October 2007 - Posts

Fire Alarm Goes Off During 'Conan' Show

Talk show host Conan O'Brien's show had an unscripted bit Monday night – a fire alarm.

O'Brien did a routine early in the show about emergency evacuations, including how conjoined twins would be able to leave the studio.

But about halfway through "Late Night," an electronic fire alarm could be heard in the studio. 

O'Brien told the audience it wasn't part of a bit. He feigned outrage and said, "Do they know we're taping a f-ing show!" (Click here for video posted to YouTube.)

A little later, the program was interrupted again by the building fire safety director on the PA system giving the all-clear.

Leawood, Kansas Turns to Enhanced Call Verification

The Johnson County Sun (Kansas) reports that false alarms in the city of Leawood will be subject to a new fine structure and new alarm response requirements. 

The city council voted to update an older 1994 ordinance that started fines on the fourth alarm. The updated ordinance makes false alarm reduction efforts a bit stronger. The alarm industry-endorsed protocol of Enhanced Call Verification has been selected by the city, and the city also reported standardizing alarm panels. Upon the second false alarm, alarm system owners will need to attend a False Alarm Prevention course. Upon the third false alarm, fines will be levied. 

According to The Johnson County Sun, "more than 75 percent of residents and businesses had no false alarms in 2005."

Ohio Passes Licensing Law

The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that requires the licensure of persons who perform security, fire/life-safety and locksmith services. The bill also requires background checks of licensees and mandates training requirements. 

The bill (HB 41 Security Licensing), which is supported by the Ohio Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (OBFAA), will now proceed to the state senate. OBFAA says it will continue to work with Representatives Joe Uecker and his aide Sheila Ross to lobby for the passage of the legislation. 

To view the complete text of the bill, click here.

Ohio Township Votes to Implement Fining System for False Alarms

After a work session Monday, October 15, trustees of Liberty Township in Ohio voted to implement fines for multiple false alarms at a business or residence. The measure was designed to curb repeat offenses when possible, officials said.

A $50 fine would be assessed after the fourth false alarm in a calendar year, $100 for a fifth false alarm and $150 for any false alarms after the fifth occurrence.

Police are First Responders to Fires in NJ Borough

Although a New Jersey borough has been successful in cutting down on firefighters’ response to false alarms by mandating that Princeton Borough Police respond first to fire alarms, is this the right thing to do?

Passed unanimously in March by the Princeton Borough Council, the ordinance requires police to respond first to calls received from residences and businesses served by central monitoring stations. 

The change has come as relief to the three-station Princeton Fire Department, which Station 63 Deputy Chief Truestar Urian called, "one of the most active in the county."

Mr. Urian said the ordinance has prevented firefighters from rushing to "situations where no fire department response was really needed."

According 2006 statistics, nearly a third of calls from single- and two-family dwellings were false alarms. Still, that means more than 67 percent were real fires. By delaying response, damage caused by fire growth had the opportunity to increase exponentially.

One scenario that raised concerns before the ordinance passed was that the system would delay firefighters’ response to real fires. Another was a concern about sending police into harm’s way without the knowledge or gear to be able to provide help. "You have somebody responding to a possible five-alarmer that doesn't necessarily have any training at all," Mr. Urian said.

We’d like to hear what you have to say about this ordinance.

Enhanced Call Verification Credited for Reduced False Alarms

In a memo to city councilmen, Police Chief Robert Petrovich credited a new city ordinance put in place in 2004.

“It is with pleasure that we report that the number of false alarms has dropped 55.54 percent since the program’s implementation.”

False alarms in Cape Coral dropped 26.8 percent between April 1 and Sept. 30, according to Chief Petrovich. From December to March, false alarms declined 54 percent, Petrovich previously reported. 

The program has raised more than $610,000, Petrovich said. But he said there are greater savings than that in the decline in police time spent responding to false calls.

'Verified response' policy neither fair, safe for citizens, says Jimenez

By Richard Jimenez, who is president of the Inland Empire Alarm Association. 
The following editorial appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

As of Oct. 1, the Fontana Police Department made an administrative decision to stop officer response to burglar alarms. Whether or not this is a good decision, the public should have been allowed to provide input on this very important public safety change. Here's why. 
According to the new "verified response" policy, if alarm users want police to respond to their business, school, church or home burglar alarm, they need to verify a crime has been committed first. They can do that by responding to the alarm themselves, paying a guard service to respond or purchasing an alarm system that includes video/audio verification. Is that safe or fair? As president of the Inland Empire Alarm Association, I don't think so. If you agree with me, you need to speak out. 

Supporters of verified response suggest that the alarm industry should be responsible for verifying all alarm activations. However, that is not our business. Our job is to provide citizens with equipment that notifies someone if there might be a problem. What they do with that information is up to them. Unfortunately, 70 percent of alarm users make the dangerous choice of responding to their own alarms under a "VR" policy. 

Let's be clear about one other thing from the beginning: the alarm industry's opposition to verified response is not self-serving. We have been called a "special interest group," but the only interest we serve is that of our customers and general public. We have nothing to gain by repealing verified response. In fact, many alarm companies actually make more money because of the policy. (We upgrade systems or provide additional verification services.) The only reason we're fighting this policy is because we've seen the negative effect it's had on other communities and we, as experts, know better alternatives. 

That doesn't mean we are anti-police. The Police Department does a great job and Fontana Police Chief Larry Clark is making what may seem to be a smart business decision. I respect his efforts to use taxpayer dollars efficiently. The problem arises when business decisions and budget analysis jeopardize public safety and the core purpose of the Police Department. 

The fact is that the chief's staff has some wrong information, or at least not all of the information needed to best manage too many calls for service. The Fontana Police Department is not the first to struggle with this issue. It is, however, one of only 30 in 18,000 to take such drastic measures as stopping police response to alarms altogether. 

When the city of Los Angeles faced the same problem in 2003, it created a task force to look at solutions. After the most extensive study of verified response to date, they decided it was not a good policy. Instead, Los Angeles used other policies to significantly reduce its calls for service. Smaller cities such as Olympia, Wash., have also used the alarm industry's suggested policies to reduce calls for service by more than 70 percent. 

In contrast, the city of Dallas decided to give verified response a try in 2006. A year later the city repealed it because it discouraged economic development and put the public in danger. 

Supporters of the policy will argue that it saves police resources so officers can address more serious crimes. The reality is that a simple alarm permit fee can raise enough funds to pay for additional officers who can accomplish the same goal. 

Supporters will also quote an outrageously high "false alarm rate" as good reason to implement verified response. This number, however, is completely illegitimate. It does not consider alarms that scare burglars away, and it barely changes no matter how much anyone reduces "false alarms." In actuality, it would be best if all alarms were "false" because that would mean the equipment prevented a crime. 

Of course, the policy will reduce alarm responses if its very function is to stop response. Still, that does not mean there is less of a need for police service. Despite what numbers proponents may have used, the policy does not reduce crime. (See the FBI's Web site.) All verified response does is take away a very valuable commodity: your sense of security. 

The alarm industry is in the process of challenging this policy in court. If you want us to help you, you need to voice opposition. The bottom line is that the public should decide whether or not Fontana can afford verified response. I urge you to contact your City Council member and get them to add the issue on the public agenda. Invite input from all parties to find the true solution for Fontana. 

In the meantime, do your own research here: www.PleaseRespond.org.

Waco Burglary Wave has Merchants Seeking Cellular Backup

Burglars who disable security alarms are striking Waco, TX, merchants, and industry experts urge stores and restaurants to arm themselves with backup cellular systems.

Darvin Little said his jewelry store in West Waco was hit a month ago by burglars who silenced his alarm by cutting his phone line. They also cut into his safe, on which they wrote a message in black marker: “The Waco bandits strike again.”

Earlier this week, intruders disabled the alarm at George’s Restaurant & Catering and made their way inside, police report. George’s owner Sammy Citrano declined to comment other than to say: “If someone cuts your phone line, you have no security. As a spokesman for the Waco Restaurant Association, I’m telling members they need a backup. I’m telling all businesses they need a backup.”

James Nix, part-owner of Ambold’s Key Lock & Alarm, said he has seen a surge in burglaries. “No matter whose alarm system you have, it is only as reliable as the phone service,” Nix said, adding that burglars are cutting outside phone lines in some cases to disable the alarms.

Businesses and homeowners can help themselves by having a backup cellular system that transmits signals over cell towers.

“A lot of people aren’t aware they need this backup, and when you try to explain it to them, they don’t pay attention,” Nix said. “We’re going to include fliers in our billings.”

Professional thieves might be able to enter a building protected by a regular alarm system and a backup, Nix said, but odds are against them, and they’d need to be familiar with a building’s interior.

Woody Stroud, owner of Stroud Security Systems, said he has noticed an uptick in orders for backup cellular protection.

“We’re getting calls from businesses that have had problems,” Stroud said, adding that stores and restaurants that have had their alarm systems disabled are at the mercy of intruders.

Reno Council Adopts Enhanced Call Verification to Reduce False Alarms

The Reno City Council Wednesday approved changes in the City’s alarm ordinance to help reduce the number of false alarms that result in impacts on police resources that would otherwise be available for emergency and other real calls for service

The nearby city of Sparks already has a similar ordinance. Officers there say they've seen a 25 percent decrease in false alarm calls since the changes went into effect last year. Reno police hope once the ordinance is in place, the number of false alarm calls will go down 50 percent within a year.

Doug McPartland, Reno patrol commander, said the number of false alarm rate in the city has held steady for the past 10 years. "Our goal is a 40 (percent) to 60 percent reduction in false alarms."

The alarm ordinance revision that was approved by the Reno City Council includes the following to take effect on February 1, 2008: 

• Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) requiring alarm monitoring companies to make two attempts to contact a responsible party for the alarm site to determine validity of an alarm. 

• Requirements for every alarm user to have a permit with a $25.00 annual fee and an annual $25.00 permit renewal fee. The alarm permit rate for senior citizen residential alarms systems will be $10.00. This will include residences and businesses connected to a central alarm station as well as those with only audible alarms that are not connected to a central station. 

• A $100.00 fee for each false alarm at an unregistered site. 

• A $75.00 fine to the permit holder for a false intrusion alarm. 

• A $200.00 fine to the permit holder for a false robbery or panic alarm. 

• An appeal process for permit holders assessed fines for false alarms. 

• Alarm installation and monitoring companies will be required to provide user training to residents and business owners with alarms on the alarms systems and the prevention of false alarms. 

• An acclimation period for new alarms systems due to the high rate of false alarms with new systems. 

• Other requirements include those dealing with permit/response suspensions for repeated false alarms at a location; permit/response reinstatement requirements for inspection and repair of systems, completion of on-line false alarm awareness classes; requirements that alarm control panels meet industry specifications; a 90-day information period from the point of adoption of the new ordinance that provides for alarm companies to notify alarm users of the new fees and permit requirements.

Awaited ‘Official’ AMPS Advisory Issued by FCC

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a long-awaited advisory on its Web site alerting consumers about the advanced mobile phone service (AMPS) “Sunset” date. 

The FCC established Feb. 18, 2008, as the date cellular carriers will be released from their obligation to continue operating analog wireless networks. 

The ability to reference a formal advisory from the FCC can greatly help alarm companies in their attempts to explain the AMPS issue to customers, says Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC). 

“Alarm companies now have an official FCC proclamation about the AMPS transition that they can provide to their customers in printed form or by referring them to the FCC’s Web site,” Fiore says. 

Much of the advisory is based on language suggested by the AICC, including: 

“According to the alarm industry, out of a total 26 million installed alarm systems, there are approximately one million systems that use analog radio equipment. Wireless alarm systems installed before Spring 2006 generally used analog equipment.” 
For a link to the FCC advisory, click here.

Non-Response to Motion Sensor Caused by Fire Leads to Extensive Damage

On September 17, Zaxby's on East Tennessee State University went up in flames believed to be caused by an electrical fire.

"At 3:30 a.m. they had a burglar alarm, but they didn't respond. They called the owner and he didn't want anybody to respond because he had been having trouble with his alarm system," said Johnson City Operations Chief Roger Teinert. 

Teinert believes the burglar alarm was activated by motion the fire caused inside the structure.

Maine Adopts Latest NFPA Fire and Life Safety Codes

The state of Maine has adopted the latest edition of several National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire and life safety codes

They are: NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code™ (UFC); NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems; NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code®; and NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®.

NFPA codes are widely used across the United States. The latest adoptions set fire and life safety requirements for new and existing buildings in the state of Maine.

Restraining Order Denied for Fontana Alarm Verification Program

A temporary restraining order against the Fontana Police Department's policy requiring security alarms be verified before officers are dispatched was denied Thursday. 

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville rejected the request by the Inland Empire Alarm Association. "The court determined that the petitioners did not come in timely enough for a (temporary restraining order)," said Arthur Fine, attorney for the alarm association. A court date to decide the issue has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 29, Fine said. 

The association and Fontana resident Barbara Bartel filed the lawsuit Monday against Fontana and the Police Department in an effort to halt the so-called verified response policy.

Starting October 1, 2007, Fontana officers will no longer respond to house or business alarms unless the alarm or monitoring company verifies the need for assistance. 

Fine said the department's decision to stop responding directly to alarms should be a legislative decision, rather than one made by the Police Department. He said that since 1968 an ordinance has been in existence that requires police to respond to burglar alarms. 

"The burglar-alarm order calls for a police response," Fine said. "It is for the City Council to decide if they don't want a police response."

Residents Protest Fontana’s New Alarm Policy

FONTANA, CA - Residents with burglar alarms, along with representatives of the private security industry, told the Fontana City Council on Tuesday night that the Fontana Police Department's new policy on responding to alarm activations would erode public safety.

Starting Monday, October 1, 2007, the police department will switch to a method called "verified response.”

The change doesn't sit well with several residents who addressed the Fontana City Council on Tuesday and at its last meeting, on Sept. 11.

Wayne Ruble, a retired Fontana Unified School District administrator who served on the Fontana school board from 1985 to 2006, said he's been burglarized several times at his home near Alder Middle School.

Ruble said his insurance company told him they would cancel his homeowner's policy if he didn't have alarm protection, Ruble said.

The Inland Empire Alarm Association, a trade association based in Riverside, filed suit Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court, seeking a writ that would prohibit the Fontana Police Department from instituting the "verified response" policy.

The lawsuit also seeks a court determination that the policy is illegal and unenforceable.