May 2008 - Posts

End Users Seek To Protect Phone Lines From Burglars

East Charlotte resident Kellie, who asked that her last name not be 
used, recently found out what it’s like to be vulnerable to thieves.

Someone broke into her home and in just moments stole two laptop computers.

“One of the laptops was sitting here on the table, and the other laptop was in the back,” 
she said, showing Eyewitness News around her home.

Once she got over the shock, one of the first things Kellie did was get an alarm system. 
She even took her security one step further. Because the telephone line is the alarm's 
lifeline, she had the phone company move hers into the crawl space under her house.

“The telephone wiring is now there, so that no one can come up and say, ‘There's an 
alarm, but I have wire cutters so I can bypass it completely,’” she said.

Sgt. Jim Wilson with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said thieves will cut a 
phone line to buy more time to break in.

“It's something we're aware of. It's common enough that we track it as an MO in burglary 
crimes,” he said.

While it's still pretty rare in Charlotte, it’s happening enough that people are looking 
for ways to keep it from happening to them.

Running the phone line under the house is one of them, but some phone companies say it 
may not be the best option.

Stacy Hale, a vice president with Windstream Communications, said running a phone line 
under your house costs extra, and it can expose the line to moisture and make service 
calls difficult.

“It can be done. We don’t recommend you do that,” he said.

He said a better alternative is to get a wireless backup for your alarm, something more 
people are starting to ask for.

“More and more because people are reporting line cuts and things of that nature,” said 
Barry Rossen of CPI Security. “Our goal is to educate our customers about what's 

Rossen said a wireless backup costs about $200 dollars up front and an extra $10 a month.

For some it's worth the extra money and with 2,800 break-ins in Charlotte already this 
year, more people are looking for more ways to protect their homes.

“You never know what's going to happen. You don't know if they're going to come into your 
home,” Kellie said.

Op-Ed: Police Encourage Knowledge of Alarm System

I would like to share some information on Alarm Ordinance 3-5. The city of St. George has 
had an alarm ordinance on file since December 1999. The ordinance covers a variety of 
items, and it has key elements.

An alarm permit is required for any alarm system that a business or residence within the 
city limits of St. George maintains to summon police assistance. The alarm permit is a 
three-part form that contains information about the alarm user, alarm companies involved 
and key holders that can respond to assist the police department when needed. A one-time 
fee of $25 is charged. A new permit is required if the name of the account changes, you 
change alarm companies or if you move to a different address in St. George and keep the 
alarm monitoring service.

We do charge for false alarm responses. A false alarm is determined to be a response of 
police officers to the scene of the alarm without proof of criminal activity. An alarm 
owner is provided one free false alarm. If there is a second false alarm within a year of 
the first one, a $50 fine is assessed. If the second false alarm is past a year, then the 
"time" starts over.

We strongly encourage the alarm owner to completely understand how to use the services 
for which they are paying. The alarm company is also required to show you how to use your 
alarm system correctly. There are many different types of alarm systems, so don't be 
afraid to ask what is available. Also, most alarm owners have specific instructions with 
the alarm monitoring service on how they want the alarm call to be handled. Many owners 
will have the alarm company call them first before they call the police department to 
respond. Remember, the alarm company works for you. Become familiar with how your alarm 
system works, and you will have confidence in using your system.

What happens when my alarm system is tripped? Your alarm-monitoring service calls the St. 
George Police Department dispatch center. The dispatcher will get the address of the 
alarm, alarm-holder information, what type of alarm has been tripped and location of the 
alarm at the address. Dispatchers will then send two police officers to the scene. 
Responses to an alarm call are affected by the resources available to the police 
department at the time the call is received. Fifteen percent of the St. George Police 
Department's responses to calls are alarm calls. When the officers arrive they will 
investigate the scene. Their primary concern is to determine the safety of the alarm 
owner. They also look for any criminal activity such as broken windows, doors and pry 
marks, etc.

Depending on the type of alarm received, a key holder may be called to assist the 
officers in getting into the building to conduct a search.

Who are key holders? Key holders can be family, friends or neighbors. These are people 
who you trust, are aware of your comings and goings, and know how to use the alarm 

Key holders are always encouraged to meet with the officers. Remember, officers are 
looking for the obvious source of a tripped alarm. Key holders should be familiar with 
the home or business so they can assist the officers in determining if a crime has 
occurred. We strongly encourage a key holder for an alarm account to be within 20 minutes 
of the home or business. This allows for a timely response.

If you have any questions about the alarm ordinance or alarm permit process, you can go 
to the city's Web page at Click on the City Codes and Ordinances link, 
click on Title 3, then click on Chapter 5 to view the ordinance.

Ken Head is a front-office employee with the St. George Police Department.

Out of Line Fine in Seattle

It seemed pretty clear that someone tired to break into James Forsher's Ballard neighborhood home in January. The door jam is nicked up with marks where someone tried to pry it open. The burglar's boot marks blackened Forsher's back door, and the Brinks security system was making an unfamiliar and frightening sound. 

"The alarm was chirping. That means there was an attempted break-in," said Forsher. 

But four months later, Brinks charged the Forshers $90 for a false alarm. 

"If the police don't catch the people in the act, you could be charged with a false alarm and billed $90. Because that, in effect, is what's happening," said Forsher. 

How did this happen? 

The city has a false alarm law to make sure residents with faulty systems pay for tying up police officers. Brinks says Seattle Police sent them a bill for a false alarm fee and they were just passing the costs along. But, if Forsher obtained a police report, the company would waive the fee. 

"So, we called the Seattle Police Department had them come and file a police report," said Forsher, who then sent the report to Brinks. 

"They said you can't get it waived you still have to pay it," said Forsher. 

But that's not right. The city's false alarm ordinance is clear. It reads that once a police report is provided to the alarm company, "the fee will be waived administratively." 

"The alarm company should waive any fees that were assessed once they have a case number from the homeowner," said Mark Jamieson, Seattle Police spokesperson. 

Knowing that, Brinks still wanted the Forshers to pay the fee. That's when KING 5 News got involved. We sent the police report and the city's false alarm ordinance back to Brinks. Two days later, they credited the Forsher's account 90 dollars. 

Forsher has one thing to say to Brinks. 

"Get their act together. If they are going to be charging people, they need to have a system to properly be charging them."

North Carolina Holds Hearings on CO Risks

North Carolina state lawmakers recently discussed a bill that would make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in many homes.

If passed, the bill would require carbon monoxide detectors in new construction and existing rental properties, particularly those with indoor heaters, fireplaces and attached garages. State Sen. William Purcell, D-Anson,  sponsored the bill. The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force recommended the change.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Each year, the gas kills 500 people in the U.S. and sends 15,000 people to emergency rooms with poisoning.

In 2007, Edward Bartlett, 81, died after carbon monoxide from a running car filled his Holly Springs townhouse. Two people in adjoining units sought medical attention after feeling ill.

The bill has some builders asking for more information on the cost and safety benefits of the devices.

“To have this piece of legislation going forward without an open forum and an open debate, I think might be a little premature,” said builder Michael Dean Chadwick.

Chadwick, a member of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, said lawmakers should not mandate the detectors without an intense study.

“We’re not opposed to doing things that are going to help save lives,” Chadwick said. “There’s just too much unknown at this point for people to be rushing to judgment that we need this. No one is saying that we don’t. We just don’t know.”

Raleigh Fire Department Fire Protection Officer Ronald Campbell said the devices are effective and recommended people have them.

“I think it helps in getting the message out that these are vital pieces of equipment in your home to help save a life. They are not that expensive, and anything that is not expensive and can help save your family's life is worth it to us in the fire department,” Campbell said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malfunctioning furnaces account for nearly one out of five carbon monoxide illnesses. Appliances that use natural gas and gas line leaks are next on the list. Motor vehicles and gas-powered generators are also common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Michigan Holds Hearings on CO Risks

A colorless, odorless and deadly gas has the state discussing ways to keep Michigan 
residents and visitors safer. The issue is over carbon monoxide.

The Michigan Department of Health, senators and carbon monoxide victims held a hearing to 
address bills which would require carbon monoxide alarms in Michigan residences and 
hotels. One advocate lost his son to carbon monoxide poisoning. He says it's a major 
public health issue that Michigan must act on. 

Richard Lueders, son died from carbon monoxide: "I am one of the few survivors who had 
the kind of exposure to CO, that is on record and survived. I can tell you that there is 
no smell, you don't have an idea that something is happening to you. You're simply fine 
one moment and unconscious the next." 

According to the Michigan Department of Health, our state had the sixth highest number of 
carbon monoxide deaths nation wide between 1999 and 2004. At lest 14 states already have 
legislation mandating CO alarms.

Lawrence, Kansas, Considers False Alarm Fees

Lawrence, Kansas city commissioners were presented with a list of ways the city could start 
raising more money from fire and medical operations to help pay for what the fire chief 
said is a serious need to replace aging fire engines.

Among the ideas: charging people and businesses for false fire alarms, and charging 
Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University for nonmedical emergency calls 
that the department makes to the campuses.

The false fire alarm fee appeared to have some traction with commissioners and staff 

“I don’t have a problem charging fees for false alarms,” Mayor Mike Dever said. “I would 
just like to know how common it is.”

City Manager David Corliss said staff members would be studying the issue closely as the 
city puts together a 2009 budget, which is expected to be one of the tighter budgets in 
recent memory. Corliss said staff members likely would look at the false alarm concept 
for security alarms that the police department responds to.

Fire Chief Mark Bradford estimates that if the city charged $25 per false alarm, the city 
could collect about $18,000 per year. The city had about 700 false fire alarms in 2007.

The bigger revenue generator, though, would be to charge fees to KU and Haskell for some 
services. Bradford estimated that the city could collect about $185,000 if the 
universities were charged $500 for non-EMS related responses it made. In 2007, KU had 325 
such calls and Haskell had 48.

But that idea may be a tough sell in City Hall.

“When we’ve looked at that in the past, it has always come back as something we’ve 
decided not to do,” Corliss said.

He said any analysis of the idea would have to measure what the university provides to 
the city for free or little cost. For example, the headquarters for the fire and medical 
department sits on property owned by Kansas University Endowment Association.

Gilbert, AZ, Police Department Crime Prevention Classes on 5/28

Gilbert, Arizona, residents and business owners are invited to attend a Gilbert Police 2008 False Alarm Awareness Class. 

The class will cover areas related to preventing false alarms and answering questions such as “What is a false alarm”, what can I do to prevent a false alarm, how do I cancel an alarm, how does my alarm system work? Those in attendance will receive a certificate valued at $50.00 that can be applied towards a false alarm fine.

The class begins Wednesday, May 28, 2008, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Gilbert Police Department Service Center at 75 E. Civic Center Drive.

The Gilbert Police Alarm Coordinator is requesting RSVPs, as classroom seating is limited.

Please contact the Alarm Coordinator at 480-635-7459 or by email at Robert Schubert for any any further questions you might have.

Hempfield, PA, Seeks End to False Fire Alarms

Officials in Hempfield, PA,  hope enforcement of its fire alarm ordinance will put an end to a rash of false alarms plaguing local firefighters

Township Manager Rob Ritson told supervisors at a planning session Wednesday night that the situation has grown "habitual" with some businesses. However, he said the biggest violator is the Hempfield Area School District. 

Under the ordinance, violations occur on the fourth false alarm during any 12-month period. Violators face a maximum $300 fine for each new offense. 

Ritson indicated its time for a crackdown. 

"We chose not to aggressively enforce (the ordinance)," Ritson said. "But it's becoming more and more habitual." 
The problem, he said, stems from "faulty detectors." 

While not identifying violators, he said a number of restaurants on Route 30 have repeated false alarms. Several have had the problem fixed, but only after "we really threatened them." 

Ritson did not pinpoint the number of false alarms coming from the school district. 

He said there are relatively few residential false alarms. 

Ritson said the hope is a crackdown will help save firefighters time and fuel. One estimate is that 80 percent of alarms that volunteer emergency personnel respond to turn out to be false. 

After the meeting, Ritson said enforcement would probably get under way sometime in the next two weeks.

False Burglar Alarm Will Cost You $100 in Darien, CT

Hoping to cut down on the false police alarms, the Representative Town Meeting in Darien, CT, by a 63-0 vote with one abstention, approved an ordinance that fines residents for false alarms.

The ordinance, which encompasses both false fire and burglar alarms, replaces the fire alarm ordinance that went into effect in 2001.

“The RTM adopted a fire alarm system ordinance... which has been found to enhance public safety and substantially reduce the number of false fire alarms,” the resolution states.

“The primary objective is to reduce the excessive number of false alarms of automatic alarm systems,” said Lloyd Plehaty, whose Town, Government, Structure & Administration Committee unanimously approved the new ordinance.

At last week’s selectmen meeting, town counsel Ed Schmidt said that often, in these situations, administration duties are contracted out. The revenue from the fines would be used to pay for the outsourcing. The fire marshal’s office handles false fire alarms.

Fines garnered for false police alarms “shall be credited to a separate account to be used to improve the police service,” the ordinance states. The same goes for false fire alarms.

“The purpose of this article,” the ordinance says, “is to reduce the false alarms in town by having alarm owners take steps to prevent false alarms. These actions include installing proper equipment appropriately; operating the alarm systems to minimize false alarms; maintaining the alarm system; having monitoring companies verify false alarms; and canceling alarms that are determined to be false.”

The Board of Selectmen suggested a more stringent fine structure than the fire alarm ordinance had. A false alarm would carry with it a $100 fine for first-time offenders and $150 fine for second-time offenders. A $200 fine would be levied for the third and all subsequent false alarms.

But in the approved — and modified — ordinance, it maintains the current fine rate for false fire and police alarms, which is $100 for every false alarm.
In addition to a false alarm, $100 fines will be levied for the use of an automatic telephone dialing alarm system directly to the emergency communications center, and failure to register an alarm.

There will also be $25 fines for the use of an exterior audible alarm system except as provided in the ordinance, and failure to install or maintain an auxiliary power source as required in the ordinance.

Lastly, the failure to make timely payment of fines or charges will result in a $25 late fee plus 18 percent per year interest charge.

For police, an alarm is considered false when officers arrive at the scene, but because the three town fire departments are all volunteer, for fire alarms, it is considered false when they are dispatched.

A copy of the ordinance is posted here.

Court Nixes Verified Response - Fontana (CA) PD Must Respond

The San Bernardino Superior Court ruled that the City of Fontana Police Department must respond to alarm events, regardless of whether they are verified or not, the result of a suit filed by the Inland Empire Alarm Association (IEAA) against the City of Fontana Police Department on Sept. 24, 2007. 

The suit disputed the city's implementation of a verified response policy, which required alarm companies to verify the legitimacy of an activated alarm prior to dispatching the police. The policy went into effect Oct. 1, 2007. 

IEAA argued that the city's verified response policy contradicted the City of Fontana  Burglar Alarm Ordinance, which had been enforced since its enactment in 1968.  "Essentially the court has said that the police have to respond to alarms and the court's  position is that the police must comply with the municipal ordinance," said attorney Lessing Gold, of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, which represented IEAA. 

"The intention of this suit was not for the industry as much as for the citizens of Fontana," said Morgan Hertel, vice president of the Command Center and a member of the IEAA. "Government agencies simply can't make policy that trumps ordinances and laws in this country and that's the basis of this lawsuit and why we won. The association won their part, but the real winners are the citizens and the public at large." 

Hertel said he believes the court's ruling sets a precedent. "It means that any other city that wants to enact any kind of policy, whether it's a false alarm or a how-to-mow-your-lawn, you can't just make a policy if there's already a law that governs it," he said. 

He also said that he hopes there's no bad blood between the two parties and said the association will reach out to the police department in upcoming days. 

It remains unclear whether the city will be required by the court to take immediate action to resume alarm response. The city has 60 days from the entry of judgment to appeal the court's decision. "What happens now is anybody's guess," said Hertel.

Lansing, MI, City Council Passes Alarm Ordinance

Those with faulty alarm systems may want to get them checked. Lansing city council passed and ordinance last month that will fine homeowners who have repeated false alarm calls. 

Under the ordinance, alarm systems that generate three or more false alarms during a twelve month period could be subject to civil infractions for each call.

Fine for False Alarms in Charleston, SC

In an effort to reduce the roughly 1,200 false alarms answered by the Charleston Police Department each month, the city will fine alarm owners responsible for four or more false calls, starting Sept. 1. 

The Charleston City Council on Tuesday night approved the measure, which was proposed by the police department. 

Police Chief Greg Mullen said that he hopes fines will prompt people to be more careful about accidental alarms. Summerville, among other towns and cities, found that fines quickly reduced the number of false alarms, particularly from companies that trained employees to avoid alarm system mistakes. 

Mullen said the city will work to educate alarm owners and alarm companies and said much of the problem could be solved if more alarm companies would notify police after learning an alarm was tripped accidentally and cancel the police response. 

The fine will be $50 for the fourth through sixth false alarm in a year, and $100 for each one after that. Each year, starting Jan. 1, alarm owners will get three false alarms before the fines kick in. 

This year, alarm owners will get three "free" false alarms during the last four months of the year after the ordinance takes effect, then start with a clean slate in 2009. 

"We don't want anyone to stop using alarms," Mullen told City Council. "We think alarms are good." Comparing alarms to automobiles or guns, the police chief said alarm owners need to use them responsibly.

Charleston's fines for false alarms:

0-3 false alarms: no fine

4-6 false alarms: $50 each

7 or more: $100 each

Darien, CT, False Alarms Could Lead to Increased Fines

Looking to crack down on the number of false security alarms triggered in Darien's homes and businesses, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) unanimously recommended the addition of a security alarm system ordinance for the town during its meeting Monday evening. 

The ordinances presented to the BOS were based on similar ones passed in 2001 regarding false fire alarms.

Presented by Police Commission Chair­man Paul Johnson and Assistant Town Council Ed Schmidt, the ordinances proposed to the BOS consisted of fines in the amount of $100 to the owners of alarm systems each time they are falsely triggered and necessitate a police response to the location.

However, at the request of Selectmen Callie Sullivan and Linda Santarella, the fines were adjusted to a rising scale of $100 for a first offense, $150 for a second and $200 for each additional offense over the course of a calendar year, in order to send more of a message to repeat offenders.

"The goal here is to cut down on the number of false alarms," Johnson said. "That's what we're trying to do and that's the real reason for the ordinance. 

The commission had been content with the $100 fines, he said, but was supportive of the selectmen's changes as well.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required in Alburtis, PA Buildings

A carbon monoxide scare in Alburtis, PA, and a death in a neighboring hotel has led Borough Council to enact an ordinance requiring residential facilities and the owners of rental properties to install detectors for the potentially deadly gas. 

Alburtis appears to be the first area municipality to adopt an ordinance requiring carbon monoxide detectors since a man died following exposure to the gas at an Upper Macungie Township hotel. Upper Macungie supervisors also plan to adopt an ordinance. 

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas emitted by fuel-burning equipment, such as furnaces, water heaters and automobiles. It can be fatal in large quantities.

The Alburtis ordinance, approved last week, requires apartment buildings, hotels, day cares, long-term care facilities, group homes and dormitories to install the detectors. Also, facilities capable of hosting a public assembly of 100 or more people, such as restaurants, theaters and meeting halls, must install detectors. 

Alburtis council was prompted to adopt the ordinance, which takes effect Nov. 15, because of recent events in the area. 

''It started a bit back when the hotel in [Upper Macungie] had a problem,'' Council President Steven Hill said.

A guest at Best Western in the Kuhnsville section of Upper Macungie was killed in January by carbon monoxide poisoning when, investigators said, a construction canopy along an exterior wall of the hotel blocked the deadly gas from the hotel's propane-fired water heaters from escaping through a vent.

Philip D. Prechtel, 63, died, and his wife, Katherine, was sickened. One other hotel guest, two employees, two police officers and three ambulance workers who responded to the scene were taken to hospitals.

Hill said the borough had its own recent scare when a carbon monoxide alarm went off at a local apartment building. Firefighters responded and the scene was declared safe, but the building's furnace was determined to be malfunctioning.

''We have a couple of old apartment buildings,'' Hill said. The ordinance ''just seems like a good idea.''

Buildings that do not contain fuel-burning appliances and are not attached to a garage are exempt from the ordinance. The new law will not apply to private homes. 

In Upper Macungie, supervisors in February directed the township solicitor to draft an ordinance requiring detectors in commercial buildings and in all new homes. Existing homes would be exempt unless the owner does major renovations. 

Township officials recommend that all homeowners purchase the detectors, which cost about $20.

7100 Series Gamewell-FCI Panels Recalled

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled 3,000 fire alarm control panels manufactured by Gamewell-FCI of Northford, Conn., due to alert failure.

The sounder on the panel's main circuit board can fail to alert when there is a malfunction. 

The recall, involving the 7100 series, was sold by authorized distributors nationwide from May 2007 through November 2007 for between $900 and $1,800. 

For additional information, contact Gamewell at 800-274-4324.

SIA Webinar on Wednesday May 14, 2008, 1pm ET: State Legislative Trends

This webinar will feature a presentation from Nebraska’s Lt. Governor and State Homeland Security Advisor, Rick Sheehy. He will address his state’s homeland security priorities and how both federal and state policies impact Nebraska’s security initiatives. 

In addition, SIA will offer a presentation to attendees on its State Legislative Tracking Service, providing specific examples of how these state policies can impact your business. For example, did you know that Arizona recently introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of biometric technologies in its school systems? Florida is considering legislation that would require certain businesses to obtain CCTV and video surveillance systems. The legislation would also establish specs for equipment placement and mandate the creation of a database listing acceptable products and vendors. 

To ensure your company's bottom-line is protected, register today to learn what state legislation and government programs are in the pipeline and how they could impact your organization. The event is free to all SIA members!

Click here to register.

Kannapolis (NC) Considers Alarm Ordinance

The Kannapolis (NC) City Council held its second regular meeting April 28 at the Kannapolis Train Station.

All council members were present. Councilman Richard Anderson gave the invocation.
Among items of business before the council were:
• Members voted unanimously, without further discussion, to approve an amended version of the burglar alarm ordinance introduced at the April 14 meeting.

The new ordinance requires owners of all homes and businesses with burglar alarms to get a permit from the city at a cost of $20 per alarm.

The law also requires owners to keep up-to-date contact information on file with the Kannapolis Police Department, and sets a schedule of warnings and fines for false alarms sent by automatic alarms and monitoring services.

Police Chief Woody Chavis told the council last month that false alarms account for hundreds of hours of wasted time for officers each month.

The ordinance was changed to remove a clause requiring a $20 annual fee for alarm permits after concern from commissioners that the yearly charge would create an unfair burden.