January 2008 - Posts

City of Riverside, CA, May Increase Alarm Fines to $250 for 2nd Violation

Riverside, California is considering toughening its stance on false alarms by increasing penalties.

If the Riverside City Council approves the changes – a vote is expected in the next few weeks – residents and businesses without a permit would be fined an additional $250 for a false police alarm, with $250 added to the fine for each subsequent violation. Residents would get one free pass. The fire alarm fines, which start at $350 for the third false alarm, are different because fire alarms are mandatory and are often triggered by maintenance issues, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Earley said.

The city might also fine schools and government agencies, except city buildings. The city believes it would receive $90,000 annually from those fines, city documents say.

Current city ordinance requires residents pay a one-time fee for an alarm permit that may increase from $30 to $35.

Cobb County, GA, Proposes Alarm Ordinance

Owners of homes and business in Cobb County, Georgia. who have security alarms would have to register the systems annually. The proposal also carries a $100 fine for failing to register.

If an alarm system owner has more than 10 false alarms or fails to pay the fine, police will not respond to an alarm unless 911 is called or there is verified criminal activity, according to the proposal.

For a decade, many metro area governments have imposed fines for repeated false alarms. Gwinnett County has had registration since 2001, and many cities, including Marietta, which started Jan. 1, require a no-cost registration. Alpharetta, which for 11 years has had a fine system in place for repeated false alarms, has no registration fee, but imposes a $50 fee for a false alarm from a system that is not registered.

The Cobb proposal that will go before the County Commission does not specify a registration fee.

The Cobb ordinance is modeled on one approved by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. Cobb Major Prince said he hoped a benefit of the Cobb ordinance would be to create more responsibility. "Now government will have the information that this is my alarm at my residence. We hope that will make a difference," Prince said.

Proposed fines for false alarms in a year:
Third time:    $50 
Fourth:         $75 
Fifth:            $100 
Sixth:           $125 
Seventh:       $150 
Eighth:         $200 
Ninth:          $250 
Tenth:         $300

Wayne County, NC Considers Fee for False Alarms

In North Carolina, Wayne County commissioners and the Sheriff's Office have been looking into a fee for multiple false alarms.

"False alarms have been a major problem," Sheriff Office's Maj. Ray Smith said. 

The city of Goldsboro already uses a similar plan, Goldsboro police operations Maj. Mike Hopper said. When Goldsboro police determine that an alarm was caused by human error -- not weather or other uncontrollable forces -- Hopper's office sends a letter. 

The letter informs citizens that they get three "free" false alarms per year. 

For each human-caused false alarm up to six, the department charges a fee of $50 per response. 

If an alarm system causes more than seven false alarms per year, the fee is $100 per response, according to details provided by the department. 

Hopper said town officials first started the system a few years ago. It hasn't caused any major problems, the major said. 

The department rarely had to collect a fee in 2007 -- just 14 times, with three total $100 fines -- which Hopper believes is an indicator of the program's success. 

"A lot of times, it's people who don't know the code," Hopper said. "We really haven't had any trouble the last few years since we started this." 

When fees are collected, they are deposited back in Goldsboro's general fund, so police have no monetary incentive to enforce the rule other than the cost of their time and gasoline, Hopper said. 

Sheriff Carey Winders said Wayne County might not be able to enforce rules Goldsboro can because of the differences between county and city government. 

"If somebody ... can't remember the code continuously, they've got to do something," Winders said. "We certainly are looking at" fees for false alarms. 

Winders said he might present a plan for such a system to Wayne County commissioners in the next few months.

New Braunfels, TX Considers Ordinance for False Alarms

New Braunfels, TX is trying to cut down on the amount of time its police officers and firefighters waste responding to them.

The New Braunfels City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Monday which will enact higher fees for alarm permits, and additionally charge residents and business owners for repeated false alarm calls.

“Partnering with the citizens to reduce those calls helps us across the board to provide more effective and efficient services,” said New Braunfels Police Chief Ron Everett. 

In addition, the costs for a false alarm going off will now be switched to an administrative fee rather than a municipal citation to keep from clogging up the court system.

“Our municipal court is already busy with traffic and the other types of offenses,” said New Braunfels Mayor Bruce Boyer. “This is not something that people need to be trying to respond to a criminal case for; it truly is an everyday occurrence.”

The annual permit fee will be raised from $30 to $40 for residents, and from $30 to $50 for businesses.

Additionally, the civil service fee will charge $50 each for more than three, but less than seven false alarms in a 12-month period. They will cost $100 apiece after the seventh call.

“We’re not a town of 15-20,000 people anymore,” Boyer said. “We just need a better, more efficient way to address the problem.”

Double the Systems, 17% Reduction of False Alarms in Milford, TX after Alarm Ordinance

False alarms in Milford, Texas, are dropping off, despite a sharp rise in the number of active security systems in the city, Police Chief Keith Mello said Wednesday. 

Mello said this trend keeps officers from wasting time responding to false alarms, and protects the public from the resulting speeding cruisers with lights and sirens blaring. 

“When officers respond to a hold up or a burglar alarm, they have to assume there is a crime being committed,” Mello said. “That puts officers and the public at risk the more times they have to respond to these calls.”

In 2004, 1,602 registered security systems accounted for 3,250 alarms to which the police responded. In 2007, the number of active security systems has surged to 3,269, but police responded to just 2,693 alarms, or a 17 percent drop in false alarms, said police spokesman Officer Vaughan Dumas. Dumas took the lead on an aggressive campaign to lower the incidence of false alarms. 

By city statute, every alarm system has to be registered with the Police Department. If a particular system is the source of too many false alarms, fines are imposed. 

Dumas said he lowered the fine but also reduced from six to three the number of chances someone has before being fined. 

On someone’s third false alarm, a letter is also sent telling the owner of the problem and ways to fix it. 

The owner must prove that the problem is fixed or he or she will be fined. 

If police have to respond to another alarm, the owner will fined $50. The fine increases with each subsequent offense.

Board of Police Commissioners Chairman L. Kenneth Fellenbaum said the downswing in false alarms exemplifies Mello’s efforts to “do more with less money. I do believe everything flows down from the top and this is one of those examples of a good thing the chief is doing,” Fellenbaum said Thursday.

Bridgeton, NJ City Council Moves Forward with Fining Ordinance

The Bridgeton, New Jersey city council approved a first reading of an ordinance that will result in penalties being levied against property and business owners if police have to respond to more than three false burglary alarm calls at their property in one year. 

The resolution states the city "is desirous of implementing a system wherein the business or property owner assumes some of the costs of false alarms." 

"You still get three free," Assistant Solicitor Rebecca Bertram said. 

After a third false alarm results in a police response, the city would levy a $25 fine for a first offense, a $50 fine for a second offense and a $100 fine for a third offense. 

Fire Chief David Schoch noted that the fire department has been fining businesses with frequent false alarms under state law.

False Alarms Will Cost Money in Polk City, Florida

Polk City, Florida Residents and business owners who have multiple false alarm calls will now be fined if Polk County sheriff's deputies are called to go to the home or office. 

At their meeting Tuesday night, Polk City Council members unanimously approved a new ordinance that sets fines for repeated false alarm calls where a deputy is called by a monitoring company.

"This ordinance also requires the alarm holder to have someone's name on file who can respond when an alarm is going off,'' said Sheriff's Office Sgt. Dan Cone, who oversees the deputies assigned to patrol Polk City. "It also sets the fine amounts for repeated false alarms." 

Fines do not start until after the second false alarm in a year period of time. The fine is $50 for a third false alarm at a house or business and goes up from there. A fourth false alarm is $75; a fifth is $100; a sixth is $150; a seventh is $200; an eighth is $300; a ninth is $400; and 10 or more is $500 each time.

City Manager Cory Carrier said the ordinance was part of the contract agreement between the city and the Polk County Sheriff's Office, which handles law enforcement services for the city.

Councilwoman Kristin Eilertsen suggested the city take the cost out of the business's water bill and then the customer would be delinquent with its water bill, and if someone still didn't pay their water could be cut off.

"That would be one way to handle it,'' she said. "This is the second notification that the bill is due. They really need to come forward and pay it.''

Carrier said she liked the idea and would run it past the city attorney.

"Because it is a tax, I think we can take it out of the utility payment and put it against what they owe for the tax,'' Carrier said.

Then if someone's water was turned off, it would also become a city code enforcement issue.

Sims said all of the delinquent businesses are active businesses.

"Some of them have been in business for a long time. They know they have to pay this and when it is due,'' Sims said.

Carrier said the city's ordinance is unclear what to do in cases of delinquent payment, which is why they were seeking direction from the council.

She said staff is looking at revising the ordinance.

"We need to put some teeth in that ordinance,'' Carrier said.

Douglas County, CO Sheriff Presents ECV Initiative on Jan, 23, 2008

Of note, Douglas County Sheriff's Office is hoping to pass an ordinance that is intended to decrease the number of false alarm calls they receive by following Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) procedures; establishing a fining system for false alarms; and requiring alarm companies to register each of their clients with the sheriff's office by paying $60 annually.

The proposed ordinance language further states, “Failure of an Alarm Installation Company to notify the Alarm Administrator of a new security Alarm System installation within seven (7) business days following installation shall result in a collection of a $100.00 fee from the Alarm Installation Company.”

Each alarm site would then have three complimentary false alarm responses before being placed on a "no response" status. It would then be up to the alarm owner to fix the problem and re-register for another $60.

"Our hope is that (the alarm company) would just absorb those costs in their business, rather than pass them on to the customer," Deputy Ron Hanavan said. 

The sheriff's office hopes require the alarm companies to try to make contact with the alarm owners to verify whether the alarm is legitimate or false before reporting the alarm with the sheriff's office. Two calls to verify the alarm are required.

Hanavan said the sheriff's office is looking for a 30 percent decrease in false alarms after implementing the ECV proposed ordinance.

According to Hanavan, the proposed ordinance is a phased approach that may be modified in years to come. The ordinance will be presented to county commissioners Jan. 23. If passed, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days after.

“The proposed ordinance provides an equitable solution to a difficult problem: Managing our law enforcement assets to allow us to provide superior law enforcement services," Hanavan said.

The current policy is to respond to three false alarms and send a letter notifying the alarm user to rectify the problem. After three more false alarms, the sheriff's office sends another letter saying they will no longer respond to the alarms until they have proof the problem has been rectified. But Hanavan said this policy has not been effective in decreasing the number of false alarms.

The sheriff's office claims the proposed ordinance will provide several immediate benefits:

*Registration will provide the sheriff's office with a database of alarm users in Douglas County

*Having an alarm user database will expedite law enforcement response by eliminating time consuming data entry at the time of the first alarm

*The ECV element of the ordinance will reduce demands on law enforcement resources

*Revenue generated by the registration fee will fund additional law enforcement resources to meet the demand

"This is a phased approach, and we believe over the next few years we can implement the most effective ordinance, once we have established the data and can react appropriately to the problem users," Hanavan said. "We know that this is a great start; however, in the next few years we may have to re-evaluate it."

The sheriff's office is holding public meetings to inform the public about the proposed ordinance. The next meeting is scheduled from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Recreation Center at Eastridge, 9568 S. University Blvd. in Highlands Ranch.

Jan. 31 is the deadline for Burleson residents to register alarm systems

Applications for 2008 alarm permits from the City of Burleson in Texas must be turned in at Burleson City Hall by Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008. The annual permit fees are $50 for residential permits and $100 for commercial permits.

Alarm permits expire on Dec. 31 of each year and must be renewed by completing an alarm permit application and returning the application and fee to the building permits office at city hall. If an application is turned in after Jan. 31, a $10 late fee will be added to the cost.

Alarm permit applications may be picked up at the Burleson Police Department (225 W. Renfro) or at the building permits office at Burleson City Hall Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Completed applications must be turned in at Burleson City Hall.

If a permit for an alarm system is not on file with the City, it is a violation of City ordinance and may be subject to a fine. An unregistered alarm system will not receive a police response.

The City enacted new permitting requirements in January 2007 for all residential and commercial alarm systems. Burleson Ordinance B-762-06 requires annual permits of all residential or commercial alarm systems and establishes a new fee structure for alarm permits. The new ordinance does not change the Burleson Police Department’s response to alarms, unless a permit holder accumulates 10 or more false alarms in a calendar year.

By ordinance, governmental and educational facilities are exempt from the fees. But, those facilities must still register their alarm systems with the City and are still subject to the false alarm fees.

There is no fine for the first three false alarms. The fourth and fifth false alarms received in one calendar year will cost the permit holder $50 per alarm. The fee increases to $75 for the sixth and seventh false alarms, and to $100 for the eighth and ninth false alarms. The tenth false alarm not only merits a $100 fine, but the alarm system permit will be revoked (police will not respond to regular burglar alarms after the ninth false alarm, but will respond after nine false alarms if it is a hold up, panic, or duress alarm).

For more information about the alarm system permits, contact Steve Haas, alarm coordinator, at the Burleson Police Department at 817-447-5300, ext. 361.

NBFAA and CSAA Create Alarm Industry Expo, LLC

The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) announced today the formal signing of an agreement which has created a new joint venture named Alarm Industry Expo, LLC. The new organization’s first undertaking is the ownership and production of the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in conjunction with EH Events. 

ESX will debut in the Nashville Convention Center, with seminars running June 25-27, 2008 and exhibits June 26-27. More than 150 exhibitors and 3,500 attendees from across the country are projected at the inaugural event.

“This collaboration has been in the works for some time, and we are very pleased to announce this next step in our journey toward a dedicated forum that will provide CSAA and NBFAA members with ideas, products and services to expand their businesses and increase profitability,” said CSAA President Bud Wulforst, president of A-1 Security, Ltd. “ESX will offer educational programming, special events and an exposition of the highest value for installation and monitoring companies.”

NBFAA President George Gunning, CEO of USA Alarm Systems of Monrovia, Calif., added, “Excitement is building toward ESX. We have CSAA and NBFAA volunteers actively working with EH to create this industry-owned event. The dedicated focus on installing and monitoring companies is one of the reasons for the overwhelmingly positive response to the ESX launch. Our 2,600 member companies are energized about an event that will help them move forward faster in the integrated systems realm.”

To obtain an ESX 2008 exhibitor prospectus and information on space selection number reservations, contact John Galante at EH, (703) 352-9211, jgalante@cox.net.

Connecticut Burglar and Fire Alarm Association Develops Punch List to Prevent False Alarms

Many false alarms are caused by user error, according to the Connecticut Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Other causes, a brochure released by the associations says, include unlocked or loose doors; children, neighbors and relatives, and wandering pets.

The brochure, available at the Redding, CT, Police Department, provides “workable solutions” to prevent false alarms. These include:

• Do not panic, there is time. Users should enter the disarm code carefully to reset the system. 
• Wait for the alarm company or central station to call. Give the company the ID code, which is different from the disarm code. Follow all procedures established by the monitoring system.
• Do not leave the home or business before talking to the monitoring station.
False alarms take police away from other pressing matters, a brochure released by the association states, are a nuisance to neighbors, make a security system less reliable and make homeowners reluctant to use their systems.

Before activating an alarm system, check the following:
• Securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
• Make sure the door is closed tight.
• Keep pets, fans, heaters etc. away from motion sensor areas.
• Know and rehearse the process to cancel an accidental alarm. Users should know this process.
• Know how much time there is after the alarm system is armed when leaving and how much time to disarm the system when coming in.

The association suggests home and business owners ask their alarm company about regular service checks and routine maintenance. Alarm companies should be notified of home improvements, renovation projects, change of phone systems, or the installation of ceiling fans, skylights, or if fumigating.

For more information on how to prevent false alarms, call the CT Burglar and Fire Association in Wilton at 762-2444, or click here. 

CSAA Releases CS-CO-01 Draft for Review of CO Supervising Station Response Standard

The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) announced the release of the latest draft version of its -CO-01 Draft of Carbon Monoxide Supervising Station Response Standard. 

This standard defines the procedure to be followed by a supervising station when a carbon monoxide detector sends an alarm signal to the supervising station. It defines the response to the premises and for the responding authorities.

The standard may be reviewed by clicking here

Comments on the standard should be e-mailed to Louis T. Fiore before February 11, 2008 at ltfiore@aol.com.

Registration and Enhanced Call Verification for Alarm Systems in New Castle County, Delaware

In Delaware, New Castle County security-alarm system owners have about one month to register with the county before a law takes effect that will fine them for repeated false alarms. The law, which also requires the practice of enhanced call verification for both business and residential facilities, is aimed at reducing false alarms, officials said. 

There is no fee to register, but alarm-system owners who don’t comply face a $50 fine. For multiple false alarms, the fines range from $100 for the third false alarm to $250 for the fifth and subsequent alarms. In addition, police will stop coming to the doors of excessive violators or those who don’t pay the fines, although officers will continue to respond to 911 calls.

Police are registering property owners through Affiliated Computer Services, a company whose subsidiary, Cry Wolf, monitors false alarms for the city of Philadelphia. Cry Wolf will send bills to violators and refer disputes to the police department. 

The county is not paying any upfront costs, county police Lt. Craig Weldon said. Instead, the company will take a percentage of the fees collected each year and remit the rest to the county. The company’s take will range from 85 percent to 95 percent, depending on the number of false alarms.

Weldon said the county will spend about a month registering people before fining begins.

The program has the support of the Delaware Alarm Association, a trade organization that represents about 20 companies with 80 percent of the alarm systems in the state. Association president Joe Gallagher said member companies have given their customer lists to the county, so the government can send notification letters about the program.

“I think it’s a well-written ordinance,” said Gallagher, who is vice president of B-Safe Electronic Protective Systems in Elsmere. “In our opinion, it really is guided to punish the people who abuse their alarm. Those are the type of people that would be affected by this ordinance. It’s user-related. It will teach them to use their alarms responsibly.”

Gallagher also praised the law for requiring alarm companies to make two verification calls before contacting police.

“We’ve seen hard statistics from other areas that have implemented the two-call system,” he said. “And they’ve been able to reduce the number of false alarms.”

“It’s time to get moving on this,” Weldon said. “It’s time to get registered.”

Several nearby municipalities already have false security alarm laws, including Newark, Dover and Wilmington.

Fire Safety Group Urges Compliance with Sprinkler Law in Columbia, MO

They've sent letters to the Columbia City Council, a city commission, the Columbia Fire Department and city staff. Now, the parents of 13 college students who died in campus fires across the country since 1996 have signed letters mailed to every University of Missouri fraternity and sorority, asking them not to oppose an ordinance requiring Greek houses to install fire-suppression sprinklers.

The letters signed by the parents were written by Campus Firewatch, a monthly publication that lobbies for fire safety in college communities across the nation. 

A year ago, the city council passed a law requiring fraternities and sororities to install fire sprinklers by December 2012. A few weeks later, members of Greek organizations said they opposed the ordinance because sprinklers would cost their organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars, bankrupting them. Greek members also said the law was voted on during winter break, when college students would not be in Columbia to attend the public hearing.

In May, the city council voted to send the matter back to the Building Construction Codes Commission for further review. In October, that commission voted to overturn the ordinance. A report on the issue will go before the city council for discussion at its January 7, 2008, meeting.

Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch as well as founder and past director of the Massachusetts-based Center for Campus Fire Safety, said the parents decided to send the letter to the Greek organizations in Columbia to let them know they realize sprinklers are expensive, but it's critical in preventing fire-related fatalities, such as the 1999 death of MU Sigma Chi member Dominic Passantino.

"We do realize it's a cost issue, but it's happening all over the country," Comeau said. "Wherever" fire-sprinkler laws have "been put in place, fraternities and sororities have found a way to get it done."

Donna Henson of Kansas City, Passantino's mother, said installing sprinklers is the most important thing the Greek houses can do to save lives, and the cost is not a valid reason against it. "There is no cost you can put on a child's life," Henson said.

According to information sent out in October by Campus Firewatch, 82 percent of 114 campus-related fire fatalities since 2000 have occurred in off-campus housing, and 9 percent have occurred in Greek housing.

Henson said she thinks all housing should be equipped with fire sprinklers, but that's not what this law addresses. Henson said she doesn't understand the Greek houses' opposition to the law.

"If the parents of these kids knew this was going on, I think they would be pushing for the city council to stand by its decision," Henson said. "It's a matter of life and death. I think we owe it to these students to protect their lives."

Iowa: New Certification Program for Alarm Contractors and Installers

New Iowa laws will require licensing or certification of building trades by the state including system contractors and installers.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Iowa General Assembly has enacted legislation establishing a state licensing program for electricians and electrical contractors.

All alarm contractors and installers for fire alarm systems, security or burglar alarm systems and medical alarm systems in Iowa will be required to be certified.

The program will operate in the State Fire Marshal Division of the Iowa Department of Public Safety and will be overseen by a new Electrical Examining Board, appointed by the governor. The certification program will operate under rules adopted by the State Fire Marshal.

Required CO Detectors Prove Beneficial in Illinois During Past Year

Illinois one-year-old state law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all homes has made many homes safer, Bloomington Assistant Fire Chief Gary Sushka said. 

Though bad sensors or readings do lead to false calls, he encouraged people to call for help if their detector sounds.

Bloomington Deputy Fire Chief David Adelsberger said calls to his department indicate CO detector use was rising before the law went into effect. But his department saw a sharp increase in the last year. Bloomington firefighters were called about carbon monoxide detector alarms more than 60 times this year, up from 17 in 2006 and eight in 2005, Adelsberger said.

Normal, IL, Fire Chief Jim Watson said his department had a little more than 90 calls for CO alarms this year, up from about 70 in 2006.

Many of Normal’s calls were related to weak batteries triggering false alarms or open doors to attached garages allowing car exhaust into houses, Watson said. But at least a couple of calls did lead to identification of problems with furnaces that could have become larger problems, he said.

Watson said it seems older CO detectors seemed to produce more false alarms than current units.

Steve Fisher, owner and president of the Bloomington-based Air King Inc., said he has received a few more calls to homes since the passage of the law. His employees found problems in furnaces at a few homes where alarms went off, and occupants initially thought the problems related to things such as open doors to attached garages, he said.

Fisher recommended yearly inspections on furnaces, particularly thorough checks of older models’ heat exchangers.

State law lists potential penalties for failing to install a working carbon monoxide detector, but nobody in Bloomington-Normal has been penalized for failing to install one.