minutes, faster than firefighters might arrive at the scene, the newspaper reported. In the second demonstration, a fire sprinkler doused the flames in 30 seconds.
The state Department of Community Affairs is considering the proposal to require all high-rise buildings be fitted with full systems.
Palm Beach County in Florida has shown a reduction in false dispatches following a statewide law governing burglar alarm response. The law calls for Florida dispatchers to use
Enhanced Call Verification
(ECV), the practice of calling two phone numbers before dispatching police to an alarm.
When implemented on July 1, 2006, Florida became one of the first states in the country to require such a practice. Since the implementation of ECV, according to statistics, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department reduced its dispatches from 12,712 between October 2005 and December 2005 to 8,802 during the same time frame in 2006.
“We made some additional changes to our alarm policy, but I’d estimate that 80 percent of our dispatch reduction is attributed to ECV,” said
Palm Beach County Deputy Charlie Mosher. “The change has allowed our officers to spend more time in trouble spots and become more proactive on their patrols.”
According to the Alarm Association of Florida, most counties in the state are showing a reduction in false dispatches.
Utilizing state legislation to reduce alarm dispatches and maintain police response is a growing trend throughout the United States. A year ago,
Rick Parry, Texas governor, signed into law an alarm bill establishing a framework for permits, fines, new equipment standards such as the
SIA CP-01 and a requirement for public hearings before cities can consider suspending response.
Investigators with the Autauga County Sheriff's Office in Alabama continue to gather scant evidence and follow slim leads in an attempt to stem a flood of burglaries and thefts that have plagued citizens in the county's rural areas for several months.
Capt. Joe Sedinger said Thursday that sheriff's investigators, along with patrol deputies, are doing everything within their means to put an end to the rural crime wave.
"People need to remember, too, that times have changed," Capt. Sedinger said. “They can't leave their doors open anymore. It's a shame, but you just can't trust everybody like you used to."
Capt. Sedinger also said there are at least two effective deterrents that may be employed by those who wish to prevent theft of their property. "I've interviewed several professional burglars, and they tell me they try to stay away from houses where there is a burglar alarm, or where there is a dog.”
The International Association of Fire Chief's Fire and Life Safety Section (IAFCCFLSS) issued recommendations regarding
the best technology for smoke alarms based on a study conducted by Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Protection Association's Fire Protection Research Foundation.
The study identifies differences and advantages to the two types of alarms in detecting smoke. Both ionization and photoelectric detectors are sold the public for residential installation. It is recommended that dual alarms using both technologies be installed for maximum protection.
"We recognize that many departments in the United States have residential safety programs where they offer and install alarms at no charge," said Steven Westermann, IAFC president. "We suggest departments continue their programs with the alarms they have on-hand, but we recommend that they upgrade to the dual-technology devices when it’s time to restock.
"Life safety is an integrated strategy. Use the information in the FLSS position paper as part of your education plan to your community. Offer this as part of a comprehensive residential fire-protection program that includes integrating family-escape plans, proper usage of smoke alarms and installation of residential sprinkler systems," he said.
IAFCCFLSS presents its detailed recommendations in a position paper, which was reviewed and approved by the IAFC board of directors. To view the position paper,
Third-party administration of permitting, fee and penalty programs for burglar alarms can increase revenue and reduce municipal man hours needed to oversee Enhanced Call Verification programs, its adherents maintain.
St. Louis reported that false alarms have been reduced 28 percent from June 2005 to June 2006 while third-party administration of the alarm permitting and penalty process was handled by
APB Services LLP, Chesterfield,
Charlene Deeken, executive assistant to the director of public safety for the City of St. Louis said, “If other cities are trying to manage a false alarm program, and I understand everybody is, then they might consider some legislation like this.”
False alarm reductions from 30 percent to 40 percent, according to ATB’s president, Michael Zelesnik, have been realized across the country. Zelesnik maintains municipalities that allow three free false alarms have lower reduction rates because 70 percent of customers who have false alarms have no more than three.
Zelesnik and Dan Stocking, ATB’s government relations manager, think that cities do better by enforcing – and outsourcing – their alarm permit fee and fine programs than going to verified response or non-response.
“We’re not aware of any city that uses alarm administration that has gone to verified responses or non-response, because their problem is being handled,” Stocking maintained. “Only in the last five or six years has third-party [administration] been developing in that area. The vast majority (of people) is not even aware that (such a) solution is out there for them. Once they hear from you, they generally will go with third party, because they virtually have to do very little work.”
But Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association, does not see the connection between using improved alarm administration to offset a move toward verified response. “Third party administration has to do with collection of fees and fines,” Russell noted.
Reported Henry Edmonds, APB’s chairman and CEO, “Cities that have gone to verified response have let the police lead the charge. If they understand there is an alternative that does work, the citizens want the police to respond, and the citizens elect the politicians,” he said. “It’s important to talk to people when the issue is being discussed rather than after a decision is made. There are a lot of benefits to the [enforcement] approach, and if they understand those benefits, they may change what they’re pushing for.”
The owner of a Dallas convenience store fought with a burglar who he caught in the act when he arrived to verify an alarm.
A burglar broke into The Top Mart convenience store through a roof-mounted air conditioning unit, which triggered a burglar alarm. "When he came through, he kick it down. Everything came down," said Amjad "Abdul" Aziz, who owns the convenience store with his two younger brothers.
Aziz’s brother, Mohammed Sharif, arrived at the store at roughly 4 a.m. to verify the burglar alarm. He opened the store's iron gate and front door only to come face-to-face with the crook. Sharif recalled, "I opened the door and I go inside. Somebody jumped at me."
Luckily, police arrived on the scene very quickly. They had already seen Sharif near the store at this early hour and had stopped to investigate, thinking that he was a burglar.
Video from a surveillance camera shows Sharif and three police officers struggling to handcuff the suspect. Sharif is grateful that he only hurt his arm.
By an 11-4 vote earlier today, the Dallas City Council repealed the verified response alarm program that was approved by the council a year ago and continued to be endorsed by Dallas police chief David Kunkle.
The change, which had been championed by Mayor Tom Leppert, means that beginning October 1, 2007, Dallas police must respond to all business alarms as opposed to requiring verification that an actual burglary is occurring.
Earlier this week, Leppert said the reason to repeal the ordinance was that Dallas was losing business relocations to other cities because of business' concern about the policy. “I think it's also important that we send a message that this is a council that is going to deal with decisions. We will continue to look at all the issues ... but at the same time we need to make a decision on this because this is not a good policy."
Police Chief Benny Womack said that although false alarm calls for both the fire and police departments are decreasing, he wants to remind his constituents that there is an ordinance requiring residents and businesses to obtain a permit and levies fines for excessive false alarms.
As of July 2007, two years after enacting the ordinance, there has been a reduction in false alarms of almost 25 percent.
“The message I want to convey is the ordinance is working and for citizens to continue their efforts to reduce the incidence of false alarms, and for newcomers to our community to be aware an ordinance does exist requiring them to fill out an application for an alarm permit and pay the $15 fee for a residence or $25 fee for a business, good for three years.”
The permit allows for five false alarm calls within a one-year period. A sixth false alarm call will incur a fine of $100. Each additional false alarm within a calendar year will increase by $25.
Schools and churches are exempt from the $100 fine after the fifth false alarm, but they are required to pay a $25 fine for each additional false alarm the same as a residence or business.
Kathleen Merryman, columnist for The News Tribune, says fines are too high for alarm systems that – gasp – call the police when the sensors say something is amiss. Excerpts taken from Merryman’s September 1, 2007 column titled “A high fine for alarms is what’s truly
In the 20-plus years we’ve lived in our home, we’ve been burgled and prowled at least eight times.
We call 911. We wait outside for a deputy. We ask neighbors if they’re OK, and if they saw anything. We give the deputy a tour of the mess and an idea of what’s not there any more.
We listen to the deputy tell us our stuff probably won’t be coming back. And we should buy an alarm system.
The first one wasn’t connected to a call center. It just made a lot of noise, enough to alert neighbors. It didn’t work, because the jerk who broke in picked a time when the neighbors were gone.
Buy an alarm system connected to real people, the deputy advised.
So we invested in the system and make the monthly payments on it.
At first, it did what every new system does. It revealed its little problems and the things we did not know about it. It went off when a Valentine mylar balloon migrated to the dining room. A friend with a key forgot the code.
We pay. We learn how not to set off a false alarm. We’re pretty typical.
Now our system is working as we hoped it would: It has gone off for no apparent reason.
By that I mean that it scared away the bad guy, or guys.
The problem is that whoever was trying to steal our stuff was not kicking in a door. He was jimmying a screen. Smart criminal. Anyone driving by would notice someone trashing a door. But a guy fiddling with a window could be making repairs.
We found the screen, reported it and avoided a fine.
We were lucky. The burglar left a clue.
Had he not, we’d have been out $250. Though the alarm did what it was supposed to do, it would have been ruled false.
But I object to fining people for installing alarms. They pay for these systems because officers tell them it’s the right thing to do, for their protection and that of the community.
Then, when the alarms work and scare off the bad guys, they get a bill.
The Pierce County Council members will consider reducing the false alarm fine from $250 to $100 at its Sept. 25 meeting. When they do, they should ask whether these are sloppy calls, or the alarms doing their job.
They should vote against fining people who are doing what they can to fight crime.
Tennessee has become the second state in the country to follow a new trend that some herald as a modern solution to redirecting police resources.
On May 15, Gov. Phil Bredesen
signed a law requiring the entire state to implement Enhanced Call Verification
“What started out as a state law in Florida last year is proving to be a trend for false dispatch reduction across the country," said Glen Mowrey, national law enforcement liaison for the
Security Industry Alarm Coalition. "Most agencies have had limited success with other policies in the past, but the proliferation of cell phones has made ECV the best solution for the future."
The idea behind the law is that alarm monitoring companies can be highly effective in identifying false alarms by simply calling a second phone number when the first call goes unanswered. SIAC claims ECV, combined with the alarm industries best practices, can reduce dispatches by more than 70 percent. Tennessee's law enforcement executives say that will help save their limited resources and allow them to redirect officers to more pressing needs.
"As public agencies, we are always limited on our resources," said John Lowry, president of the
Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police. "We're excited that our officers will now be able to spend their time more efficiently than responding to too many false burglar alarms."
"We were already working with municipalities across the state to implement local ECV policies," said Penny Brooks, executive director of the
Tennessee Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. "When we heard about Florida's idea to make it a statewide law, it seemed like a no-brainer."
The new law will improve Tennessee's ECV resolution passed two years ago. The previous law was based on the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as the
National Sheriffs Association's
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