April 2008 - Posts

Louisiana Adopts Standards for Alarm Industry Apprenticeship Program

The Louisiana Life Safety and Security Association (LLSSA), a chartered chapter of the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), has announced that the LLSSA’s standards for a statewide, registered apprenticeship program have been approved by the Louisiana Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Division.

“We feel that we have now crossed a major hurdle toward a true career path via registered apprenticeship in the state of Louisiana,” said Ron Foreman, LLSSA apprenticeship chairman. “Our state is in dire need of a trained employee labor pool, and this new workforce initiative for our industry will go far to meet that need.”

Foreman credited the work of the NBFAA and the original donors who contributed to the development of the first apprenticeship program advanced by the California Alarm Association for use in that state. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without the support of the NBFAA and the work of Art Webster, apprenticeship program consultant, and the courses developed by California,” Foreman explained.

Heather Stefan, state director of apprenticeship for Louisiana, stated, “I am thrilled to welcome LLSSA into our apprenticeship community here in Louisiana. I have every confidence that this will develop into an excellent program because it is clear that the organization understands and embraces the fundamentals of registered apprenticeship and recognizes that this is the premier training vehicle for developing our workforce. This speaks very highly of LLSSA’s dedication to their members and the workers in our state.”

Ron Petrarca, NBFAA Apprentice Committee chairman, added, “This is just one more step towards having apprenticeship programs in every state. Everyone in our industry understands the need to expand the labor pool, to attract the very best technicians and to provide a mechanism to introduce and train on new products, technologies and applications. Our hope is that all of our chapters will follow Louisiana’s example and provide a foundation that allows technicians to advance in their profession and improve the ability of the industry to recruit, train and retain the very best technicians from a competitive labor pool.”

“We are very gratified to be able to take advantage of the national guidelines and obtain passage in our state,” said Mark Lagarde, LLSSA president. “When NBFAA received approval in September 2006 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA) for National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the occupation of Protective Signal Installer (Fire/Life Safety & Electronic Security Installer), we knew the LLSSA would not be far behind in working to develop a program for Louisiana.”

According to the U.S. Labor Department, the standards approved in 2006 serve as a model for developing local apprenticeship programs registered with the OA or State Apprenticeship Agency/Council for all occupations listed in the guidelines. The purpose of the National Guideline Standards is to provide policy and guidance to employers, employer associations and their local affiliates in developing Standards of Apprenticeship for local approval and registration.

NBFAA’s apprenticeship program has its roots in a program developed in California. Beginning in 2000 — when a state law mandated that technicians be enrolled in a state-approved apprenticeship program — the California Alarm Association and the California Automatic Fire Alarm Association joined forces to develop a comprehensive and relevant training and education program.

The California program offers traditional classroom training, but the goal from the beginning was to make the related theoretical training available online with a comprehensive distance learning program.

“Ever since NBFAA was able to obtain approval of a federal apprenticeship program, our goal has been to work through our National Training School (NTS) and our state chapters to create the administrative and delivery systems to make apprenticeship accessible to technicians in every state,” said George P. Gunning, NBFAA president.

Charleston (SC) Looks to Follow Example, Reduce Alarms Via Law

It's a situation that Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen finds alarming.

Charleston police officers have been answering nearly 1,200 false alarms from homes and businesses each month, on average, with each call tying up two officers for about 20 minutes.

And more than 99 percent of the time, it turned out the alarm was set off by accident.
Over the past 11 months, those false-alarm calls have consumed more than 8,700 hours of police officer time, which is worth nearly $350,000 to the city, the police department calculated.

Mullen said he hopes the city can address the problem by fining people responsible for more than three false alarms each calendar year. He says the threat of fines in other towns and cities has successfully cut down on false alarms.

Summerville has had a similar ordinance for years, and it is credited with cutting the number of false alarms nearly in half the year after it was passed.

'It's really worked out well,' said Summerville Police Lt. James Bateman, who tracks fines issued by the town. 'Even though our population has grown and we have more businesses with alarms, the number of false alarms has gone down.'

As Mullen proposes, Summerville allows three false alarms each year. After that, Summerville levies a fine of $30 for the fourth false alarm, $50 for the fifth and sixth, and $100 after that.

'We have had several people who got bills in excess of $2,000, but they only had that one year,' Bateman said. 'The habitual offenders have all but stopped.'
He said businesses hit with big fines for repeated false alarms typically trained their employees better, resolving the problem.

In Charleston, the proposed fine is $50 for the fourth through sixth false alarm in a year, and $100 for each one after that.

'There are lots of reasons for false alarms, but the ones we are trying to prevent are the ones based on negligence,' Mullen said Wednesday. 'The ones we are trying to prevent are the ones where somebody goes in and forgets the alarm was set, and the alarm goes off and the alarm company calls the police.'

Burglar alarms also can be set off by electrical storms, and Mullen said people wouldn't be fined in those cases.

'We think alarms are good, but we want people to be more responsible,' Mullen said. 'We just want to stop wasting resources.'

Mullen said the department would work with alarm owners and alarm companies to reduce false alarms and plans to offer education classes for owners who have had multiple false alarms.

Charleston City Council is expected to decide on the proposed regulations when it meets on May 6.

The proposed ordinance won preliminary approve from council on Tuesday night.

Nationwide False Alarms Reduced in 2006

The latest statistics compiled by NFPA show false alarm calls to the nation's fire departments dipped slightly in 2006, but overall calls continued to rise -- topping 24.4 million for the year. 

Medical calls to fire departments surpassed 15 million for that year, continuing a trend that is seeing fire calls decline and medical calls increase.

In 2006, U.S. fire departments responded to 2,119,500 false alarms, according to NFPA's new report. This total was 0.7 percent below the total of 2,134,000 false alarms the previous year.  

System malfunctions decreased 3.3 percent in 2006 from the year before, to 721,000 (34 percent of all false alarms. Encouragingly, malicious false calls decreased 19.5 percent for the year, to 193,500s. Unintentional false calls (e.g., tripping an interior alarm accidentally) accounted for 850,000 false alarms, or 40.1 percent of the total. Other false calls including bomb scares were 355,000 (16.8 percent of all false calls), the report states.

Nashville (TN) Double Alarm Permit Fees

Residents who have already written the check may not have noticed they paid twice as much as last year to protect their home.

For people who have a security system and live in Metro Nashville, the fee for having the system has increased 100 percent.

Shelley Duryee has been protecting her Green Hills home with an alarm system for years. She said she paid her 2008 alarm permit registration bill without even thinking about it last month and that she didn't notice the fee had doubled. 

"It does seem kind of odd that I was charged twice as much," she said.

The outgoing City Council increased the residential permit fee from $10 to $20. For businesses, it jumped from $25 to $50.

"Yes, 100 percent. But it has been 18 years since the first fee was established, and it has never been increased since that time," said Metro clerk Marilyn Swing.

Part of the increase is due to false alarms, officials said.

"Very time consuming and very resource draining," Swing said.

Even systems that are not monitored by an alarm company or systems that were self-installed, the owners must still register the alarm system. Plus, if an alarm goes off and police show up and a resident doesn't have a sticker, it could be costly.

"The fine and court costs for not having a permit or displaying a permit can exceed $100," Swing said.

Looking at it that way, Duryee said she doesn't mind digging deeper in her pockets.

"I always thought it was really low, so I guess $20 doesn't faze me," she said.

The false alarm fee also increased from $50 to $75. Residents are also allowed three false burglary, robbery and fire alarms each in a year.

The permit increase is expected bring in $1.2 million.

Colorado Springs (CO) Looking at Enhanced Call Verification

When you are in the middle of a life-threatening emergency, how long do you think it will take Springs Police to get to you? Right now, it’s about 10 minutes on average. Cops said more and more, their resources are being tied-up in answering false alarms.

On April 23, 2008, police spoke at a meeting about changing the city ordinance. They want tougher rules on homeowners and businesses whose alarms go off, but when police respond, there's no emergency. 

The proposed ordinance could mean steeper fines and implementing a yearly fee for all alarm users. 

Police would also stop responding to every alarm. "It’s called Enhanced Call Verification. That would require alarm companies to call two numbers, like your home and your cell to verify if you want police to respond. If it’s a false alarm, it saves the user from a fee and it saves the officer from having to respond," said Deputy Chief Ron Gibson with Springs Police. 

City Council has to approve this ordinance. That could happen sometime in June.

The last time the city cracked down on false alarms, police saw a 50 percent drop.

False Alarm Fines, Dealer Fees Sought in Danvers, MA

Danvers, MA, police are urging an increase in fines to commercial and residential property owners who do not seem to know how to maintain or operate their security systems.

“The goal is to eliminate these (false alarms),” said Town Manager Wayne Marquis, noting the safety factor involved when police and fire personnel race to a scene that, in fact, has no need for any attention.

The bylaw would charge residential property owners $80 for each false alarm after the first two, which would be free. Residential customers had never been charged in the past.

Commercial property owners would be charged $120 for each call after the first two. This is up from $25 for the third through 11th call, $50 for the 12th through 19th and $100 for the 20th and more, the chief explained separately.

With just 27 residences in town accounting for all the three-and-more false alarms, a fine might correct the owners’ behavior, Police Chief Neil Ouellette indicated.

Businesses cost the police even more time and money than residents, he said, with one logging 90 false alarms, another 49, another 31, 24, 23, 21, etc. Police must check every window and door, which can be a considerable number, and it costs the town money. Even more important, the community loses the police time on patrol or attending to community policing initiatives.

There was one company that had a false alarm every day at 8 a.m. “because of operator error,” Chief Ouellette told selectmen.

The bylaw is similar to one passed in Lexington last year, the chief said. It would require companies and residential property owners to get a permit every year, so that police can have an up-to-date list of the people to call when the alarm is sounded, something not readily available now. The permit would cost the same as it does now, $10 for residents and $25 for commercial owners, but it would be charged annually rather than one time.

Selectman Chairman Mike Powers worried about residents fabricating a reason for the alarm so that they won’t have to pay the fine.

“I would hope that wouldn’t happen,” the chief replied, emphasizing again that the goal is to educate and eliminate the false alarms.

Resident Bill Bradstreet, a former policeman who understood the problem, he said, also noted that large businesses just pass the cost onto the consumers and don’t really care.

The bylaw would allow the police or fire department not to respond at all, the chief said, and another clause would exempt the town from liability in the event there is an actual incident that needs attention.

Resident Sandy Lane was concerned about those residents who subscribe to an alarm company service.

“If there is no audible alarm or if the alarm company doesn’t notify us,” there would be no fine, he said.

In fact, if the homeowner calls right away to notify police it is a mistake, police won’t respond, the chief said, although he wasn’t sure about fire department policy.

Lane answered that the fire department responds even if the homeowner calls it off.

After the meeting she indicated some chagrin about the annual permit fee, even though it would be charged to her alarm company.

“They’ll just pass it on to me,” she said, noting, too, that even though $10 isn’t much, “it’s another $10.”

Newport Beach, CA, Alarm Fees May Rise

While Newport Beach, CA, has raised fees here and there over the years, the new study is the first time the city has taken a comprehensive look at how much residents should pay for what services in more than a decade, said Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau.

“A lot has happened since then,” Bludau said. “Unless you really stay on top of [fees] and look at it each year, it can easily get way behind after 10 years.”

The city’s costs to keep things running have jumped from $86 million in 2001 to $132 million in 2007, according to a study from the Newport Beach City Council finance committee.

The study recommends Newport recover more of what it spends on police services, something Bludau doesn’t think would be a good idea.

“The police are never going to be something that comes close to paying for itself. We don’t have police to make money,” he said.

Newport only recovers about 22% of its costs for police services, which is well below what most other communities in California recover, according to the study.

Redlands recovers 79% of what it spends on police in fees for things like concealed weapons permits and impounding animals.

Huntington Beach recovers 69% of its costs for police through such fees, according to the study.

Based on the findings of the study, city officials also could look at lowering some fees, said Councilman Keith Curry, also a member of the finance committee.

The study also recommends fees for things like security alarm applications and building department appeal hearings.

Payson, AZ, To Enforce Alarm Ordinance

Payson, AZ, police Sgt. Don Kasl said the majority of last year's false alarms could have been avoided and that an alarm ordinance passed in 2003 will now be enforced.

"Most of it (false alarms) is from people like cleaning crews and things like that," said Kasl. "They don't turn it off when they go in to clean and then we have to go see what is going on."

Some of the false alarms are the result of things like banners or signs that break loose and flap in the wind, setting off the alarm, Kasl added. In those types of cases, police usually ask the owner to come to the location to determine if anything is wrong.

After three alarms not due to a break-in or other criminal or unauthorized activity, police can charge the owner a fine.

"We don't start imposing fines on people as soon as they hook up an alarm though, we're not unreasonable, we give new (alarm permits) a grace period," Kasl said.

New alarms have 30 days to work out all the bugs and make sure the system is functioning properly, but after that 30-day period, fines can be imposed.

After three warnings, police send a letter with tips on how to avoid false alarms and fines, he said.

Kasl said there is a $50 fine for the fourth false alarm, which will increase to $75 for a fifth and $100 for six or more.

"The ordnance allowing imposition of fines was passed on April 24, 2003, but we didn't start enforcing it until last year," said Kasl.

Police Chief to Businesses: Install Security Systems

In Indiana, Kendallville Police Chief Rob Wiley shakes his head and wonders why.

“If I was a business owner, I’d certainly have a burglar alarm,” he said this week.

Wiley recently sent letters to Kendallville business owners urging them to install security systems, deadbolt locks on doors and security lighting to deter burglars. Too many Kendallville business owners don’t heed the advice or don’t care enough to spend $100 to $200 on an alarm system.

Wiley planned to send out the letters before the recent series of business burglaries, not because of them. Between March 9 and 18, burglars broke into Vaughan’s Frozen Custard and Fine Coffees, 848 N. Lima Road, Si Senor restaurant, 838 N. Lima Road, The King Buffet in Friendly Village Shopping Center off U.S. 6 East and Maria’s House of Pancakes and Restaurant, 614 Fairview Blvd.

In each case the burglars gained entry through what the business owner thought was a secured door and went through offices, cabinets, cash registers and drawers looking for money. Police won’t disclosed how much was taken, but in at least one case it was substantial.

Why don’t business owners install alarms, deadbolt locks, outdoor security lights or arrange nighttime bank deposits of the day’s takings?

Police investigating burglaries and break-ins first notice the lack of security lights, giving criminals a darkened environment, and then examine forced entries accomplished with a simple screwdriver or crowbar.

“We advise business owners to take precautions like leaving an inside light on so patrolling officers can look for movement,” said Wiley. 

In his March 26 letter, the police chief reminds business owners to take the following crime prevention measures:

• Install an alarm system even if it’s only one that makes an audible noise. It may scare off a burglar.

“This will increase our ability to catch burglars in the act,” he states.

In each of the recent burglaries, the businesses were on or near a major highway and close to other businesses. An audible alarm would have alerted passers-by.

• Secure doors, especially rear entrances, with deadbolt locks or strong bolts and latches. He recommends a metal plate be installed over the latch area to prevent someone from inserting a tool to push back the latch to open the door.

• Install adequate outdoor lighting so burglars can’t hide while attempting to break in.

• Leave some interior lights on. If police know the lights are left on at night and the lights have been turned off, patrolling officers will investigate the scene.

• Don’t leave large sums of money in the business. Wiley recommends business owners make bank drops during the day. Police will assist those making drops.

Kendallville police have investigated burglaries where a current or past employee divulges to someone else where money is hidden in the business.

Spring is traditionally a time when criminal activity increases because thieves are more active at night, said Wiley.

USFA Releases Fire Risk Reports

The Department of Homeland Security's United States Fire Administration (USFA) has issued three special reports as part of its Topical Fire Report Series, examining the risk of death or injury from fire by various demographic, geographic, and socio-economic characteristics.

“Because of limited cognitive and physical abilities, very young children and older adults face a greater risk of dying in a fire.” "Because of limited cognitive and physical abilities, very young children and older adults face a greater risk of dying in a fire," said United States Fire Administrator Greg Cade. "The U.S. Fire Administration has developed fire safety campaigns targeted at high risk groups. These campaigns provide awareness to parents and caregivers and aid in reducing the risk of fire death and injury."

The three reports, Fire Risk in 2004, Fire Risk to Children in 2004, and Fire Risk to Older Adults in 2004, were developed by the National Fire Data Center, part of the U.S. Fire Administration. The reports explore factors that influence risk and are based on 2004 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and the U.S. Census Bureau. These reports are an update of the previous fire risk reports issued in December 2004 (Volume 4, Issues 7, 8, and 9).

These short topical reports are designed to explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS. Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information.

Rocklin, CA, City Council Adopts New Alarm Ordinance

In an effort to decrease false alarms, the Rocklin City (CA) Council has adapted a new Alarm Ordinance into the Rocklin Municipal Code, which becomes law on Friday April 11th, 2008. 

Any person or business which activates, operates, or maintains an alarm system upon any premises in the City of Rocklin needs to obtain an Alarm Permit. Effective on April 11th, 2008, a resident or business is required to have an Alarm Permit before an alarm is installed and activated. The Alarm Company can also be in violation of the Ordinance if they activate the alarm without insuring the resident has obtained a permit. 

Residents and Businesses who already have an alarm installed in the City of Rocklin will have a grace period until September 1st, 2008 to obtain an Alarm Permit. The Alarm Program link on the City of Rocklin website (www.rocklin.ca.us) is the easiest way to obtain a permit. 

You can print out an application or complete all the necessary information, including payment, through the website electronically. The cost of an Alarm Permit is $25 for the first two years and $15 for each two year renewal. 

Each residence or business is given one free false alarm response in a rolling 12 month period, which begins when they obtain their Alarm Permit. For General false alarms, there is a fine of $50 for the second response and $100 for the third and subsequent responses during the 12 month period. For Holdup or Duress alarms, there is a fine of $100 for the second response and $150 for the third and subsequent responses during the 12 month period. 

We have set up a telephone for residents and businesses to answer additional questions: (866) 541-7626

Center Harbor, N.H., Approves Alarm Ordinance

The selectmen of Center Harbor, N.H., recently approved an alarm ordinance; it adds fines for false alarms. 

The new ordinance stipulates that the first three false alarms (either fire or burglar alarms) are not fined, but any additional false alarms are fined $100 for the fourth false call, and $200 for each additional false alarm. After the sixth false alarm, the system can be ordered to be disconnected unless the alarm services provider can provide reasoning for not disconnecting the alarm. 

The ordinance also denies any "direct-dial" alarm systems that call the police directly (rather than the alarm monitoring services provider), and requires that system purchasers or installers obtain permission from the police or fire departments before installing a system. 

For fire alarms, the ordinance also requires a lock box with a key to the building be available to responders. That requirement becomes effective in August 2008.

Newbury, NH, Law Requires Permits for Central Station Fire & Security Alarms

All alarms installed in the Newbury, NH,  pursuant to this chapter shall conform to the standards set forth in state law, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72 National Fire Alarm Code, the National Electrical Code and the codes published by the International Building Code (IBC). Permitted central stations shall comply with NFPA 71. 

Alarm Permit Required
The Newbury Police and Fire Chiefs are authorized to issue a permit to any owner of property located within the town or the lessee thereof to maintain, install and modify a fire, burglary, holdup or intrusion alarm system upon application.

Dialer-type alarms that are operated by a prerecorded message machine are not authorized to be used at the police and fire departments. Alarms which monitor temperature, humidity and any other condition not directly related to the detection or notification of emergency personnel are specifically excluded from this chapter.

Applications for Security and Fire Alarm Permits and Central Station Company permits shall be submitted to the Newbury Police Department, 952 Route 103, Newbury, NH 03255. Application forms are available at the Police Department, Town Office and may be downloaded from the Town of Newbury Website www.newburynh.org

There shall be no fee for the alarm system installation permit issued by the police and fire departments. 
The first permit year shall be eleven (11) calendar months plus the remainder of the month in which the alarm permit was issued, and twelve (12) calendar months thereafter.

Any owner or lessee of property having an alarm system on the premises and any user of alarm services or equipment designed and installed with the intent of eliciting an emergency response shall pay to the town a service charge as set scheduled below.

Any central station, answering service or proprietary system that in any manner notifies the police or fire departments of an alarm signal from an alarm system of an alarm user who does not possess an alarm user's permit or whose permit has been suspended, revoked or denied shall be charged a penalty as listed below. Penalties, for each notification made to the town.


Penalties for violations of the Alarm Ordinance shall be as follows:
(1) Operating an alarm without a valid permit . . . $100.00
(2) Operating an alarm when a permit has been suspended or revoked . . . $100.00
(3) False alarm penalties: Security Alarms:

a. Fourth security alarm in a year. . $50.00

b. Fifth security alarm in a year . . …$75.00
c. Sixth and successive security alarms in a year . . . $100.00

(4) False alarm penalties Fire Alarms 
a. Any owner or lessee or person in control of property having an alarm system on the premises and any user of alarm services or equipment designed and installed with the intent of eliciting an emergency response shall pay to the town a service charge of $250.00 for each and every false alarm to which the fire department responds after the initial response within a seven-day period. It shall be the responsibility of the property owner to correct any and all problems resulting in the activation of false alarms
b. Fourth false fire alarm in a year . . . $100.00
c. Fifth false fire alarm in a year. …. . $200.00
d. Sixth and successive false fire alarms in a year . . . $300.00

(5) Central Station, answering service or proprietary system notification of an alarm not possessing a valid permit . . . $100.00

Colorado Springs, CO, Considers New Alarm Laws

New rules considered for false alarms

• Initial site registration fee of $12 with no annual fees required.
• Companies must try to verify whether an activated alarm is false by contacting the alarm user by telephone before calling police.
• Alarm users are allowed two false alarms within a 12-month period. They're fined $25 for each of two subsequent false alarms in that year. After four false alarms within a year, police won't respond unless there's evidence of criminal activity. This rule can be lifted if the cause of the false-alarm problem is corrected.

• Raise the site registration fee to an annual fee of $40 to $50.
• Raise false-alarm charges to $75 to $100 for the third false alarm and to $100 to $150 for the fourth in a year's time.
• Adopt a reinstatement fee and impose higher false-alarm charges for the fifth, sixth and seventh alarms during a 12-month period. A second reinstatement wouldn't be allowed.

Here are the amounts billed by the Colorado Springs Police Department for responding to false burglar alarms. Each response over two per year is billed at $25 each.
2005: $50,050
2006: $51,425
2007: $50,950
2008: $54,000 (forecast)
SOURCE: City of Colorado Springs Budget Office

Warren, OH, To Get Tough on False Alarms

Warren, OH, is looking to first warn — and then fine — property owners when police respond repeatedly to their false alarms.

“The hope is the false alarms will stop,” said Councilwoman Susan Hartman, D-7th, who chairs council’s police and fire committee.

She said the police department will begin reporting to the law department those property owners whose burglar alarms sound when there is no emergency.

The effort is a safety issue for police officers responding to false alarms, and addressing it can hopefully free them to respond to actual emergencies, Hartman explained.

The city, Hartman said, has an ordinance that calls for a $25 charge to a property owner if police are called to a business or residence more than three times annually because of equipment malfunction or human error.

After a fourth false alarm, Hartman said, the police department will notify the law department, which will send a warning letter to the owner and the $25 fee for subsequent alarms. Money collected will be deposited into the city’s general fund.

Police Capt. Tim Bowers said the department responds to an average 8.5 burglar alarms daily, or about 310 annually. But it’s difficult to determine if an alarm is false, Bowers said, because a would-be burglar may have touched a window, triggered the alarm and fled. Just because officers arrive and don’t find a burglary doesn’t mean there wasn’t an attempted break-in.

Registration Fees; Fines for 4th False Alarm in Georgetown, Texas

Protecting your home or business from burglars in Georgetown, TX, is going to cost a bit more. 

Georgetown, TX, residents are now required to pay an annual alarm registration fee and a pay fines for more than three alarms in a 12-month period.

Georgetown said they hope the city ordinance requiring business and home owners to pay a fee for operating alarms will help to lower the number of false ones.

"There is an application fee of $25 per residence, $75 for businesses, and it's applicable throughout the city," said Capt. Roland Waits with the Georgetown Police Department. "What we're asking is that by June 1 that everybody has their alarms registered." 

"If you have three false alarms in a year, in a calendar year for us, then you're not in any trouble until you hit that fourth alarm," Waits said. "At which point then you will be fined."

One business owner told KXAN that he doesn't agree on who should be paying Georgetown's newest burglar alarm fee.

"I think it's wholly unfair to have the owner have to pay for false alarms when it's the problem of the alarm system itself," said businessman John Hachmeister. "I don't think the burden of paying for police enforcement should come from the business owners."

The Georgetown City Council passed the burglar alarm registration fee because of the money lost when police would respond to false alarms.

"The majority of those are too just a select few businesses, residence, things of that nature," Waits said. 

If you need to register your alarm, then you may visit any city office in Georgetown or go online to www.georgetown.org.

Miami Shores (FL) Village Council Approves Fines for False Alarms

In south Florida, the village of Miami Shores is attempting to deal with the problem of too many false alarms from its residents' security systems.

At its March 18 meeting, the Village Council unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that would allow the municipality to fine people who are deemed responsible for an excessive number of false alarms.

''Our police have better things to do than be private home security guards for free, at the expense of the other citizens,'' said Vice Mayor Stephen Loffredo.

Police Chief Kevin Lystad said the new ordinance is based on a state model that was written in concert with alarm industry representatives.

''The current alarm ordinance we have in place hasn't been revised since 1971,'' he said. Loffredo said penalties have not been raised since 1992-93.

Miami Shores police receive about 1,700 calls every year and a conservative estimate is that 95 percent are false, Lystad said. Alarm owners responsible for at least three of these will now be fined.

Anyone currently using a security alarm is required to get a permit. Alarm users were required to register before, but was not enforced. The new annual registration fee is set at $35.

In the ordinance, false alarms are defined as activation of a system ``through mechanical or electronic failure, malfunction, improper installation, or the negligence of the alarm user.''

Alarm activation because of bad weather conditions will not be considered the fault of the owner.

Third, fourth and fifth false alarms will receive a $50 fine apiece, with financial penalties increasing to $500 apiece.

The new ordinance says if residents don't pay fines for false alarms, they may lose law enforcement response to their alarms.

In addition, failure to register and obtain a permit may result in no response from police.

Councilman Hunt Davis expressed concern about not aiding parties in actual need because of past issues or, as he put it, ''the boy who cried wolf'' scenario.

Lystad and village attorney Richard Sarafan said that discontinuance of response was a necessary legal tool to have in the ordinance and to use if need be.

''In my entire time here, we have never not responded to alarms, under circumstances of which you're talking about,'' Lystad said.

The chief said if the ordinance passes its second reading 7:30 p.m. April 1, there would be efforts made to educate residents about the new rules and a grace period before enforcement.

Nashville Deadline for Alarm Permits is April 1, 2008

Nashville residents have until April 1, 2008,  to renew annual permits for home burglar and fire alarm systems.

About 40,000 people in the city use such systems; Metro requires they all be registered whether they are self-installed, monitored by an alarm company or directly connected to the police department.

Exemptions include car alarms, smoke detectors and medical alarm systems.

The cost of a permit went up for the first time in 17 years, doubling to $20 for home security systems. Permits for businesses and non-residential properties are $50.

Anyone operating a system with an expired permit can be fined, with court costs, up to $104.50.

Metro began registering alarm systems to get a better handle on alarm calls and to cut down on repeated false calls.

Applications are online here.

Wisconsin CO Bill on Gov. Doyle's Desk

Wisconsin Senate Bill 289, which would require public places to install carbon monoxide detectors, is making its way to the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle after passing both the state Senate and state Assembly. If approved, buildings such as apartments, rooming houses, hotels, children's homes or dormitories would need to install carbon monoxide detectors.

But there might not be a need for such changes here at UW-Eau Claire, said Peter Rejto, assistant director for budget and physical plant operations.

Rejto said the university will look at the bill's language if it is passed, but there isn't a pressing need for carbon monoxide detectors in the residence halls.

"We don't have any combustibles in our dorms," Rejto said. 

Carbon monoxide is an undetectable toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion in fuel-burning devices such as motor vehicles, gas-powered furnaces and portable generators, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since steam generated from the power plant on campus is used to heat the residence halls, there is no combustible source in the buildings that could cause a carbon monoxide leak, Rejto said.

The university may indeed not have to comply with the bill. According to the bill's language, the installation requirement does not apply under some circumstances, including "where the building has no attached garage and no fuel-burning appliances."

If the university still was required to install the detectors, Rejto said the same processes used to check and maintain smoke detectors in the residence halls would apply to the carbon monoxide detectors.

"Any equipment we have in our halls ... we have routine maintenance (for)," he said.

The bill passed unanimously through the state Senate on Jan. 31. Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), who voted for the bill, did not return phone calls seeking comment on her support for the bill. 

Headache, nausea, dizziness or confusion are the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the CDC. There were 79 unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisonings in Wisconsin from 1999 to 2004, according to a CDC study published in Dec. 2007. 

Sophomore Brooke Jewell said the bill is a good idea. It is important to have carbon monoxide detectors in public places due to the unseen nature of the deadly gas, she said.

"(The bill) is good for safety reasons," Jewell said, adding her house back home has a carbon monoxide detector installed. "It's not something like fire ... you don't know if it's there."

Despite these sentiments, Rejto said the bill will likely have little effect on the university.

"I don't see it as being functional in any of our buildings."