July 2008 - Posts

CO Alarms Now Mandatory in All Minnesota Homes

The goal is to reduce deaths -- there were 92 in Minnesota from 2002 to 2006 -- from the colorless, tasteless, odorless gas.

A new law takes effect Friday requiring all single-family homes in Minnesota to have a carbon-monoxide detector within 10 feet of each bedroom. 

With that deadline looming, the fire chiefs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, state legislators and the parents of a 3-year-old who died from carbon-monoxide poisoning are getting the word out about the requirement.

This morning, the city of St. Paul will receive 500 detectors to be given to families who otherwise cannot afford them. The price of a battery-operated detector starts at a little more than $20.

Minnesota's law is being implemented in three phases:

Phase 1, requiring alarms in all newly constructed single-family homes and multifamily dwellings where building permits took effect Jan. 1, 2007. 

Phase II, requiring alarms in all existing single-family homes goes into effect Friday. 

Phase III, requiring all existing multifamily or apartment dwelling units have alarms goes into effect in August 2009.

Jason and Melissa Griggs of Oronoco, Minn., and their extended family have been instrumental in passing the legislation following the death of their 3-year-old daughter, Hannah, from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Jason Griggs was awakened in the middle of the night in March 2004 when his wife fell unconscious after getting out of bed. He called 911. Waiting for the paramedics, "I started to get really ill, violently ill," he recalled two years ago, soon after the requirements were signed into law.

Improper ventilation of their furnace combined with a downdraft resulted in a carbon monoxide build-up in the Griggs home. Paramedics saved Griggs, his wife, Melissa, and their infant daughter but couldn't revive Hannah.

Carbon-monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the country, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that from 2002-2006, 92 Minnesotans died from unintentional exposure to this colorless, tasteless, odorless gas.

Carbon monoxide is commonly associated with car exhaust, but any inefficient or malfunctioning fuel-burning device can produce carbon monoxide , including gas furnaces, water heaters and power generators. In homes without alarms, the poison gas can accumulate without warning to a lethal level.

Carbon monoxide is commonly associated with car exhaust, but any inefficient or malfunctioning fuel-burning device can produce carbon monoxide , including gas furnaces, water heaters and power generators. In homes without alarms, the poison gas can accumulate without warning to a lethal level.

New Brunswick Council Rejects False Alarm Rules

The Township Council rejected an ordinance Tuesday that would have established new fines for false alarms from residential and commercial security systems.

The measure was defeated by a vote of 4-0, with Councilman Chris Kilmurray not in attendance.

Council members said the intent of the ordinance was to reduce the number of false alarms police respond to, but the proposed law’s fines were excessive.

The proposed alarm ordinance would have resulted in fines for false alarms, beginning with the first incident. Alarm owners would have been charged $25 for the first incident, $50 for the second, $75 for the third, $100 for the fourth and $200 for every incident after that. Owners also would have had the option of taking an online alarm education course, in lieu of paying a fine, but only for the first incident.

Under the current law, fines start at $50 for each false alarm after the sixth incident, $150 for each false alarm over the 10th and $500 for each alarm over the 20th incident.

Council members said that their own concerns over the proposed ordinance, as well as negative feedback from the public, weighed in their decision.

”This is just too onerous to the businesses and residents in its current state,” Councilman Joe Camarotta said.

”I’ve received so many e-mails concerning this,” said Councilwoman Carol Barrett said. “The intent is wonderful, but we really need to spend more time looking at this.”

In 2007, the South Brunswick police received about 3,800 calls from alarm system, 94 percent to 98 percent of which were false alarms, according to Capt. Harry Delgado.

Capt. Delgado said it usually costs between $36 and $100 to respond to each false call. That includes fuel and officers’ salaries, in addition to having police attention diverted from other possible incidents.

Many of these false alarms are caused by repeat offenders, he added.

Lincoln County, CO, to Fine for False Alarms

In Colorado, Lincoln County Commissioners approved a false alarm ordinance that will enable the county to fine residents and businesses after four false alarms during a 12-month period.

Virginia Beach (VA) Raises Fines for False Alarms

Police responded to burglar alarms at Lynnhaven Mall 107 times over a recent 12-month period. An alarm at a Hertz equipment rental store on South Military Highway summoned help 46 times.

Problem was, all were false alarms. To combat what police call a "colossal waste of energy," the Virginia Beach City Council has raised fines for false alarms from $25 to $150-$250. The city also is considering requiring all alarm owners to obtain a $10 permit to register with police.

The increases, which kick in on the third false call, likely will take effect early next year. The council still needs to approve the mandatory registration, which faced no hostility at a council meeting this week.

"Unfortunately, I think it may be necessary, based on the statistics we have," Councilman Bob Dyer said.

Everyone with existing alarms will have to register them. Failure to do so could place residents and businesses on a "do not respond" list, police said.

Police responded to 22,231 false alarms over a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, a figure equivalent to 11,000 hours of manpower. Burglar alarms generate many calls, and repeat offenders are drains on time.

"If we're coming out once a month, something is definitely wrong," said Jim Cervera, deputy police chief.

Police responded to false burglar alarms at Lynnhaven Mall more than 100 times between December 2006 and November 2007, statistics show.

"This is a security-related matter, and that's something we typically don't discuss," said John Westbrook, the mall's general manager. "If we did, it could possibly make it difficult for us to secure the mall."

Malls create false-alarm calls because many stores and kiosks have their own systems, which employees don't always know how to use, said Lt. Theresa Orr.

"If you're going to have a 17-year-old open the store, you've got to give the 17-year-old the alarm code," she said.

Employees don't appear to be the problem at the Hertz store.

A giant tarp rolled up out back has become a home for "critters," stray cats and raccoons that trip a motion detector connected to the burglar alarm, said employee Scott Baxter.

"We don't call the police anymore," he said. "We tell them don't worry about it."

Permit fees and fines are estimated to generate $1.1 million in the first year, police said.

They expect to start the alarm registration program early next year, which police hope will create more user accountability, Orr said.

Arcadia, CA, Gets Tough on False Alarms with Fees and Fines

Alarm system users in Arcadia, CA, will be required to pay a $40 annual permit fee and face stricter fines for false alarms. 

The new fees are designed to discourage false alarms. 

The City Council voted 3-2 to set the annual fee. Council members also reduced the grace period from three to two false alarms per year and raised penalties for all subsequent false alarms. 

The city now will charge $100 for a third false burglar alarm in a 365-day period, $200 for a fourth, and $300 thereafter. 

"I don't think anyone disagreed with upping penalties for chronic abusers," said Mayor Robert Harbicht, who voted for the resolution. 

But since the City Council first mulled the idea in May, a point of greater contention has been the annual permit fee. 

"It's essentially a cost-recovery mechanism," Harbicht said, defending the fee. "Police resources are being taken away from the rest of the community. Those who have alarms are the ones who are causing this to happen. I just felt like an annual fee is appropriate." 

Council members Peter Amundson and John Wuo, who voted against the resolution, do not believe the permit fee is fair. 

"If a small percentage of people have false alarms, and everybody pays the annual $40 fee, to me it is not right to the residents," Wuo said. "I just have difficulty charging people ... when they didn't do anything wrong." 

The permit fee also pays for false alarm tracking and billing services, including the creation of a database of the city's estimated 4,000 to 5,000 alarm users. The council separately approved a contract with Public Safety Corporation for such services at last week's meeting. 

"It shouldn't cost that kind of money to monitor who has alarms in our city," Amundson said. "The alarm fees should not be looked at as a revenue source. We have a right to recoup our costs, but $40 is excessive." 

According to City Manager Don Penman, the city still needs to execute its contract with PSC, which in turn must first build the database of alarm users before billing can begin. 

"The fee hikes would go into effect at the same time," Penman said. "It could be a couple months."

Kendallville, IN, Considers Alarm Fees

Every time Kendallville firefighters respond to a preventable false fire alarm at a business, industry even a home it costs the city money.

In 2007 the figure was approximately $1,250 for each run, according to fire chief Mike Riehm. This year’s cost hasn’t been tallied yet, but with $4 for regular gas and $5 for diesel, it’s a good bet the cost has gone up.

The issue is false fire alarms are preventable if businesses, industries and homeowners maintain their alarm systems.

Firefighters trained in responding to real emergencies don’t need to waste their time and risk their lives racing to a false fire alarm that happened because of dirt or faulty wiring in the system. This kind of oversight is costing the city money at a time when city officials trimming budgets and prioritizing expenditures.

More importantly, it could cost lives. While firefighters hurry to a preventable false alarm, they could have received a ligitimate alarm call at the same time, splitting their resources when all available resources are needed.

Riehm, Mayor Suzanne Handshoe and City Council have had enough. They’re doing what other communities have been doing for 25 years. Council is considering an ordinance with fines for businesses, industries and homeowners reporting preventable false alarms. This week council approved the ordinance on first reading. The ordinance will be eligible for second reading on Aug. 5.

The key word in this legislation is “preventable.” Accidental trips are exempt from a $500 fine, and so are manual activation of alarms where a fire is believed to exist. Natural occurrences like thunderstorms with lightning and earthquakes may also inadvertently activate alarms.

“It’s not to get money for alarms,” said Riehm. “It’s to encourage businesses to do maintenance on their alarms so we don’t have false alarms.”

Handshoe said most communities have had an alarm ordinance for 20 to 25 years. “False alarms are stressful on the department, to call in volunteers and the gas expended to get to the scene.”

Sometimes the fire department goes to the same industry five times in one day. Industries and businesses fail to notify the fire department when they’re working on their alarm systems, conducting fire drills or engaging in activities like painting, welding, cleaning and cooking which could activate a fire alarm detector.

When a preventable fire department response to a fire alarm has occurred, the responsible party must make a written report to the fire chief explaining the fire alarm and corrective action to prevent it in the future, according to the ordinance.

The fire department must be notified when a fire alarm system is temporarily out of service. Any alarm found out of service without the fire chief’s written consent may subject the responsible party to a fine. “If we find a faulty alarm system due to poor maintenance, we tell them to fix it and maintain it,” said Riehm.

The ordinance also spells out where new fire alarm panels should be located in a building for easy accessibility.

On every fire run Kendallville sends a fire engine, a rescue truck, the Tower truck and a group of full-time and volunteer firefighters. More equipment and manpower can be sent if needed. “Preventable false alarms costs industry in lost production because employees are evacuated,” said Riehm. “They’re costly to business, and costly to us.”

Palm Beach County (FL) Sheriff Seeks Major Increase in Alarm Fees

Both the registration and renewal fees that thousands of home and business owners with alarm systems pay to the Palm Beach 
County Sheriff's Office each year are on the rise.

County commissioners are poised to approve on July 22, 2008,  a 400 percent increase in the fee, from a $5 renewal charge to $25. 
Application fees to burglar alarm users will rise from $18 to $25.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and top county managers are seeking the fee hike — the latest county move to shift the payment of some 
public services from property taxes to user fees.

Bradshaw contends the hike is justified, noting that what's now collected from the fee, about $500,000 a year, doesn't come 
close to covering what his department spends on its Alarm Enforcement Unit. In addition, he said, the fee has never increased 
in its 16 years.

Still, the potential new charges, which would go in place Oct. 1, are already causing a buzz among security company 
operators. Some alarm system managers are worried the fee hike will scare away new customers or irritate clients already 
reeling from homeownership costs like insurance and taxes.

"It's a good program but I'm not so sure they should be raising the charges for it," said Steve Rosenthal, general manager of 
a Sonitrol alarm system franchise that operates throughout Palm Beach County. "I don't think the public is going to like it 
too much. I don't think they'll be happy at all. I don't see why the increase should be happening."

More than 89,000 home and business owners, primarily in unincorporated Palm Beach County, pay the registration fee and will 
be subject to the hike, according to Assistant County Manager Vince Bonvento. Municipalities not served by the Sheriff's 
Office have their own fees and registration systems.

A few county commissioners have expressed cautious support for the fee hike.

"Right now, taxpayers who don't have alarm systems are subsidizing the costs for this program since the fees aren't covering 
all that it costs to register the alarms," said Commissioner Karen Marcus.

Commissioner Bob Kanjian said he hasn't made up his mind on the fee hike.

Commissioner Mary McCarty said increasing the fees would be "a fair thing to do" since the charges remain at 1992 levels.

The processing fees come on top of expenses paid by home and business owners for private monitoring companies to install, 
maintain and monitor for break-ins and panic calls. The alarm systems typically cost $800 to $1,000 to install, though they 
can be more expensive, depending on the type of system, size of a home and level of monitoring. In addition, private 
companies charge clients monthly fees for the service, typically $15 to $40, service providers say.

The county also charges penalties of about $250 to homes and businesses that have chronic false alarms.

The county's alarm enforcement program is no more than a registration system. It tells deputies who is responsible for the 
property where an alarm has been triggered, and the street address and other information associated with the alarm.

The systems work like this: When an alarm indicates a possible break-in, monitoring companies attempt to contact a home or 
business owner or other "key holder." If they have reason to believe that the alert is not a false alarm, they contact the 
Sheriff's Office. Deputies only respond if the alarm system is registered, unless there's an indication of trouble.

"If there's anything that has to do with a person possibly being hurt, we're going to respond no matter whether the alarm 
system is registered or not," Bradshaw said.

Mountain Village, CO, to Combat False Alarms

Sometimes an electrical short or a falling branch triggers it. A weekend guest who unaware that the house is equipped with 
alarms. A visiting real-estate agent who’s doesn’t know the security code.

No matter the tripwire, day after day in Mountain Village, CO, burglar alarms screech and the police come running. These 
alarms, which are almost always false, have become a growing headache for the Village, multiplying by about 45 percent from 
2006 through this year, according to a Planet analysis of police data.

Village Police fielded 206 alarm calls in 2006 and 249 the following year. And the number of alarm calls this year is already 
running 20 percent ahead of 2007’s numbers.

For the most part, it’s a consequence of growth and wealth. Homeowners buy elaborate security systems to protect their 
investments and keep their insurance rates down, but they often live elsewhere and aren’t home to defuse a whooping alarm and 
keep the police at bay. As the Village grows, so does the problem.

Enter the Mountain Village Town Council, which is examining whether the town should stay in the business of answering 
residential alarms, or whether homeowners should be charged a fee every time the police have to deal with a false alarm. The 
council and Dale Wood, the Village police chief, will discuss the issue at today’s council meeting.

“I don’t know where it’ll end up,” said council member Dan Garner. “I do believe that we need to make sure we’re not using 
valuable resources responding to windows being rattled with wind.”

Cities across the country have set up fines, required homeowners to register their alarms with police or set up a response 
mechanism called Enhanced Call Verification. Under this system, alarm companies first reach out to homeowners, then make a 
decision about whether to call the police.

Garner’s former haunt, the University Park neighborhood of Dallas, confronted the same issue and decided to simply stop 
responding to the alarms, he said.

“Many municipalities have gotten out of that business,” Mayor Bob Delves said in an earlier interview. “That’s what alarm 
companies are for, and they’re the first line of defense. I think the concern out here is: is that the right level of service 
that citizens want?”

Wood didn’t return a phone message yesterday to discuss the problem, or how much time and money is spent every year 
responding to these calls. 

But police reports show that alarm calls are the department’s third-highest activity, behind investigations and traffic 
contacts. Overall, about 6 percent of their calls are devoted to investigating alarms, according to data from 2007 and 2008.

It hasn’t always been this way.

From 1995 until late 2003, Wood wrote in a memo to council, Mountain Village police didn’t respond to home burglary alarms, 
instead letting alarm companies send their yellow-flasher cruisers to investigate the digital harpies.

But at the start of 2004, the council changed its response policy and directed officers to respond to the calls, “regardless 
of whether or not the alarm companies sent their own staff. This has been our standing policy for the past four and one half 
years,” Wood wrote.

As a corrective, he suggested giving each homeowner two free false alerts, then charging $50 for the third response and 
jacking up the price “exponentially” after that. “We will continue to respond to all bank alarms, (panic) alarms and burglary 
alarms from commercial businesses,” Wood wrote.

Arcadia, CA, to Stiffen Alarm Law, But No Verified Response

Though the Los Angeles County sheriff's does not know what percentage of false alarms are false, local officers say most calls usually turn out to be an accidental triggering of the alarm. 

"A lot of man hours are wasted on each false alarm," said Deputy Hector Figueroa of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "We have to take each call seriously, but we know most of the time they won't amount to anything." 

Concerned by the costs of false alarms to fire and police departments, city officials have come up with several ways to find funds to offset the costs. 

In Arcadia, CA, officials are ready to increase fees on homes and businesses because of the persistent problems with false alarms. 

"There are a lot of city resources that are being utilized for false alarms," City Manager Don Penman said. "It doesn't really benefit the general community. It benefits those people who for whatever reason choose to have an alarm. The staff position is that there should be some reimbursement for that cost." 

On July 15, the Arcadia City Council will consider an ordinance seeking to cut down false alarms by reducing the grace period for repeated false alarms, increasing fines for false alarms, and implementing an annual registration fee for all alarm users. 

The council would also decide on how to configure the fees. The main proposal would introduce a $40 annual alarm permit fee for users. A $100 fee would be charged for a third false burglary alarm in a 365-day period; $200 for a fourth; and $300 for all subsequent false alarms. Other options would lower the annual fee as far as $25 per year, but raise false alarm fees. 

Currently, the city does not charge an alarm permit fee, and allows for three free false alarms per year. Fourth and fifth false alarms are charged $100, and subsequent ones $200. 

Cities that do charge an alarm permit fee include Azusa, Claremont, Covina, El Monte, Glendora, La Verne, Los Angeles, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Pomona, Sierra Madre and Whittier. 

Penman said the city also looked into a "verified response program," such as the one used in Fontana. 

Under Fontana's program, police will not respond to an alarm call until it has been verified as authentic. Methods of verification include audio recording, video surveillance and on-site verification from a security officer or eyewitness. 

"We don't recommend that approach because we believe residents would want police to respond," Penman said. "That's one of the reasons we're proposing to charge an annual permit fee. They're really getting a service that no one else in town gets ... the vast majority of people in town don't have alarms." 

In West Covina, officials pushed the idea of charging a fee for dialing 9-1-1 last month as a way to bring revenue to the city. 

The West Covina City Council did not go for the idea: it voted against taking any further action on the ordinance. 

The ordinance was suggested partly to deal with the cost of a new upgraded emergency radio system. But City Manager Andrew Pasmant said the ordinance was also to deal with the false alarm problems. 

"We can charge a fee for alarms, or penalize residents for false alarms, but our police department still spends a lot of time responding to false alarm calls," said Pasmant. 

The city responded to 4,113 alarm calls in 2007, a total that amounts to over 10 a day. 

Part of the reason the ordinance may have failed is that it would have been enacted only if legal challenges to other cities' 9-1-1 fees were resolved favorably. 

The city of Ventura instituted a subscription-based fee of $1.49 a month earlier this year. Those that choose not to sign up would have to pay a $50 fee for every 9-1-1 call. Santa Cruz, in northern California, passed a similar ordinance. 

The key for West Covina, said Pasmant, is to see if the ordinances survive legal challenges. 

"I believe the state court ruled in favor of one city, and against the other," said Pasmant. "There are still appeals pending, so it is very unclear whether any ordinance will be legal or not." 

Ordinances that mandate fees or call for reductions in 9-1-1 services also can be very unpopular with city residents. 

In 2003, Los Angeles considered instituting a verified response policy. The policy was proposed by police Chief William Bratton, who argued that the calls were a drain on city resources. 

Angry residents denounced the policy as a danger to city residents, and the City Council did not pass it.

Hamburg, NJ, Considers Alarm Law - Fines Set by Judges Case-by-Case

The borough of Hamburg, NJ, wants to stop false alarms. 

Hamburg Police Chief Jan Wright said the number of false alarms the police respond to prompted him to take action.

An ordinance was introduced at the July 7 municipal meeting to establish standards and regulations for the installation, operation and maintenance of household and business alarm systems in Hamburg.

According to Township Attorney Richard Clemack, the ordinance would require that residents and businesses register their alarms with the borough police department; false alarms could result in “very severe penalties.”

Not only have the numbers of false alarms increased, but many times the emergency notification does not specify what type of emergency has occurred. “If we don’t have an emergency contact person or know who lives at the residence or what type of emergency, we have to dispatch all emergency services, which are a big drain on our resources,” added Wright.

Hamburg may not be the only borough experiencing a rise in false alarm dispatches, but it appears to be one of the very few area towns that does not have a law in place. According to municipal Web sites, neighboring towns including Vernon, Franklin, Hardyston, Randolph and Wantage all have adopted similar ordinances.

After the Aug. 4 second and final reading to adopt the ordinance, new Hamburg residents and businesses will be provided with registration papers through the town. Chief Wright plans on having police visit all those currently known to have unregistered alarms to provide them with registration forms.

Although the fines can be steep, Wright says his department plans to start with an understanding one-strike policy. “We want to include something that allows for one false alarm before issuing a summons,” he said.

Attorney Clemack added that fine amounts will be determined on a case by case basis and will be at the discretion of the municipal judge.

Further clarification of what exactly constitutes a false alarm will be provided with the fully adopted ordinance, Wright said. As with any other issued summons, however, violators have the right to plead not guilty and appear in court if they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove that the alarm dispatch was not falsely triggered.

Redmond (WA) Fire-Alarm Ordinance Blasted By Multi-Tenant Residents

The smoke alarm in Ronni Churchill's condominium is so sensitive that it goes off at the faintest whiff of smoke, and makes a noise to wake the dead.

Churchill wants to know - isn't that enough fire protection?

No, says the city of Redmond, WA, which is telling residents of every multifamily unit in the city to comply with a seven-year-old ordinance requiring a more sophisticated monitoring system for fires.

For people who live in multifamily housing, said Fire Chief Randy Coggan, a careless resident could start a fire and cause injuries and death to dozens of neighbors. Because of the greater fire risk, the city established a strict fire-safety code for apartment and condominium units.

But the system Redmond requires costs between $1,000 and $2,000 per housing unit - and residents of older housing say it is so costly that it could force them out of their homes.

"I would have to sell my house at a loss" if forced to put in the new detection system, Churchill said.

She has joined with a group of condominium owners to form Citizens for Affordable Life Safety to fight the Redmond ordinance. They say Redmond's ordinance is too harsh, especially for residents living on fixed incomes.

"We do realize it is a financial impact," said City Councilman Howard Harrison, who heads the city's public safety committee. "We've met with this group several times, and the council has really gone overboard" to try to reduce the costs of the systems.

But, he said, "we can't compromise the safety to the degree they want us to."

The heat sensors required by Redmond's ordinance are triggered when the temperature exceeds 135 degrees, said Deputy Fire Chief *** Radtke. The system rings an alarm that alerts others in the building and the Fire Department. To efficiently detect hot spots, one sensor for each room is usually required.

Is Redmond's ordinance unique?

Yes and no. Most cities, including Redmond, require new multifamily housing to install combination alarm/sprinkler systems before the building gets final approval. Many cities also require a fire detection system in older housing:

-- King County requires fire-safety systems to be installed when a building undergoes major renovation, said King County fire-protection engineer Mark Ossewaarde. An ordinance requiring systems to be installed retroactively in all multifamily housing could be next. "I applaud Redmond for its proactive stance," he said.

-- Bellevue requires an evacuation-type alarm system for older multifamily housing, said Mark Bassuk, fire marshal for the city of Bellevue. But while heat sensors in every unit are "a good idea, it's just not practical" because of the cost, he said.

The Bellevue evacuation system includes smoke detectors and a loud alarm system. It is not monitored; Bassuk says the fire department relies on someone to call 911.

-- Tacoma passed an ordinance in July requiring every multifamily unit to have a smoke detector that runs off household current and is backed up by batteries. The estimated cost per unit is between $20 and $125, said Tacoma Deputy Fire Marshal Ralph Johns. In addition, any multifamily unit that has been remodeled substantially must have a sprinkler system in each unit.

Redmond's Radtke said there are 1,800 to 2,000 older multifamily units affected by the ordinance, and "some have been brought into compliance."

Redmond estimates that installing the devices costs between $1,000 and $1,700 in older units. Residents argue that the cost can go up if the unit's ceilings contain asbestos. Installing sensors means cutting into the asbestos ceiling - and that can require an asbestos-abatement effort that could cost up to $1,400 per unit, said Jim Anderson, president of the condominium coalition fighting the ordinance.

Harrison said residents can install special tracks on the ceiling that eliminate the need to cut into the asbestos.

Anderson also questions the heat sensor's effectiveness and said he'd rather spend his money on a good-quality, monitored smoke detector for his condo.


EMERgency24, the leading provider of central-station monitoring services, now offers Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS) that will help senior citizens live independently in their homes longer than previously possible. 

EMERgency24’s PERS offering is a new growth opportunity for alarm dealers to provide customers with constant access to medical attention, local police and the fire department.

Kevin McCarthy, EMERgency24 National Sales Manager, described EMERgency24 PERS as a turnkey program because the hardware can be drop-ship from EMERgency24 to the end-user. The hardware will be configured to connect the end-user to EMERgency24’s nationwide central station network. “If the individual dealer wants us to, we provide a customer care piece as well. We walk the subscriber through the set-up and testing of the equipment to make sure that they are comfortable using the product and service,” McCarthy says. “Installation of the hardware is simple and no tools are required. All that’s needed is a working electrical outlet and a live telephone line. Set-up is that easy.”

To help launch this new service, qualifying alarm dealers can receive free marketing materials, such as mailers and billing inserts, customized with their logo. McCarthy says EMERgency24 also plans to run larger marketing campaigns in the future.

The way EMERgency24 PERS works is that when a subscriber needs help, they press a button on an emergency transmitter that is typically worn on a lightweight necklace, as a wristband or on a belt clip. . When pushed, the transmitter sends a signal to a receiver that’s connected to the home telephone line. This activates a two-way voice communicator built into the receiver. Advanced technology allows PERS receivers to be heard and to pick up voices from almost anywhere in a house. For larger homes, there are amplifiers that extend the coverage area of the two-way voice communicator.

When the signal is received at the central station, a trained monitor will announce they have received an emergency alarm. After discussing the situation with the end-user, a quick evaluation will be made as to whether an ambulance is needed or if a call should be placed to a designated friend or family member. Plus, during emergencies, the monitor will stay on the line to provide comfort until help has arrived. 

“With the EMERgency24 PERS offering, subscribers will have the reassurance that they can call for help at any time with the press of a button,” said McCarthy. “This service is just what older Americans need to maintain their independence and remain in their homes, thus preserving their financial well being.”

With more than 40 million Americans over the age of 65, PERS provides an alternative to nursing homes and extended care facilities by allowing people to remain independent and in their own homes longer, McCarthy says. “Baby boomers are embracing the technology and purchasing the equipment for their own parents and other elderly relatives,” he says. 
EMERgency24, headquartered in Chicago since its founding in 1967, is a nation-wide provider of central-station alarm-monitoring services with branches in Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. 


Starkville, MS, Infrastructure Committee Discusses False Alarm Ordinance

From Alderman Richard Corey's Blog

The Starkville, MS, Infrastructure Committee is going to be discussing revising the false alarm ordinance after complaints from a number of entities around town. 

This needs to be done, while the idea of trying to cut back on false alarms is a good one, the particular implementation has resulted in businesses feeling unjustly targeted. 

A good example is the animal shelter, which got sited for false alarms even when people snuck on their property to drop off animals after-hours. The intrusion set off the alarm and the shelter's defense was that it was a legitimate use of the alarm and they shouldn't be penalized for it.

Henderson, NV, Fire Department to Only Respond w/ Verification

There is a trend sweeping through fire departments in the Las Vegas Valley, and the Nevada Security Association thinks it increases the risk of fire damage inside a home. But local fire departments say the new policy saves taxpayers money and reduces the risk to fire crews. 

Las Vegas Fire Department crews do not respond to residential fire alarms unless someone actually sees or smells smoke. Now the City of Henderson is following that trend.

The Henderson City Council passed an ordinance saying fire crews will no longer respond when a home fire alarm activates. Someone must see smoke first. 

The City of Las Vegas has had the policy for about four years. The Clark County Fire Department still responds to alarm only calls.

Now the newly formed Nevada Security Association wants to sound the alarm to stop what President Tom Wilson calls a dangerous trend -- fire departments ignoring fire alarm activations in homes. 

"They won't respond unless there is on-site verification. A passerby could call in and they will take that," said Wilson.

The association represents security companies in Nevada that offer fire alarm notification. Wilson is also President and CEO of Alarmco, Nevada's oldest locally owned security company. 

"We get an activation on one of your fire alarms, the City of Henderson dispatchers won't even take our phone call," said Wilson.

Wilson acknowledges that there are too many false alarms. He says there should be some middle ground, other than just not responding to a possible early fire indicator.

"By the time there is an outward sign, it will have burnt down that building and probably caught the building next door on fire," said Wilson.

In the next few weeks the Nevada Security Association will meet with the fire chiefs to ask for a workable solution.

Columbus, OH, Considers Verified Response to Cut Budget

As part of a plan to reduce mounting costs for police and fire overtime, Columbus, OH, officers might soon require security companies to verify that a crime is taking place before responding to alarms, Department of Public Safety officials said today.

Assistant Director Barb Seckler said Columbus police respond to all alarms. The city charges homeowners and businesses for repeated false alarms, but Seckler said fines don't cover police costs.

So-called “verified response” would require an alarm company or private security agency to confirm for police that they're needed at an actual crime scene. It's not a popular policy with the alarm industry.

“Verified response is non-response,” said David Simon, a spokesman for Brink's Home Security, a Dallas-based company with 1.2 million customers nationwide.

Only about 30 U.S. cities have adopted the idea under consideration in Columbus, Simon said. The Dallas City Council voted last September to repeal its verified-response 

Simon said he would recommend higher false-alarm fines instead, or a policy that cuts off police response to places that have repeated false alarms. Columbus now charges $100 for the third or fourth call, and fines escalate to $800 each after the ninth.

Jim Gilbert, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9, said false alarms don't contribute much to overtime costs. Burglar alarms are a lower priority for police than violent crimes, he said.

In a memo today to Mayor Michael B. Coleman, Safety Director Mitchell Brown offered 10 other recommendations to control overtime, including an end to non-mandatory training for firefighters and a change in paramedics' scheduling.

Brown said the Division of Police will seek help from the federal government and presidential campaigns to cover costs associated with candidates' visits to central Ohio. The Division of Fire will cut the number of firefighters on temporary administrative assignments.

Police and fire unions have long complained that the city prefers paying overtime to hiring more people. Even department officials acknowledge much of the overtime is unavoidable, for emergency runs late in a shift, paperwork that can't be handed off, mandatory training and other reasons.

“We're not a Monday-through-Friday, 8-to-5 department,” Gilbert said.

Coleman spokesman Dan Williamson said the mayor expects the department to do whatever it can to rein in overtime. Finance Director Joel S. Taylor projected in May that police and fire overtime could go $4.7 million over budget by the end of the year, pushing the city's biggest department into the red.

City Auditor Hugh J. Dorrian has said the entire general fund faces a $75 million deficit next year.