November 2007 - Posts

CSAA Welcomes Input on Audio Verification Technology Standard

The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) is soliciting input from industry professionals to develop a standard in Audio Verification Technology. A special standards subcommittee, led by Peter Giacalone of Giacalone Associates LLC in Farmingdale, N.Y., has developed an initial draft of the proposed standard. 

“Although I believe it contains the essential elements required, I also believe that the draft needs additional details,” Giacalone said. “I have personally drafted the existing document based on the limited input I have received and would really like to have a broader and more diverse group provide some to their experiences to this document.” 

Giacalone added he is confident a standard can be created with the participation and input of additional interested parties. 

To view the current draft of the standard, click here.

For further information on the standard or to participate, contact Peter Giacalone at peter@petergiacalone.com or call (201) 394-5536.

Massachusetts Sprinkler Law Deadline Passes

One entertainment business has closed in Chicopee, MA, and several other venues have been given more time to comply with the state's new sprinkler and fire alarm system law. 

The law went into effect on Nov. 15, 2007, and requires sprinkler and fire alarm systems in nightclubs, discos, bars and other entertainment venues that have an occupancy of 100 or more. Ten businesses in the city were required to meet the requirements of the law, which was set up in the wake of the 2003 blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., that killed more than 100 people. 

"They are required by law to have the sprinklers in there," Deputy Fire Chief James P. McInerney said yesterday. "Either you cooperate or you go out of business. You need to follow the letter of the law." 

McInerney said several of the venues that are in the process of complying with the law are behind schedule because area contractors are inundated with work. 
"In three months we will re-inspect," McInerney said. 


Since the Mount Pleasant, Iowa, city council last met with officials from Iowa Wesleyan College in late September to address the issue of false fire alarms at the college dorms, the college has seen one more incident.

As a result, members of the council's ordinance committee argued it was time to begin leveling fines against the college and any other sources of repeated false alarms.

"It's costing us money, and it's costing us morale," said council member Steve Engberg, who sits on the ordinance committee. "You're not going to make them do anything unless it costs them."

No decision was made on the amount of the fine to be imposed, with suggestions ranging from $100 to $500. It was also suggested the fines might increase with each successive false alarm. City administrator Brent Schleisman estimated that it cost the fire department at least $200 to respond to any alarm.

The ordinance committee will take up the issue again at its Nov. 26, 2007, meeting.

"The problem is with students; you can fine Wesleyan all you want - they'll keep pulling the handles," said council member Matthew Crull.

Engberg said the college ought to install breakable glass boxes around the alarms if necessary. "I don't want their problem to become our problem," he said.

Officials from Iowa Wesleyan declined to comment directly on possible council action, but said the college was addressing the issue.

College Town Seeks False Alarm Fines

Since the Mount Pleasant, Iowa, city council last met with officials from Iowa Wesleyan College in late September to address the issue of false fire alarms at the college dorms, the college has seen one more incident.

As a result, members of the council's ordinance committee argued it was time to begin leveling fines against the college and any other sources of repeated false alarms.

"It's costing us money, and it's costing us morale," said council member Steve Engberg, who sits on the ordinance committee. "You're not going to make them do anything unless it costs them."

No decision was made on the amount of the fine to be imposed, with suggestions ranging from $100 to $500. It was also suggested the fines might increase with each successive false alarm. City administrator Brent Schleisman estimated that it cost the fire department at least $200 to respond to any alarm.

The ordinance committee will take up the issue again at its Nov. 26, 2007, meeting.

"The problem is with students; you can fine Wesleyan all you want - they'll keep pulling the handles," said council member Matthew Crull.

Engberg said the college ought to install breakable glass boxes around the alarms if necessary. "I don't want their problem to become our problem," he said.

Officials from Iowa Wesleyan declined to comment directly on possible council action, but said the college was addressing the issue.

10-Year Life Cycle for Smoke Detectors

Home owners have a lot of decisions to make when buying smoke alarms. But an unscientific test conducted by kgw.com revealed there is not a big difference between the kinds sold in Oregon. 

When testing five alarms purchased at Portland hardware stores, all of the alarms went off within seconds of each other. The Portland Fire Bureau gave kgw.com access to a fire training room in northeast Portland. Fire education officers lit a pile of hay in the room, quickly filling it with smoke. In repeat tests, the alarms all went off almost simultaneously. 

Those results did not surprise firefighters. 

“If they’re bought off a shelf in Oregon, they’re going to be Oregon compliant and they’re going to have performance like we’re seeing today,” said Don Porth, Fire Education Officer for the Portland Fire Bureau. 

Oregon state law requires all smoke alarms come with ten-year batteries. Also in Oregon, alarms that use ionization sensors must have a ‘hush’ feature to prevent users from removing batteries following false alarms. Those two restrictions are credited with eliminating cheaper, less-effective alarms from Oregon retailers. 

Kidde and First Alert are the two main smoke alarm suppliers found in Oregon. Each offers alarms with photoelectric or ionization sensors. Photoelectric alarms respond better to fires with flames while ionization ones are better at detecting smoky, smoldering fires. 

“It really doesn’t matter which one you put in. They’re both good choices. It’s more important that you have one than you select a certain type,” said Porth. 

Porth also said a new alarm is always going to work better than an older model. He cited this result from a National Fire Protection Association test: “A smoke alarm, when it reaches the age of ten has lost a great deal of it’s effectiveness and really should be disregarded and replaced.”

Pierce County, WA, Set to Pass Verified Response Policy

The Pierce County (Washington) Council on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, will consider reducing fines for false burglar alarms. Here’s what you need to know:

THE FINE: The fine for a false alarm would drop from $250 per call to $100.

THE REASON: The county imposed the $250 fine in 2005 to discourage false alarms, which divert sheriff’s deputies from other duties. 

WHAT'S NEXT: The council will consider an ordinance reducing the fines and requiring alarm companies to verify the alarms by one of the following methods:
• Contacting the alarm site and speaking to someone.
• Confirming by real-time video or audio monitoring.
• For a newer system designed to reduce false alarms, confirming that at least two independent alarms have been triggered.
• For an older system, confirming that two or more alarm signals were triggered over a certain period of time.

Under the proposed rules, deputies will stop responding to a site after three false alarms, though there will be an appeal process to reinstate law enforcement response.

Long Beach Implements New Fire and Building Codes

The Long Beach, California, City Council unanimously approved the first round of Building and fire Codes for all projects submitted for approval as of January 1, 2008. 

Uniform codes have been replaced with International Fire Code and the International Building Code as the new model codes for California. Other codes that were also adopted are:
• electrical codes 
• mechanical codes 
• plumbing codes 
• California Historical Building code 

Per the City of Long Beach, local amendments to the California Fire Code will include:
• All new commercial, industrial and nonresidential buildings that require two or more exits, or that are greater than 3,000 square feet, shall be protected by an automatic sprinkler system. 

• All new multi-family (3 or more units) residential, hotels, motels and similar buildings shall be protected by an automatic sprinkler system. 

• All new single-family dwellings and duplexes greater than 4,000 square feet or more than two-stories in height shall be protected by an automatic sprinkler system. 

• All existing multi-family residential, hotels, motels and high-rise buildings shall upgrade the existing fire alarm system to current code, at the time of replacement of the existing non-functioning fire alarm control panel. 

• Partial automatic sprinkler systems are not allowed. Where automatic sprinkler systems are required to be installed by this section, or by any other sections in this code, the automatic sprinkler system shall be installed throughout the entire building. 
• Fire apparatus access roads shall have an unobstructed width of not less than 26 feet, and an unobstructed vertical clearance of 15 feet. 

• Fire apparatus access roads shall have a minimum inside turning radius of 28 feet. 

Final approval is scheduled at the next Long Beach City Council meeting.

Controversial New Haven Burglar Alarm Proposal Changing

The New Haven, Connecticut, Police Department is re-working a controversial proposal on burglar alarms that never made it past Board of Aldermen committees in 2004 and 2005. 


Police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. in 2004 proposed an ordinance amendment that would have barred police from responding to burglar alarms unless they were verified as real beforehand. That idea was staunchly opposed by residents, the security alarm industry, several aldermen and the police union.


Ultimately, the plan was rejected by the aldermanic Joint Legislation/Public Safety Committee.


A year later, Ortiz submitted language that would have set a flat $99 fine for each false alarm and maintained city cops as first responders to private alarms. That has since languished in committee.


The latest iteration would impose fines ranging from $0 to $250, depending on the number of times false alarms recur at a particular address. Alarm companies would have to pay a $200 license fee annually and subject their employees to mandatory background checks.


Police would still respond to security alarms as a priority-one call, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts said.


The earlier versions of the legislation "did not go over very well," Smuts said, but a solution is needed because false alarms are draining police resources. "It takes the equivalent of eight full-time officers over a year to respond to false alarms," he said.


Enforcement would cost more than the city expects to recoup, he said. "This is not necessarily to get revenue," Smuts said. "The goal is to reduce the number of false alarms."


The graduated fee structure gives homeowners an opportunity, he said, to fix any glitches in their alarm system and to attend workshops to get one charge waived.


The police department would generate notices to property owners and if they do not pay the penalty, the matter would be turned over to the city's corporation counsel's office, according to the plan.


The aldermanic Finance Committee held a recent workshop on the newest proposed terms and will hold more meetings in the future before and if any action is taken.


A study of alarm patterns conducted in 2003 showed police responded to 11,000 bogus alarms. The Office of Legislative Services, which provides staff support to the virtually volunteer aldermen, conducted an independent review that showed 41 percent of the false alarms occurred at city-owned buildings.

Canon, CO City Council Revamping Alarm Ordinance

On November 20, 2007, Cañon, Colorado City Council approved the first reading an update to the city’s laws regulating third-party alarm system companies. The changes address the management and licensing of alarm companies and monitoring businesses that provide service to residential and business locations. 

Owners and partners of such businesses will now undergo an individual history record and criminal record check. A business permit will cost $250 annually. In addition, the city will begin actively enforcing a $25 penalty for the fourth false alarm during any calendar year to a single alarm site, and $50 for each false alarm in excess of four. 

“Some people are not particularly cautious,” said City Clerk Becky Walker. “We do get many false alarms.” 

Walker and Cañon City Police Chief Dan Shull collaborated on the updated ordinance. 

“We are helping our citizens recognize and know who it is that is monitoring the safety and security of our residents and businesses,” Walker said. 

Councilman Dan Brixey questioned the local fire district’s possible participation in reimbursement for responding to false alarms. Walker will investigate and report back to council before it votes on second reading on Dec. 3.

Greenville, NC Alarm Rules are Surprise to Some Who were Fined

Greenville's new false-alarm ordinance has surprised some residents and business owners like a thief in the night.

The program requires users of residential and commercial burglar and security alarms to register the systems with the police department so officials know whom to contact.

The ordinance went into effect July 1, but officials held off on enforcing it for three months, until Oct. 1. In the meantime, they mounted a media campaign to publicize the new requirements, said Maj. Kevin Smeltzer, who is overseeing the program for the police department.

But Antoinette Fox said she hadn't heard of the program when her home alarm system went off accidentally and she got a notice that she needed to register or pay a $200 fine.

"I didn't know anything about it until after," Fox said.

The police officer who responded during the incident last weekend informed her that she needed to register her system with the city.

"I said, 'Register?'" Fox recalled. "I said, 'I didn't know anything about I have to register my alarm.'"

"They could at least give the people at least six months" before imposing fines, she said.

"It was a surprise to me," said Fox, who added that she has since mailed the city her $15 check and permit application for the one-year period.

Doug Peterson said the alarm system at his automobile dealership went off when he was changing the battery as part of scheduled maintenance.

He said he "had not been notified at all" about the new permitting system. "No more than hearing people talk about it — but nobody said what you had to do."

That's unfair, he said.

"I think it's a good idea, but they need to notify people and give people a chance to adhere to it," Peterson said.

Smeltzer said the department's efforts included at least two newspaper articles and notification about the alarm ordinance on the city's government channel.

The city sent letters to addresses that had previous false alarms, but a lot of that was based on old information, he said.

Officials identified the 50 locations with the most frequent false alarms and hand delivered letters to those operators, Smeltzer said.

Response was "lukewarm," he said, "until we actually started sending out fines; then it picked up dramatically."

"The problem we've run into is, we don't have a listing for everyone who has an alarm," Smeltzer said.

Alarm companies, for competitive reasons, didn't want to provided their customer lists, he said.

About 1,000 alarm users have sent in money and permitted their systems; but officials don't know how many are out there, Smeltzer said.

He has received "hundreds of telephone calls" about the ordinance, and "most of them said 'I didn't know anything about it,' and 'why didn't you send me something?'"

He asked the five or six alarm companies serving the city to include notices of the ordinance in their bills to customers, but Smeltzer said he didn't know which companies did so.

Betty Lou Howard said her alarm company informed her of the false-alarm program when she purchased her new system.

"When they put it in, they told me there was an ordinance that the police were doing," she said. Howard immediately registered her system, she said.

So when her alarm went off inadvertently, she was informed there was no fine for the first incident.

Roger Wilkins, owner of Action Alarms of Winterville, said going through his 10,000 customer files to find ones inside the city limits would be "a monumental task."

He called the city's alarm ordinance "ridiculous."

"All they need to do is fine the individual that does it without going through all this stuff," Wilkins said. Repeat offenders are a "small percentage" of alarm operators, he said.

When police respond to an alarm call, they sometimes don't have a contact person for the alarm system. Requiring permits gives the department a record of responsible parties, such as homeowners or business owners, when the alarm goes off.

The "vast majority" of burglar or security alarms are false calls, Smeltzer said. The police department says officers respond to about 7,000 false alarms per year. In 2006, officers spent about 1,100 hours of their time responding to false alarms, according to data supplied by the department. The estimated cost for those calls totaled $62,451.

Besides the dollars involved, Smeltzer said the calls unnecessarily endanger the lives of the responding officers as well as the public, take police away from true emergency calls, and take a toll on equipment.

Numbers so far show the ordinance is working, he said. In October, false alarms went down by 20 percent compared to last year, he said.

The incidence of false alarms has been reduced by 30-50 percent in some cities where a permitting system has been instituted, he said. Cities in the state with similar ordinances include Asheville and Charlotte. Annual permits cost $15 for the first year and can be renewed for $5.

The fine for the second false alarm for a permitted system in a given permit year is $25; the third and fourth false alarms — $50 each; fifth and sixth — $100 each; seventh and eighth — $200 each; ninth and beyond — $400 each.

False alarms from a nonpermitted system will be assessed an additional $200 penalty.

Under the ordinance, false alarms do not include: alarms caused by lightning, wind or other weather event; disconnection of the telephone circuit beyond the control of the alarm operator; or alarms caused by continuous disruption of electrical power.

Fayetteville PD Propose Fines For False Alarms

Alarm systems that cry wolf could cost under a proposal by Fayetteville police.

Police have asked the Fayetteville City Council to approve an ordinance fining alarm owners when police respond to more than one false alarm in a year. The council is scheduled to consider the ordinance Nov. 20.

Enforcement and fee collection will be handled by a private company if the proposed ordinance is approved by the City Council.

Businesses and residences with alarms must register with the city within 120 days if the fees become city law. Gabbard said registration is free.

The first false alarm also comes without a price, according to the rules in the proposed ordinance. Fines will be collected starting with the second bogus call to the property.

Gabbard said the private company will handle all billing and collection of the fines.

"We are just not set up to handle the operation," Gabbard said of the police department.

The private company will retain a portion of the money to recoup its costs, Gabbard said. The rest of the money, if any is left over, will go to the police. Police Chief Greg Tabor wrote in a memo to city officials there is no way to calculate how much the police department could collect until a private company is chosen and a contract is prepared.

Tabor also noted in the memo the private collection companies typically recover two-thirds of the fees assessed.

Gabbard said the bottom line is Fayetteville police want to discourage false alarms and recoup costs if possible. Most false alarms can be traced to "user error" or poor use of the alarm system, Gabbard said.

"These are correctable problems," he said.

Cara Maxwell, co-owner of Service Security in Fayetteville, agreed.

"If the system is designed properly and maintained properly, false alarms should be rare," Maxwell said.

She noted security system providers have procedures in place to eliminate false alarms. Companies often call the residence or business if the alarm activates to make sure it wasn't an accident or malfunction.

Sam Perrein, assistant operations director for Arkansas Security in Fayetteville, said alarm companies are becoming more accustomed to cities fining for false alarms. Springdale instituted a fine system for false alarms in 1998.

Perrein said cities in Northwest Arkansas have "done their research" when creating ordinances. He said Fayetteville's ordinance was crafted using national standards, which is fair for alarm companies and their clients.

Charging after the second false alarm, Perrein said, still might be extreme.

"Normally, it is after the third or fourth one," he said.

If a problematic alarm persists, the proposed ordinance also gives police the power to refuse response service on the alarm.

Gabbard said not responding to an alarm will be a last resort, once a "significant" pattern has been set. He stressed the fines are not meant to be a cost-saving measure for the city.

"Where we want to see a reduction is in the calls," Gabbard said.

# of False Burglary Alarms                  Fee
1                                                         $0
2                                                         $75
3                                                         $100
4                                                         $150
5                                                         $200
6 or more                                            $250 each

# of False Robbery Alarms                     Fee
1                                                             $0
2-3                                                         $100
4 or more                                                $200

Vallejo Waives False Alarm Fine in Lieu of Class

Vallejo, California police have scheduled a false alarm awareness class for people who have been penalized for police responding to false alarms on their property. 

The police department imposes penalties on the alarm owner when officers respond to false alarms, since it wastes time and resources, police said. 

Fees can range form $50 to $300, depending on the situation. 

One fee may be waived once a year for alarm owners who complete the awareness class. 

The class will be held Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to noon at the City Council Chambers at 555 Santa Clara St. Reservations can be made at www.vallejopd.com or by calling 648-4321. 

Reservations will be taken until Dec. 4 or until the class is full.

New Revision of ANSI/SIA CP-01 Approved as an American National Standard

The Security Industry Association (SIA) today released the latest revision of ANSI/SIA CP-01-2007 (Revision of ANSI/SIA CP-01-2000) Control Panel Standard – Features for False Alarm Reduction. This voluntary standard details recommended design features for security system control panels and their associated arming and disarming devices to reduce the incidence of false alarms. 

Intended for use by manufacturers that design control panels and alarm signal receivers, this revised standard can also be referenced by security system installers, specifiers, and users; central stations; and local authorities. 

This effort was undertaken to address manufacturers’ requests for interpretation on the 2000 version of the standard. In addition, the standard clarifies the issue of UL listings for control panels and the impact that CP-01 revisions have on a listing. 

“Unless manufacturers are modifying their products in ways that may affect CP-01 features, such as new style panic buttons, this revision will not require manufacturers to re-list their products with UL,” said Ted Nesse, vice president of Technology for Sequel Technologies and Chair of SIA’s Security Control Panels Subcommittee. 

“The Security Industry Association supports all efforts aimed at reducing false alarms,” said Richard Chace, executive director and CEO, The Security Industry Association. “We are pleased the industry stepped up to this challenge and addressed it from an area that we have control of: the technology solution.” 

The standard can be purchased from SIA’s Online Store and is discounted for members ($30 / non-members $60).

ANSI/SIA DC-09 Approved as an American National Standard

The Security Industry Association (SIA) today released ANSI/SIA DC-09-2007: SIA Digital Communication Standard — Internet Protocol Event Reporting. This voluntary standard details the protocol to report events from premises equipment to a central station using internet protocol (IP). 

Intended for use by manufacturers of control panels and central station receivers to ensure equipment compatibility, this standard also impacts security system installers, specifiers, and users (central stations); and local authorities dealing with compatibility issues. 

"Manufacturers recognized the growing demand for event reporting over IP," said Ted Nesse, vice president of Technology for Sequel Technologies and SIA standard project editor. "This standard will broaden the extensibility of their products in an IP enabled environment." 
More than a dozen manufacturers participated in the standard’s development. According to Richard Chace, executive director and CEO of The Security Industry Association, gaining industry buy-in was critical to the project’s success. 

"The need for market relevant standards - by our industry for our industry - is a high priority for our members," said Chace. "This effort is just one example of how manufacturers can come together to advance industry objectives." 

The standard can be purchased from SIA's Online Store and is discounted for members ($30 / non-members $60). SIA is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited Standards Developing Organization.

Canton Levies Fines for Too Many False Alarms

Designed to reduce time responding to false alarms, the newly adopted Canton, Georgia ordinance slaps penalties on businesses and homeowners with an excessive number of false alarms during the course of a year. Anything over three, according to the ordinance, is excessive.

A fourth false alarm draws a $50 fine. The fifth will cost you $75. The fine for each additional false alarm after that is $100.

The new ordinance also requires a city permit for an alarm system. While the ordinance allows for a permit fee, none will be charged for now, Lance said.

The permits are necessary, Lance said, so that police have the information to contact someone who can shut off the alarm and fix the problem causing the false alarm.

If your alarm goes on too long, by the way, that is a violation of the ordinance adopted last week. It's now unlawful to have an audible alarm that blares, beeps, rings or honks for more than 10 minutes.

Woodstock Police Chief Ric Moss said he is drafting a proposal for a similar ordinance for the City Council to consider after the first of the year.

Cherokee County sheriff's Sgt. Jay Baker said the department doesn't intend to ask the County Commission to issue permits or levy fines for false alarms.

Phoenix False Alarm Prevention Program

The Phoenix Police Department False Alarm Prevention Program is designed to help end-users become more familiar with their systems to minimize false dispatch of police. The focus of the program is to identify reasons for false alarm activations and ways to prevent them.

YOU MUST R.S.V.P. FOR ANY CLASS. 

For more information call the Code Enforcement Unit at (602) 534-0322

Refer to section 10-76.01 of the Phoenix City Code regarding the False alarm prevention program and its limitations.

This document is available in alternate formats upon request. Please call 602-534-6613 or TTY City Relay at 602-534-5500.

False-Alarm Fees May Double in Florida’s Escambia County

The cost for false fire alarms is going up in Escambia County. In fact, the fees likely will double because of the high number of false alarms.

County commissioners voted 4-1, with Mike Whitehead opposed, to raise the fees to the highest option proposed by the county fire chief.  

The county's fire fee ordinance hasn't changed since it was enacted in 1992, when the fee was set at $50 for each false alarm after the third one in a calendar year. Now the number of false calls from automated fire alarm systems is growing, and commissioners say they hope the sliding scale of increasing fees is a deterrent.

Whitehead said he voted against the measure because he disagrees with the way it will be structured. In the current fee system, a business can have up to three false alarms before being charged a penalty. Under the new proposal, the fee kicks in on the second false alarm.

"I felt like imposing the fine after the first one was fairly draconian," Whitehead said. "I can envision where a system goes down on a Friday and you can't get someone out on a Saturday or Sunday to fix it, and you could have multiple violations over a weekend. It wouldn't be their fault. So it seems like an anti-business approach."

Wilmington, DE, Launches Program to Reduce False Alarms

New Wilmington, DE, law requires businesses and homeowners to register their security alarm systems with the City by October 1, 2007.

In an effort to curb the excessive number of false alarms to which Wilmington police officers respond on a yearly basis, the City is launching a False Alarm Reduction Program. Residents and businesses have until October 1 to register their security alarm systems with the City. All security alarm systems, whether or not they are monitored by a licensed security alarm company, must be registered by October 1, 2007, and registrations must be renewed on a yearly basis. The yearly registration fee is $20.00. 

Once registered, businesses and residents will not be charged for the first two false alarms within the yearly registration period. After the first two false alarms, alarm owners will be fined beginning October 1 for subsequent false alarms according to the following fine structure:

False Alarm Count     Residential         Commercial/Residential         Unregistered Alarm
1-2                            No charge         No charge                             $100 
3                               $100                 $250                                     $100 
4                                $200                $400                                     $100 
5+                             $250                 $550                                     $100 


If Wilmington police are required to respond to a false alarm from an unregistered security system after October 1, the alarm system owner will be issued a $100.00 citation for each offense in addition to the false alarm fine.

Security Systems News Editor on Verified Response

Security Systems News Editor on Verified Response

By L. Samuel Pfeifle

After 24 hours getting back to the East Coast from the CSAA show in Hawaii, it's ironic that this article about the consequences of Fontana, California's verified response policy should come across my desk (that desk being in the Newark airport). 

Wednesday, I sat on a panel with other journalists and was asked if I thought verified response would take hold nationally. I said it was my opinion that public relations nightmares with burglars confronting store- and homeowners in the act of verifying alarms (as happened here in Dallas) would make an increase of fines much more likely, which is the trend we're seeing nationally with our alarm ordinance watch column. 

I think this article backs me up. 

Note: Last year the Fontana Police Department responded to more than 8,500 burglar alarm calls -- an average of about 24 a day. More than 99 percent of them proved to be false alarms -- a tremendous waste of money and resources, said Lone Star Security Regional Manager Bruce Boyer.

Fair enough.

Boyer asked: Why have high-trained, highly-skilled police officers responding to burglary alarms when their time could be put to much better use?

This, however, is not the next logical question. Why aren't they instead asking how to eliminate the false alarms? Why aren't they talking about enhanced call verification or a CP-01 standard panel? They probably do that later, right? Not so much.

Anyway, Fontanta passed a verified response law that went effective Oct. 1, and here are some opinions:

And that's important to Gerry Herrera, storeowner and manager of Sonora Tire Shop. "We want a security company coming out and checking on the place," he said.

Makes sense. I don't want to go burglar-hunting either.

For Mini Perez, Sonora's chief financial officer, the P.D.'s change of policy makes sense. "It's less taxpayer expense," she said. "It was a waste of time for the police coming out. It should be the responsibility of the alarm company to provide the service. Police have better things to do."

Aack! Are you people reading this? The police have better things to do than respond to alarms and make sure people are safe? That kind of opinion on the part of the city can only be the result of terrible mismanagement by local alarm companies. Sorry guys. How can it get to the point where you're officially the boys that cry wolf?

It's no wonder Lone Star Security has been able to capitalize by offering to "come in and use the existing alarm system" and add on an in-house guard service. (Which is code for come in and get people to break their contract, right? Not that I'm saying I don't understand the business model, just trying to be clear.)

Here's Boyer again: "The Police Department is right. It's the alarm company's responsibility to investigate," he said. "The Police Department has better use for its officers. Cops are highly trained to do dozens of jobs. We are trained to do one thing well -- respond."

This guy has completely won the marketing battle. By framing the question as, "Do you want to waste police officers' time?," he's gotten the answer he's looking for: "Of course not. Can we pay you to verify our alarms?"

He talks about being partners with the police department, and there is some sense to his policy of alerting the cops that they're responding, kind of a back door dispatch. That's a good thing, but I'm troubled by this part:

The gun stays in the holster and only comes out when an officer faces deadly force. And that deadly force must have the ability to deliver it against an officer or customer, said Boyer.

"If the deadly force is across the street holding a knife, the gun stays in the holster," he said. "Our job is to investigate alarm calls. If there's criminal activity, we call the cops. We are not Rambo."

Well, not only are you not Rambo, you are also not a police officer. Let's hope deadly force is never used, but it's hard to rely on hope in that potential situation. You think people are upset about Blackwater shooting innocent Iraqis? What happens to a community when a private security company shoots a kid reaching for a cell phone? If a police officer does that, it's one thing. In this case he was placed on leave. I think it's a very different situation if it's a private security officer, where the city doesn't have recourse and the company is not accountable to the citizens.

All of this tells me that alarm companies have to make sure their communities don't get to the point where they think they're just crying wolf, and they need to work on programs like those developed by SIAC to work with states on enhanced call verification and CP-01.

Increased False Alarm Fines Proposed

In Virginia, the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance that would impose fines on owners of both home and commercial security alarms that keep going off. Officials said false alarms burned county money and time, and they want them to stop.

Under the proposed ordinance, an owner would be subject to a $100 fine the third time that firefighters or rescue workers are called to a false residential alarm within a 90-day period. The fine would be $50 the third time that sheriff's deputies respond to a false residential alarm in 90 days.

Fines would go up to $250 for the fourth time and $500 for the fifth time that firefighters or rescue workers respond to a false alarm. When deputies are called to a false alarm, the fine would be $75 for the fourth time and $150 for the fifth time.

Commercial alarm owners would be subject to the same fines but a longer time frame — 180 days.

Violating the ordinance would be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Alarm Companies Face $1000 for False Fire Alarms

The Walker, Michigan City Commission approved a cost recovery ordinance intended to reduce the number of false fire alarms. 


Security companies will be billed if they fail to notify the Walker Fire Department before they test alarms in commercial and industrial buildings and apartment complexes. 


Eight to 10 false alarms annually are because security companies didn't notify the department, said Fire Chief Bill Schmidt. 


Only alarm companies – not building owners – will be billed $1,000 or more for failing to notify the department, Schmidt said. The $1,000 fee is based on three fire trucks responding to an alarm. Some false alarms could cost companies more if additional equipment and personnel were sent out. 


"It's not a fine," said Schmidt. "It has nothing to do punitive action. It's simply if we have to go out, we'll charge you for it." 
Mayor Rob VerHeulen said commissioners approved the ordinance to keep a tight rein on expenses. 


"We need to recover costs for faulty readings," he said.

Alarm Companies Face $1000 for False Fire Alarms

The Walker, Michigan City Commission approved a cost recovery ordinance intended to reduce the number of false fire alarms. 


Security companies will be billed if they fail to notify the Walker Fire Department before they test alarms in commercial and industrial buildings and apartment complexes. 


Eight to 10 false alarms annually are because security companies didn't notify the department, said Fire Chief Bill Schmidt. 


Only alarm companies – not building owners – will be billed $1,000 or more for failing to notify the department, Schmidt said. The $1,000 fee is based on three fire trucks responding to an alarm. Some false alarms could cost companies more if additional equipment and personnel were sent out. 


"It's not a fine," said Schmidt. "It has nothing to do punitive action. It's simply if we have to go out, we'll charge you for it." 
Mayor Rob VerHeulen said commissioners approved the ordinance to keep a tight rein on expenses. 


"We need to recover costs for faulty readings," he said.

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.

Rocky Mount, NC, Eyes Ordinance to Limit False Alarms

City officials hope a revised alarm ordinance will reduce the number of false alarms responded to by local law enforcement.

The proposed ordinance would require alarm users to register their alarm systems every year as opposed to every three years, which could cut down on malfunctions and also on false alarms.

Educational meetings will be held to discuss the proposal. 

Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley said he wants to teach people to properly maintain their systems.

"You want to make sure that your system that you have in place is efficient, that when a police officer responds, he truly is responding to something there is a need for," Manley said.
Users will not pay a fine for the first two false alarms, but the penalties increase starting with the third violation. An alarm user could be charged as much as $500 – the fine for 10 or more false alarms.

If an alarm user has 10 or more false alarms within a 12-month period, their law enforcement response can be suspended, according to the proposal.

Residents Protest Fontana’s New Alarm Policy

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, 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.

New Carbon Monoxide Detector Laws in Vermont & Minnesota

A new Vermont law is now in effect requiring all apartments and condos to have hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors.

Security system installers are scrambling as condo associations and landlords are rushing to comply with the law, which actually went into effect October 1, 2007. Some condo associations and landlords are being confronted with a hefty bill. The detectors themselves can be purchased for as little as $40, but re-wiring an entire apartment complex can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Duplexes and single family homes can still use battery operated detectors, but condo owners and renters are out of luck.

In Minnesota, a new state-wide law went into effect in January that requires all newly constructed homes and apartment units to have a carbon monoxide detector.
http://www.kttc.com/News/index.php?ID=19039

By next August, all single family homes must be equipped with an alarm and by August of 2009, all other apartments and multi-family units will need to have the device.


North Carolina City to Launch New Alarm Program

The city of Greenville, N.C., launched an alarm registration program Oct. 1 aimed at reducing false dispatches.

 

The program, which is made possible by an ordinance passed in May by the City Council, requires users of residential and commercial burglar and security alarms to register the systems with the police department.

 

Beginning with a second false alarm, the alarm-system user faces a fine, Maj. Kevin Smeltzer, head of the police department’s new False Alarm Reduction Unit, told the Daily Reflector.

 

The police department says officers respond to about 7,000 false alarms per year. In 2006, officers spent about 1,100 hours of their time responding to false alarms, the newspaper reported. The estimated cost for those calls totaled $62,451.

 

Besides the dollars involved, Smeltzer told the newspaper the calls unnecessarily endanger the lives of the responding officers as well as the public, take police away from true emergency calls, and take a toll on equipment.

 

Annual permits cost $15 for the first year and can be renewed for $5.

 

The fine for the second false alarm for a permitted system in a given permit year is $25; the third and fourth false alarms — $50 each; fifth and sixth — $100 each; seventh and eighth — $200 each; ninth and beyond — $400 each.

 

False alarms from a nonpermitted system will be assessed an additional $200 penalty.

Ogden City, UT, Ordinance Requires CO Detectors in Homes by Nov. 1

Ogden City is hoping to lower the number of deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning as a new city ordinance requiring all homes to have working CO detectors goes into effect Nov. 1.

The ordinance was approved by the mayor and city council last February as a public safety measure.

Since then, the city and fire department have distributed over 7500 detectors to low-income residents.

Residents Protest Fontana’s New Alarm Policy

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, 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.