October 2008 - Posts

IAFF: Don't Just Change Batteries, Install Photo Detectors

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is urging households to change more than just smoke alarm batteries when Daylight Savings Time ends November 2. The IAFF also recommends changing to a photoelectric smoke alarm. About 90 percent of homes are equipped with ionization smoke alarms. 

"More than 3,000 people die each year in the United States and Canada in structure fires, and we need to do everything we can to reduce that number," IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger said. "Using better smoke alarms will drastically reduce the loss of life among citizens and fire fighters because it will mean earlier detection of fires and result in faster response by emergency crews." 

The IAFF in August said federal, state and provincial officials should require that all relevant building standards and codes developed in the United States and Canada include a mandate for the use of photoelectric smoke alarms. Research has demonstrated that photoelectric smoke alarms are more effective at warning of smoke from smoldering fires than ionization smoke alarms. With earlier warning, people have more time to escape a burning structure and call 911 sooner. Photoelectric smoke alarms also are less susceptible to nuisance alarms. To prevent nuisance alarms, citizens often disable smoke alarms, placing themselves, others in a home or building and fire fighters at greater risk. 

Photoelectric smoke alarms contain a light source and a light-sensitive electric cell. Smoke entering the detector deflects light onto the light-sensitive electric cell, triggering the alarm. These alarms are more sensitive to large particles given off during smoldering fires -- the kind of fires that typically occur at night when people are asleep. 

Ionization smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material, and establish a small electric current between two metal plates, which sound an alarm when disrupted by smoke entering the chamber. But the technology leads to a delayed warning in smoldering fires that can lead to greater loss of life among people and fire fighters in a burning structure as a result of a more developed fire. A delayed warning during a smoldering fire, especially at night, can incapacitate people who are sleeping and lead to death as fire spreads. 

No home should be without a smoke alarm, and ionization alarms should continue to be used until a home can be equipped with photoelectric alarms. 

The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, D.C., represents more than 292,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation's population.More information is available at www.iaff.org

Connecticut Police Chiefs Association Adopts Alarm Ordinance

Recognizing the need to reduce requests for police response to baseless alarm activations, Glen Mowrey of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) appeared before the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) to discuss initiatives begun by several states to manage and reduce the number of false burglar alarm activations. CPCA then tasked their Private Security Committee to develop an overall approach to alarm management and to create the model ordinance.

The result was the adoption of the model ordinance by CPCA which provides for direct alarm reduction initiatives, encourages multiple call verification and encourages installation of alarm control panels which meet or exceed ANSI SIA-CP-01 standards for all new installations and panel replacements.

Additionally, a sub-committee of the Private Security Committee was created to present this ordinance to towns throughout Connecticut as a proactive solution to false alarm dispatches.

Bob McVeigh, chairman of the Industry Affairs committee for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, said, "This is a win-win for police, consumers and the alarm industry. This ordinance makes it easier for towns in Connecticut to adopt a position on false alarm dispatches because, through the ordinance, all of the legwork has been done. Many thanks to the CPCA who has shown their willingness to work with alarm dealers and citizens within their communities."

Echoing McVeigh's enthusiasm, Chief Tom Sweeney of the Glastonbury Police Department said, "Statewide implementation of the model ordinance, coupled with effective alarm management follow through, has the real potential to eliminate over 100,000 needless dispatches each year."

Throughout the past four years, twelve state chief's associations have established alarm management programs to address false alarm dispatches. These states include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

"We're excited that the CPCA adopted this ordinance because it creates a relationship between alarm companies and the police, which allows us to work together toward a positive solution to false alarm dispatches," said Glen Mowrey, SIAC representative. "We're definitely moving in the right direction."

Holland City (MI) Closer to Alarm Ordinance

In Michigan, the Holland City Council approved Wednesday, Oct. 15, the first reading of an ordinance allowing the police department to charge for false security alarms.

The policy doesn’t charge for the first three false alarms of the year. For alarms four through six, the charge is $50 for each alarm. The next three alarms costs a business $75 each. Charges for false alarms No. 10 and beyond would be increased from $75 to $100 each.

In March, the city council approved a fine system for false fire alarms. A similar policy for false security alarms has been in place for 20 years, but officials recently discovered the police policy has no city ordinance to back it up, City Manager Soren Wolff said.

The final reading is Nov. 5.

Sanbury, PA, to Fine for Multiple False Alarms

Sanbury, PA, residents whose home or business is equipped with an alarm system now face fines for redundant false alarm situations, officials said Monday.

An alarm ordinance passed by the Mahoning Township supervisors -- Chairperson Christine DeLong, Vice Chairman Ronald Miller and Supervisor William Earlston -- now requires residents to register their alarm systems and face penalties for potential false alarms.

Solicitor Rick Shoch said the scale of fines rise for each incident: a warning notice will be distributed for the first two events; events three and four result in a $100 fine; events five and six will result in $150 fines; events seven and eight a $200 fine; event nine a $250 fine; and from event 10 and on owners face a $300 fine.

Shoch said the ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2009.

Kentucky Law Regulates PERS Call List

A Kentucky law that went into effect on July 15 is designed to set up clear guidelines for contact protocol when an end user activates a personal emergency response system (PERS).

Proponents of the law say it will help Kentuckians get the appropriate emergency aid they need in a timely manner. Senate Bill 57, or the "Christine Talley Act," regulates PERS providers by allowing their customers to specify that 911 be the first call the monitoring station makes when a PERS device is activated. A civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation could be assessed against providers who knowingly violate the new law.

Hardcopies of the Christine Talley Act can be obtained by contacting the Legislative Research Commission, Public Bill Room, Capitol, Frankfort, KY 40601. The PERS law can also be found online at here

Signed by Gov. Steve Beshear on April 14, 2008, Senate Bill 57 was introduced by Sen. Tom Buford (R) on January 8, 2008. Sen. Buford said that the Christine Talley Act was an important piece of legislation. "There were really no guidelines. [PERS providers] are selling these products interstate, in our state, internationally, and there were no guidelines for a protocol, no guidelines for who is responsible if something doesn't happen." Sen. Buford said that the new law provides much needed regulation. "So we put in some legislation that ramps this thing up to where these [PERS providers] now have some direction of what will be the minimums of what will be requested of them."

A statement from the office of the Kentucky Attorney General explained, "contracts after 2008 must include certain provisions, and PERS providers must notify customers with contracts existing before January 1, 2009, that they have the option to change their call list." The mandatory PERS service contract provisions are that the customer must be allowed to: designate 911 as the first place to be called; choose the order for contacting those on the call list; specify that 911 be called if the customer does not verbally respond when the PERS provider attempts voice-to-voice communication; and provide that if the customer does not designate 911 as the first call, 911 will by default be called after the PERS provider has tried without success to contact the people on the customer's call list. The law also requires PERS providers to relinquish pertinent information, like the customer's name and address, to 911, and to call the people on the customer's call list after 911 has been called, unless otherwise verbally specified by the customer at the time.

Sen. Buford said lack of regulation of PERS providers is a problem when something goes wrong and contacting the proper people in a timely fashion becomes a matter of life and death. It was such a lack of legislated protocol, Buford said, that likely contributed to the death of one of his constituents in 2007. "People were purchasing these devices, particularly seniors, and they felt some security in this device, that if they hit this button, someone would take care of their emergency need. But in [Christine Talley's] case, it was discovered the responsibility ended by the time she put her check in the mail."

On Memorial Day, 2007, Christine Talley died after suffering a heart attack. Talley owned and used a PERS device from Phillips Lifeline. However, the monitoring company first attempted to contact Talley, who was unable to respond, before attempting to contact the other people on her call list. According to Sen. Buford, Lifeline didn't contact emergency responders until after Talley was found by her son and taken to the hospital, nearly an hour after the initial activation of the PERS device.

EMERgency24’s Responder Reward Program Donates $1,000 to the Ohio Township Volunteer Fire Department

EMERgency24, an industry leading central-station alarm monitoring company, donated $1,000 through its Responder Reward program to the Ohio Township Volunteer Fire Department in Indiana on behalf of Five Star Security Systems of Newburgh, Indiana. 

The Responder Reward donation was made to acknowledge the important roles emergency responders and alarm-system installers play in keeping our communities safe by protecting lives and minimizing property damage. A perfect example of how the two work together took place in a new home adjacent to Victoria National Golf Club, in Newburgh, Indiana. 

Six months after a family moved into their dream home, it could have been lost to a fire had it not been for the robust security system designed by Five Star and the fast response by the Ohio Township Volunteer Fire Department after being dispatched by EMERgency24. The fire started when materials on the kitchen island ignited after the family’s cat stepped on a button, turning on burners of the flat-top range. 

There were two factors that helped save the curious cat and minimize damage to the million-dollar home. First was the installation of a heat detector in the kitchen when a smoke detector would have satisfied code requirements. The second factor was immediate dispatch by EMERgency24.

“A fire doubles in size every 60 seconds,” said Chad Bennett, owner of Five Star Security Systems and Assistant Chief of the Newburgh Volunteer Fire Department. “The heat detector provided an early alarm because that type of device looks only for heat. The fire would have had to burn much longer to set off smoke detectors installed in other areas of the home. At the same time, if the alarm system was not monitored by EMERgency24, the fire would have continued to grow until a neighbor saw smoke billowing out of the eaves. At that point, there would have been much more damage. The overall effectiveness of the alarm system is enhanced many times over with a monitoring service. This is a cost worth paying for.” 

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. The company monitors 165,000 subscribers’ accounts.

About the Responder Reward Program
The purpose of the Responder Reward Program is to recognize firefighters who put out blazes and to highlight criminal apprehension when the police respond to EMERgency24 dispatches triggered by monitored alarm systems. "The EMERgency24 Responder Reward Program was developed to thank police officers and firefighters for the invaluable services they provide in communities across America," said Patrick Devereaux, Senior Vice President of EMERgency24. "Police officers and fire fighters responding to alarms is a vital function that makes our communities safer."

Rock Hill, SC, Wins Award for False Alarm Reductions

The Rock Hill (S.C.) Police Department was presented the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) Directors' Award of Distinction at a recent Rock Hill City Council meeting. 

The award recognized the outstanding successes of Rock Hill’s Alarm Management Program in reducing alarm dispatches throughout the city. The program developed jointly by the police department, the alarm industry and SIAC included the development of an alarm ordinance, initial and continuing community education, as well as continuing assessment and monitoring of the program. 

In 2005, Rock Hill Police responded to 5,431 alarm-related calls for service. That number dropped to 3,857 in 2007, a reduction of 1,574 calls, or a 29 percent reduction in dispatches, in less than two years. “We’re pleased with the decrease in alarm dispatches in just a short period of time and anticipate additional reductions during 2008,” said Capt. Charles Cabaniss, the police department’s executive lead in the program. 

“This reduction is even more impressive considering the growth we’re experiencing in Rock Hill, not only in new residences and businesses, but in the number of existing locations installing new alarms,” said Rock Hill City Manager Carey Smith, noting the police department’s annual increases in alarm registrations.

Chief John Gregory added, “The time we’ve saved by the reduction in these calls has almost equated to an additional officer, giving our officers more time to devote to Community Policing activities, and also results in shorter response times to calls for service.” Chief Gregory, who also serves as Chairman of the South Carolina Police Chiefs Association’s Alarm Management Committee, said, “We worked on our Alarm Management Program as a Community Problem Oriented Policing Project, which involved the stakeholders from the alarm industry, other city departments, and our community; which we attribute to our initial success.”

Wisconsin Law Requires Many Residential Buildings to have CO Detectors

If you’re building an apartment building or motel in Wisconsin, be sure to install carbon monoxide detectors before it opens.

It’s the law. 

As of Oct. 1, Wisconsin law requires carbon monoxide alarms in most newly constructed, multi-occupant residential buildings that contain fuel-burning appliances.

That goes for structures such as apartment buildings, condominiums, dormitories, bed and breakfast establishments, hotels, motels and community-based residential facilities that have fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, gas water heaters and gas stoves.

Owners of those kinds of existing buildings have until April 1, 2010, to install carbon monoxide alarms, under the rules announced by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. The department issued the new regulations as emergency rules, as required by legislation that Gov. Jim Doyle signed in April.

But most one- and two-family dwellings, and hospitals and nursing homes, are not required to have the alarms. One- and two-family dwellings would have to have an alarm only if they’re part of a commercial business, such as a resort.

Many affected property owners don’t yet know about the new requirement, said Division Chief Jeff Brohmer of the La Crosse Fire Department. “It’s something the state has needed for a number of years,” Brohmer said. He also wishes the state would require carbon monoxide alarms in one- and two-family homes.

Brohmer will speak about the new rules at the monthly meeting of the Apartment Association of the La Crosse Area at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Mirage Bar.

“I feel with proper education and placement that (the detectors will) save lives,” said association President Pamela Strittmater, who owns and manages apartments in the La Crosse area. “Personally, I’m all for the new requirement.”

“Anything that burns gas, oil or wood; anything with an open flame is going to produce carbon monoxide,” Brohmer said.

“Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless,” Brohmer said. “They call it the silent killer.”

The La Crosse Fire Department receives a number of calls each year regarding carbon monoxide detectors that have detected the gas in single-family homes and apartments, Brohmer said.

The changes were made to the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code, which governs the types of buildings that are affected by the new requirements, Department of Commerce spokesman Tony Hozeny said. Another code applies to single-family homes and duplexes, he said.

The legislation that resulted in changes to the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code was introduced by state Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie. He had been approached by some constituents related to an elderly couple who died from carbon monoxide poisoning several years ago at a resort cabin in northwest Wisconsin, said Paula McGuire, a legislative aide to Wirch.

Minnesota has much different requirements for carbon monoxide detectors. They are not mandated in buildings such as motels, bed and breakfast inns or dormitories.

But Minnesota has required that single- and multi-family dwellings built since January 2007 have a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of each bedroom. The same requirement took effect for existing single-family homes on Aug. 1, 2008, and will take effect for existing multi-family units on Aug. 1, 2009.

Pittsburg, CA, to Re-Examine Punitive Alarm Ordinance

Call it a false alarm.

After Pittsburg, CA, ordinance aimed at regulating alarm systems drew criticism from some Pittsburg residents last month, city leaders have decided to take another look at the plan.

City staff and elected leaders received negative feedback after a Sept. 16 City Council vote approving an ordinance requiring current and future alarm owners to pay an annual registration fee of $65 for residential alarms and $95 for business ones. 

Given the financial struggles many are having, "we didn't want it to turn into a financial burden or place an undo hardship on residents," police Chief Aaron Baker said. 

"We don't want anybody turning off their alarms because they can't pay the fees," he said. "It's more important for us to have working alarm systems than for someone to turn off their alarm completely."

Pittsburg will look at the proposed fee structure again, gather more community input, and talk to the alarm companies and other interested parties, Baker said.

Councilman Ben Johnson said that after voting for the ordinance, he took another look at the document and had questions about the collection of fees, the process of determining false alarms, and who would levy fines. He, like his colleagues, received calls and answered questions around town from concerned residents and alarm companies. 

Mayor Will Casey said he agreed with complaints he heard, adding it was "pretty hard to justify why the registry fee should be annual." 

"We figured we should bring it back and take another look," he said.

The ordinance would have set a fine of $250 for each false alarm from an unregistered alarm system. Registered owners would not have been penalized on the first two false alarms each year but would have incurred a $250 fine for each additional false alarm. 

Currently, owners are fined $100 for the first false alarm, $150 for the second, and $250 for each additional violation within the same year. 

Councilman Michael Kee, the only vote against the ordinance, doesn't expect to change his position with a revised plan. His concerns are mainly about the plan's implementation, though he also is against the annual charge and the plan's timing.

"It may seem like a small amount, but for some, that could really stretch their budget," Kee said.

Proposed Belleview, FL, Ordinance Allows One 'Free' False Alarm

The revision to the Belleview, FL, false alarm ordinance cleared a first public hearing Tuesday with a unanimous vote from the City Commission. The measure will go through a second and final hearing in coming weeks.

If the new ordinance is approved, one false alarm will be allowed per year before a $100 fee is charged to the property owner.

Belleview Police Chief Lee Strickland said officers spend a lot of time waiting for owners to respond to false alarms.

Initially, several commissioners wanted to see the number of false alarms increased to allow two per year, but decided to leave it at one each year. After a call has been deemed a false alarm by a responding officer, property owners can appeal to the police chief and then the commission.

Greenville, NC, Reduces False Alarm Fees

The Greenville, NC, council unanimously voted to reduce the fines charged under its year-old false-alarm ordinance. 

Individuals and businesses with an alarm system are required to register the system with the police annually. A non-permitted system owner faces a fine of $200 if police respond to a false alarm. Police Chief William Anderson said one of the rule changes would allow people to avoid the fine if they register the system for $45 after the first response. 

No penalty will be levied for a first or second response to a false alarm under the new rules. A $25 fine will be issued for a third and fourth false alarm; fifth and sixth — $50; seventh and beyond — $100 each.