December 2008 - Posts

Seattle to Enforce Enhanced Call Verification in 2009

The Seattle Police Department will become one of the first major police departments in the country to begin full enforcement of a law adopted in 2004 designed to reduce the volume of calls they receive from alarm monitoring companies. 

The new policy goes into effect January 1, 2009, enforcing the law that has been on the books since 2004, mandating alarm monitoring companies to place two verification calls to customers before contacting police.

Also, beginning January 1, the City will enforce the requirement for alarm companies doing business in Seattle to be licensed with the city. Each registered alarm company will be provided with a Unique Identification Number (UIN) and must provide the UIN when calling police and requesting a dispatch to a burglar alarm activation. As with the requirement for ECV, if the requesting alarm company does not have a UIN, their request for a police dispatch will be declined. This new policy will bring all alarm companies into compliance and enhance the police department’s ability to track request for dispatch calls per monitoring company.

This two-call verification procedure is called Enhanced Call Verification or ECV. While ECV has been adopted in many jurisdictions across the country, it often is not enforced by local police departments. Seattle’s plan to enforce the requirement is a major step towards reducing false alarms. 

The 2004 ordinance also requires registration of alarm companies who conduct business within the city of Seattle. The alarm ordinance is designed to reduce the number of false alarm activations by instituting measures which have been fully endorsed by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), the International Association of Police Chiefs, and the Washington Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA).

"The Seattle Police Department is taking a national leadership role by enforcing ECV," said Stan Martin, SIAC Executive Director. "They are taking the necessary proactive steps towards ensuring the safety and security of all business and homeowners in Seattle. We have witnessed ECV generate as much as an 80 percent reduction in unnecessary police dispatches in communities throughout the United States. We fully expect significant ongoing reductions in calls for police dispatch as a result of full enforcement."

On January 1, 2009, the Seattle Police Department will no longer respond to alarm monitoring company dispatch requests that have not followed the ECV procedure.

"Many cities have alarm ordinances that have failed to achieve significant false alarm reductions because they lacked the means or resolve to enforce their own municipal code," added Ron Haner, Alarm Response Manager for the WBFAA. "Seattle has reduced unnecessary dispatches to alarms by over 60% since 1999 even while the number of alarms systems in the city is estimated to have doubled. By requiring all monitoring companies to adhere to ECV and be licensed with the city, they will realize another significant reduction in unnecessary alarm dispatches. The city has rightfully put the onus of filtering out the unnecessary calls for emergency service onto the alarm monitoring companies themselves."

Waterford, CT, Modifies Alarm Ordinance

Members of the Waterford, CT, Representative Town Meeting voted Monday to modify an ordinance, forcing homeowners and businesses to maintain their own alarm systems.

Waterford currently maintains alarm systems in about 30 homes and 10 commercial businesses. The ordinance allows the town to continue maintaining only buildings it owns, which is between 25 and 30.

Police Chief Murray Pendleton, who is a member of the committee, said previously that if the town continued to maintain alarm systems for residents and businesses, it would have to update its ordinance and fee system.

Committee members said the objective of the ordinance is to save taxpayers money by eliminating unnecessary expenses.

Residents and commercial businesses affected will receive letters to notify them of the change. The town could terminate the system in January, but allow those affected a grace period of 90 days.

Killeen, TX, May Issue Fines for False Alarms

The Killeen City (TX) Council is considering an amendment to its fire response ordinance that would allow the city to reimburse itself for false-alarm calls. 

Killeen Fire Chief Jerry Gardner said he recommended that fines be issued to building owners whose alarms are repeated violators of calling out the city resources without need. 

Gardner said the proposal would include a grace period for the first two fire alarms, but a third false alarm would incur a $100 fine. After five alarms, the penalty would be $200; after 10 false alarms, fines reach $500 each. 

Councilman Scott Cosper said most fire alarms in homes are monitored by an outside agency that calls emergency organizations. 

Gardner said this ordinance does establish a difference between burglar alarms and fire alarms. 


Gardner also said that this clause would not grandfather in current alarm owners, but would be applicable to all alarms active within the city. 

He added that this is a common practice with many communities throughout the state. 

"We go out to different places constantly," Gardner said. "There is no incentive to get those people to fix it. We're going to get in line with a lot of communities throughout the state. On the first and second false alarm, it will be free. After that, it will be a fine of $100. The fifth through the 10th are $200; more than that is $500 each."