November 2008 - Posts

Rocky Mount, NC, to Impose Fines for False Alarms

Rocky Mount, NC, police will be enforcing a new security alarm ordinance beginning in January that aims to cut down on the number of false alarm calls throughout the city. 

The ordinance — approved earlier this year by the City Council and put into effect in October — will require homes, churches, schools and businesses in Rocky Mount equipped with security systems to register with the city. 

The goal of the ordinance is to reduce false alarms from security systems throughout Rocky Mount. 

“We wanted to do what we could to minimize (false alarms),” Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley said. “If we can drop the calls by 25 percent, we can free-up officers.” 

Because false alarms can tie up at least two police officers, Manley said police and city officials drew up an ordinance to work with an outside monitoring company to filter false alarm calls from actual calls for service. 

Although the ordinance became effective in October, city and police officials are giving alarm system owners a 90-day grace period to register their systems with the city. On Jan. 1, the department will begin enforcing the ordinance, which carries fines for multiple false alarm calls. 

Manley said the department will be working with Cry Wolf, a security system monitoring company that will filter the false calls. 

For the first three false alarm calls from a business, residence, church or school, no fine will be imposed. 

On the fourth or fifth false call, a $50 fine will be imposed; the sixth or seventh, $100; the eighth or ninth, $250; and 10 or more, $250. 

Exceptions are written into the ordinance covering power and phone line failures, which could trigger the alarm system. For these occurrences, police will not impose a fine. 

Manley said there is no registration fee for registering an alarm system, and the fines are not meant to generate revenue by the city, but rather, ensure police are responding to emergency calls for service. 

“As the city grows, if you don’t put something in place to regulate (alarm systems), you can see where it goes from here,” Manley said. “It allows more time for officers to focus on issues in the community.” 

In the first year of enforcing the ordinance, Manley said, he believes false alarm calls will drop 25 percent. 

“If an alarm goes off at your house, we want to be responding to a problem,” he said. 

Rocky Mount police advise security system owners to make sure they remember codes and know how to operate the system properly. Manley said police will come to a residence to help instruct a homeowner on the proper operation of the security system.

Bella Vista (AR) Approves Alarm Ordinance

In Bella Vista, Arkansas, a false-alarm ordinance was unanimously approved by the city council. 

Businesses or homeowners exceeding two false alarms within a year will be penalized, but the penalties have not yet been determined. 

The expense to the city when police and fire departments respond to these types of calls motivated the ordinance.

Virginia Beach (VA) Meets to Discuss $150 Fines for Alarms

Virginia Beach, VA, is trying to reduce the alse alarms received annually from home security systems by charging homeowners a $150 fee if police are called out more than twice. 

The police department will hold a public awareness meeting on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Kempsville Recreation Center at 800 Monmouth Drive.

The meeting is targeted at homeowners with monitored security alarm systems and will cover two new city codes. The codes require owners to register their security systems and establishes a fee system for excessive false alarms.

The fee kicks in after two false alarms that police respond to, according to a police press release.

For more information go to

Madison, WI, Considers Law to Require Detectors

Madison, WI, council members introduced a new ordinance on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of a fire that killed a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student and injured three others. 

Alderman Mike Verveer says he toured the burned house and saw smoke alarms laying on top of a refrigerator with the batteries removed. 

The new ordinance would require landlords to install smoke alarms with non-removable, lithium-ion batteries or connections to the building's power supply in all bedrooms and on every floor by Aug. 15. 

Homeowners could use 9-volt, battery-operated smoke alarms manufactured in the last 10 years.

CO Detectors Required in Covington, KY

City Ordinances in Covington, KY, require every residential rental property in the city to be equipped with “at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm in operating condition within 15 feet of every room that is used for sleeping purposes.”

According to an e-update newsletter distributed by the City of Covington, the owner of the property is required to provide and install all of the required alarms. This requirement includes providing alarm batteries, too, before a tenant moves in.

“Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Overview Carbon monoxide (sometimes referred to as CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning material containing carbon,” says the newsletter. “Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can kill you.”

Some other tid-bits provided include:

Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is known as the "Silent Killer." The Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives, and causes more than 15,000 visits to hospital emergency departments annually. 

Carbon monoxide is produced by common household appliances. When not properly ventilated, carbon monoxide emitted by these appliances can build up. 

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are often mistaken for the flu because the deadly gas goes undetected in a home. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

Bessemer City, NC, Considers Fines For Business False Alarms

Bessemer City, NC, council members want the city to stop footing the bill for false fire alarms by fining repeat business offenders.

"Every time there is an alarm, the firemen are paid," said City Manager Allan Farris.

This year, the fire department has responded to 21 false alarms, seven of those came from the Dole Fresh Vegetables and four from Bessemer City High School. Farris proposed a penalty structure that imposes fines for anyone with more than two false alarms in a year.

"If you have several in one place, then there's a problem," said Farris.

The proposed payment structure would charge $50 for the third, fourth and fifth false alarm; $100 for the sixth and seventh; $250 for the eighth and ninth; and $500 for 10 or more consecutive calls.

If that plan were already in place, Dole would already owe $350. The high school would have a bill of $100.

Ted Saunders, Bessemer City High School principal, said he wasn't aware of the problem and doesn't feel responsible for alarms that sound when battery packs die or dust particles trip the system.

"I don't believe we've been negligent this year," Saunders said.

Saunders questioned how false alarms are determined and why a decision would be made without contacting the alleged offenders.

"I would hope we would be able to weigh in on that (decision)," said Saunders.

Before recommending the plan, Farris spoke with several city managers across the state. Many city councils have implemented such fines to make business owners accountable for up-to-date and accurate equipment.

Council asked Farris to create an ordinance that he would present at December's City Council meeting.

Arcadia, CA, Alarm Law Now in Effect

In an attempt to address the number of false alarm incidents to which the Arcadia, CA, Police Department responds, the City Council recently made changes to the city’s security alarm ordinance. 

If your home or business is equipped with a security alarm, please be aware of the following changes to the alarm ordinance that are now in effect:

1. Each home or business is required to pay a $40.00 annual (365 days) permit fee.

2. Any home or business that registers three false burglary alarms in a 365-day period will be charged $200.00; four false burglary alarms in a 365-day period will be charged $300.00; and if a home or business registers five or more false burglary alarms in a 365-day period a $400.00 charge will apply to the fifth and all subsequent false alarms in that period.

3. Any home or business that registers two false robbery or panic alarms in a 365-day period will be charged $200.00 for the second and all subsequent false robbery or false panic alarms.

4. Any home or business that registers seven or more false alarms in a 365-day period is subject to deactivation by the City. To reactivate the alarm the owner/operator must show proof of correction to the alarm system and pay a reinstatement fee of $200.00, after review by the City.

A false alarm is any alarm that signifies a burglary, robbery or panic emergency when those incidents or emergencies are not actually taking place.

New Bern (NC) FD Wants CO Detector Law

Jeremy Blalock, New Bern (NC)  Fire and Rescue fire specialist, said firefighting associations are lobbying for a law requiring that the detectors be placed in homes and businesses that operate gas furnaces, fireplaces, gas water heaters, indoor grilling, gas stoves, gas refrigerators, gas clothes dryers and gas portable heaters.

Carbon monoxide is tasteless, colorless and odorless. Exposure to low levels can make a person sick over time. Higher levels are fatal.

Those suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning may be nauseated, experience flu-like symptoms, experience headaches, experience dizzy spells, confusion, fatigue and irritability. "It's like you want to go to sleep, and if you do you may never wake up," Blalock said.

He said carbon monoxide robs a person of what he needs most - oxygen.

He said an expert should be called to inspect gas appliances, gas logs and flue and chimneys.

"If you use fossil fuel, you need a detector," he said.

Blalock said warming up a car should not be done in a garage, even if the garage door is open.

He said the best defense against the deadly carbon monoxide is a detector.

He said the prices range from $10 to $50.

Naugatuck, CT, Pursuing Collection of Alarm Fines from Businesses

Under a local ordinance, the borough of Naugatuck, CT, slaps fines on people or businesses who have too many false alarms. But there are 17 businesses and residents who have frequent alarms and are not paying the fines.

In an effort to recoup the money, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses will hire an attorney or debt collection agency.

"We feel that if the ordinance is going to have any teeth to it, the people who aren't going to respond need to know that there are consequences," said Police Chief Christopher Edson.

Police did not have the names of violators available on Monday.

Edson said the borough is willing to work with people who cannot afford to pay fines.

The ordinance that allows police to charge for too many alarms has been on the books for years, but was never implemented until March, when Edson and the Police Commission decided the false alarms were soaking up too much police manpower. The ordinance states there is no charge for the first two false alarms; a $50 charge for a third; a $75 charge for a fourth and $100 for each false alarm in excess of four.

He said the goal is not to generate revenue, but to encourage alarm owners to have their systems maintained and repaired.

Several people appeal their fees to the Police Commission, which reviews each appeal thoroughly, said Commissioner Steve Smith.

"When it's a frequent occurrance that seems like it could easily be corrected by the owner or the alarm company, we implement those fines," he said. "We are trying to encourage alarm companies to be responsive to this too."

Yukon, OK, Okays False Alarm Fees

The city of Yukon, OK, will begin issuing fines next year to residents and business owners who have frequent false alarms at their buildings.

Residents and business owners will be allowed two false alarms per calendar year. 

The third and fourth false alarms will result in a $50 fine. Those who have five or more false alarms will be fined $100.

Police spokeswoman Klare Ly said there has been a recent increase in false alarms in the city.

Ly said when individuals periodically test their alarms, they sometimes fail to notify the police department. Police officers are dispatched when the alarm is triggered. 

The fines will take effect Jan. 1. If the fines aren’t paid within 30 days, the alarm permit will be revoked.

The fine will be waived if the alarm is triggered because of inclement weather. 

The city also is increasing alarm permit fees Jan. 1 from $25 to $50. The permits will be valid for one year. 

A $10 renewal fee must be paid annually.

Permit registration forms are available at the Yukon Police Department, 100 S Ranchwood Blvd.

Dundee, FL, Approves Fines for False Alarms

Business and homeowners in Dundee, FL, with malfunctioning security alarms might want to take some time to get them fixed.

The Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that allows fees to be charged to those whose alarms summon law enforcement officers when there isn't an emergency that requires their presence. The fees were effective upon the ordinance's approval.

Interim Town Manager Joe DeLegge said the town was asked by the Polk County Sheriff's Office to enact the ordinance so it would mirror the one the County Commission passed in 1997.

Diane Dodge, the alarm control compliance officer for the Sheriff's Office, said the ordinance has already been passed by other municipalities that contract with the Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services. These communities are Frostproof, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade and Polk City.

Fines escalate quickly after the first offense, which doesn't result in a fine. The second offense within 365 days doesn't generate a fine unless the alarm was defective the first time and the homeowner did not fix it.

Fines range from $50 for the third offense to $500 for the 10th offense or higher occurring during a 365-day period.

Dodge said the fines are charged for false alarms no matter how long it takes the deputies to arrive at the home or business.

After the Sheriff's Office receives a third false alarm call, a citation similar to those issued during a traffic violation is sent by registered mail to the business or homeowner. The fines are paid through the Clerk of the Court office.

Dodge said the Clerk of the Court retains a processing fee from the fine. The city and the Sheriff's Office also receive part of the fees.

Having been in charge of alarm control compliance for 12 years, Dodge said she has watched the number of false alarms decrease from 24,781 in 1997 to 11,585 in 2007.

"More and more people are getting their alarms fixed before they get fined because they can't afford the fines," Dodge said. "But I have some large companies that are charged $500 and they pay it every week."

Carrie Eleazer, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said the county began noticing the high volume of false fire and security alarm calls in 1997, when it began a Proactive Community Attack on Problems program that involves compiling and analyzing information everyday.

In studying these statistics on a countywide level, officials discovered they were responding to a high number of false alarms and they found ways to lower the number of emergency responses.

"We try to address problems as they happen before they become bigger problems," Eleazer said. "We want to figure out what (residents) need."

She said these needs may require a referral to other agencies for need-specific help or they could just require a new alarm system.

Darien, CT, Law to Charge $100 for False Alarms after the New Year

Starting January 1, 2009, the Town of Darien, CT, will be charging a fee of $100 for false police alarms in addition to the existing $100 fee for false fire alarms. 

All alarm owners are required to register their alarm systems. Alarm owners already registered with the fire department must update their registration by re-registering with the new form. 

Registration can be done two ways. 

1) Click here to fill out the PDF form available and deliver by hand, mail, fax or email as shown on the form.

2) Click here to register online using the electronic registration form.