March 2009 - Posts

Metro, TN, Alarm Registration Due by April 1, 2009

Metro, TN, residents and business owners with burglar or fire alarm systems must renew their permits by the end of the day April, I, 2009, the Metro Clerk’s Office said.

Permits for residential properties cost $20. Permits for businesses or non-residential properties are $50.

Annual permit registrations are required by Metro law. An expired permit or failure to display a valid permit could result in a fine and court costs totaling $104.50. 


For registration information, call the Metro Clerk’s Office at 615-862-6779. The office is located on the second floor of Metro's historic courthouse at 1 Public Square.

Utah Still Finalizing Carbon Monoxide Detector Law

The Ogden, UT, City Council is asking the governor to veto a bill that would place some renters in charge of carbon monoxide alarms. 

In its letter requesting the veto, the council highlighted how one Ogden resident died and three police officers and two firefighters were sickened in a 2006 carbon monoxide poisoning. 

"The City Council remains committed to our policy and to the protection of our city's citizens from the potential dangers of carbon monoxide," says a letter was dated Tuesday and addressed to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. 

Huntsman's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley, could not immediately say whether the governor would sign the bill. 

L. Paul Smith, executive director of Utah Apartment Association, wants Huntsman to sign it. Smith said the bill would increase safety by making the people the alarms are designed to protect -- the occupants -- responsible for the devices. 

"The best way to protect people is to have the person who [the alarm is] protecting responsible for its installation and its maintenance," Smith said. 

Council Chairwoman Amy Wicks said HB402 could mean additional work and increased conflict for building inspectors, who usually enforce other building codes against owners rather than tenants. 

In Salt Lake County, carbon monoxide alarms are required under health ordinances. 

Royal DeLegge, the environmental health director with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, said HB402 is not "in the best interest of public health." But the health department is not advocating against the bill, he said. 

"We will amend our regulation to fit what the Legislature has required," DeLegge said.

Lake Alford, FL, Approves Alarm Permit/Fine Ordinance

Lake Alfred, FL, wants to jump on the money bandwagon for the city with the tentatively approved law last recently, which means its citizens will have to pay an annual permit fee of $25 to the city to have an alarm system in their homes or businesses or face a $100 fine for not registering.

Fourth and fifth false alarms bring a $50 penalty with fine increases per additional violations. Why not penalize with the third false alarm and free the other residents of the annual fee?

Residents are losing jobs or a working less hours leaving them with less money and are concerned about break-ins as the economy weakens. The city's response is to reach into the resident's pockets and extract some more revenue for the city.

It appears that elected officials meet more often as fund raisers listening to their crying city managers. Residents within the various municipalities are subject to paying for services twice.

The residents are taxed for services and then are expected to pay an additional fee should they need the services.

In disaster situations, this is called price gouging.

Montana to Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Soon carbon monoxide detectors will be required in all new buildings and homes in Montana. 

That has special meaning to a Flathead man who joined in the fight after losing his son to carbon monoxide poisoning in December. 

Senate Bill 161, requires all new structures in Montana to have a carbon monoxide detector, and it passed both the House and Senate committees by unanimous votes. 

But to Scotty Hineman, the bill's success has left him with a heavy heart, "I always thought if we get this passed through, it's going to be such a great victory, and it is, but it is bittersweet".

Ian Hineman, 17, died of carbon monoxide poisoning while he slept in his family's Creston home on December 21st. Through their pain, his family joined forces with Senator Debby Barrett to make sure nobody else suffers the same fate. 

"I've never done anything like this before. Like I said, it was a constituent bill, but I could not be happier with the results and I think it was just really time for this piece of legislation and I feel really good about it" Barrett.

The U.S. Health Department has said Montana is the leading state for carbon monoxide-related deaths. The Hinemans say this bill is long overdue. 

"I find it sad that us being the leading state in that statistic, we have to wait this long to enact this law."

Hineman said he'll continue to work to make sure other states follow suit and make carbon monoxide detectors mandatory in homes. He says this is just the beginning, "The loss of Ian, this isn't the end for me".

Governor Brian Schweitzer is expected to sign the bill within the next ten days and when he does, Montana will become the 16th state to make carbon monoxide

Amherst, MA, to Fine for False Burglar Alarms after April 1, 2009

Beginning April 1, 2009, the Amherst, MA, Police Department may fine homeowners or business owners whose burglar or intrusion alarms summon police unnecessarily. 

Town Meeting adopted the false alarm bylaw in May; the attorney general office approved it this fall. The bylaw does not apply to fire alarms or to medical alert alarms that malfunction, only to burglar alarms directly linked to police or to police through an alarm company. 

Police delayed implementing fines because they wanted to give residents and business owners time to work with their alarm companies to repair systems not working appropriately. 

According to the bylaw police will issue warnings for the first three responses in a 12-month period then impose a $50 fine on the fourth. 

Subsequent false alarms within that time period would result in fines of $75, $100, $150 and $200. 

The proposal was initiated last year by Stanley F. Gawle, treasurer of Amherst Taxpayers for Responsible Change. The idea is to reduce the number of police calls to the false alarms and to generate revenue. 

Police began issuing warnings Jan. 1 but those will not be counted toward fines. That begins April 1. 

Easthampton and Northampton are among other communities that have adopted such bylaws. 

"It's a major safety issue," Police Chief Charles L. Scherpasaid. "We've become complacent." 

When an alarm sounds officers must respond quickly to what could be an emergency, and they are taken away from other work, he said.

Colorado Bill Requiring CO Detectors To be Signed into Law

A bill requiring carbon monoxide detectors in Colorado will be signed into law on March 24, 2009, by the governor. 

Signing of the "The Lofgren and Johnson Family Carbon Monoxide Safety Act," House Bill 1091, by Gov. Bill Ritter takes place at 3:30 p.m. at Denver Fire Station No. 10. 

The new law, which requires carbon-monoxide detectors in new and resold homes and rental properties, is named after members of the Lofgren family from Denver and Lauren Johnson, a 23-year-old University of Denver graduate student. 

Four Lofgren family members - Parker Lofgren, 39, his wife Caroline Lofgren, 42, and their children, Owen, 10, and Sophie, 8 — died of carbon-monoxide poisoning in November while vacationing in Aspen. Johnson died in January of carbon-monoxide poisoning in her apartment near the DU campus. 

The Aspen home and the Denver apartment did not have carbon monoxide detectors. 

In the spirit of the new law, an anonymous donor is equipping 375 Habitat for Humanity homes in the Denver metro area with carbon monoxide detectors, and the donor has pledged 200 more for future homes, the Habitat organization said in a press release. 

The Habitat donation is in memory of the Lofgren family.

Residential Burglaries Up as Economy is Down

As media reports across the nation confirm a rise in residential burglaries, homeowners are urged to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their family and personal property. 

To assist, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) is offering all homeowners tips on how to select the electronic security company that best fits their individual needs.

"Due to the very challenging economic crisis, we are seeing confirmed news reports across the nation of an increase in residential burglaries," stated NBFAA president Mike Miller. "Electronic security systems not only give homeowners peace of mind, they also act as a primary deterrent against criminal activity which was authenticated by a recent study conducted by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice." To view the complete study conducted by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, log-on to www.alarm.org.

For consumers seeking the services of a reputable and experienced security company, the NBFAA has the following recommendations:

-- Ask your insurance agent, friends, family or neighbors for referrals.

-- Visit the NBFAA website at www.alarm.org for a list of NBFAA member companies throughout the United States. Members of the NBFAA have agreed to maintain a high level of conduct under its National Code of Ethics.

-- Call several companies and ask if their employees are trained and/or certified by a nationally recognized entity like the NBFAA.

-- Ask the companies for proof that they have the appropriate required state and/or local licenses.

-- Ask the companies if they conduct any pre-employment screening. The NBFAA strongly advocates the development and enforcement of effective state licensing laws that require pre-employment background checks.

-- Contact your local police department's Crime Prevention Department, state licensing agencies, Consumer Protection Agencies, and the Better Business Bureau regarding any past interactions with, or history on, the perspective security companies.

-- After you've narrowed the field to three or four alarm companies, ask for the name of the person who will call on you.

-- When he/she visits, ask to see some company identification.

-- Ask each alarm company representative for an inspection, recommendation and a quote in writing. Use a checklist to compare different packages and price quotes.

-- Never feel pressure to sign anything. Be cautious of those who push you to sign a contract quickly or who may be offering unusual deals or incentives.


About NBFAA
NBFAA, a non-profit 501(c) 6 trade association, is the nation's oldest and largest organization dedicated to representing, promoting, and supporting the electronic life safety, security, and systems industry. Member companies specialize in a wide spectrum of services to commercial and residential consumers, including security and fire alarms, video surveillance, access control and monitoring. In cooperation with a federation of state associations, NBFAA provides government advocacy and delivers timely information, professional development tools, products and services that members use to grow and prosper their businesses. The NBFAA may be reached at (888) 447-1689 or on the Web at www.alarm.org.
SOURCE National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association

Greenwich, CT, May Use Liens to Collect False Alarm Fines

Repeat violators of a Greenwich, CT, ordinance dealing with false smoke and burglar alarms could have a different kind of cause for alarm. 

Try a lien on their property or a hold on pending building permits or restaurant licenses.

Owed $116,000 in unpaid fines for having to respond to false alarms, the town is looking at those get-tough measures, as well as perhaps using a collection service similar to the one employed by the tax collector's office to get delinquent home and business owners to pay up on back property taxes.

"Right now, we don't have any teeth to sink into these people," said Jim Daine, chairman of the town's Alarm Appeal Board.

Daine listed a series of potential remedies Thursday to the Board of Selectmen during the group's regular meeting, held at the Bruce Museum.

All alarms that call directly to the police or fire departments are required to be registered with the town.

Residents and businesses are allowed one false alarm per year without being penalized, with the fine schedule starting at $50 for a second false alarm, $100 for the third, $150 for the fourth and $200 for each subsequent infraction. No changes to those fines have been proposed.

"We don't want to deter people from registering alarm systems, but we want to better educate them," Daine said.

A volunteer firefighter with the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department, Daine said the five members of his board have been conferring with town lawyers and could propose sanctions for unpaid fines later in the year.

"It's out of control right now, to be perfectly honest with you," Daine said. 

The Alarm Appeal Board tried to take a first step Thursday to crack down on violators of the ordinance, however, proposing to raise the fines for those who fail to register their alarms with the town. 

Upon notification from the town that they must register, those who fail to do so within 30 days would be fined $50, up from the current $20. After 60 days, the fine would jump to $200, double the current $100 penalty.

The registration fee for new alarms, which has been unchanged since about 1981, would go from $10 to $20 under the proposal, which is expected to be voted on at the next Board of Selectmen meeting on March 26.

"I'm delighted you're doing this," Selectman Peter Crumbine told Daine. 

Under the proposal, the town would also tack on an additional fine of $50 for false alarms that require the response of both police officers and firefighters. The fine would not apply to the first false alarm allowed per year by the ordinance.

According to Daine, the town collected about $360,000 in alarm fines and registration fees during the 2007-08 fiscal year, which he said underscores the importance of trying to collect the outstanding portion of $116,000.

"That would go nicely to the General Fund," Daine said.

Selectman Lin Lavery echoed Daine's comments.

"Seeking outstanding revenue is really important," Lavery said.

In other business, a series of proposed rules and regulations for the mooring of boats in the area of Greenwich Harbor was presented to the Board of Selectmen for consideration. 

Drafted by the First Selectman's Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, the rules require all vessels to have a mooring and pay seasonal fees for the amenity. 

The 12-page proposal seeks to regulate everything from where commercial vessels can anchor to waiting lists for moorings. It could also be voted on by the selectmen on March 26.

Bedford, IN, To Charge for False Alarms Starting June 1

Bedford, IN, police are getting frustrated with the number of false alarm calls they are getting, and starting this summer, will start charging for them. 

Bedford Police Chief Dennis Parsley tells WBIW News an ordinance that's been on the books in Bedford since the early 1980s, but never really enforced, will get dusted off starting June 1st. 

Parsley says starting that day, alarm systems that go off in error and require a police check-up, could wind up costing that alarm's owner as much as $50. Parsley says "chargeable" false alarms, which are those that are not caused by weather or those that are followed up by the owner telling police to disregard it, will be free for the first 3. 

False alarms number 4 and 5 will cost you $25, and all beyond that will cost $50. 

Parsley says his department dealt with almost 400 chargeable alarms between March 2008 and New Year's, and have handled 96 so far this year. 

One business last year reportedly had 30 chargeable alarms in just over 24 hours.

Palm Harbor, FL, Firefighters Issue Warning On Scams

Palm Harbor, FL, fire officials are sounding an alarm and warning residents about firms looking to dupe them into purchasing costly fire suppression systems they do not need.

Palm Harbor Fire Rescue has recently been contacted by several people who have been talked into purchasing expensive hard-wired fire alarm systems, said Liz Monforti, spokeswoman for the community fire department. That is much more protection than a residence would require, she said.

A hard-wired fire alarm is connected to the residence's electrical system, but most homes only need battery-power alarms, Monforti said.

Unscrupulous vendors will install five or six smoke alarms and carbon monoxide sensors in a mobile home when one or two would do, she explained.

"These firms misrepresent themselves as working with or being endorsed by the fire department, which is definitely not true," Monforti stressed.

Fire departments provide free battery-powered smoke alarms to anyone who cannot afford them and will advise residents how to install the detectors at no charge, she said.

The people who get the alarms do not have to sign contracts or provide personal information, she said.

Many of the residents who have been fooled into purchasing expensive fire alarm systems are seniors, Monforti said. Unfortunately, law enforcement usually cannot take action because the victims have let salespeople into their homes and signed contracts, she said.

Some of these firms call residents and leave answering machine messages stating they are working with local fire departments to provide valuable lifesaving information. Some even say they are part of a fire prevention task force, "which is definitely not true," Monforti said.

There are no Pinellas County fire agencies working with firms that charge a fee to install smoke alarms or carbon monoxide sensors, she added.

In the event of a fire, a properly installed and maintained battery-powered smoke alarm can provide the early warning and save lives so they are very important, Monforti said.

Virginia Police Look to Cut Down False Alarms

Police in communities across the nation struggle with persistent false alarm calls, and the Virginia departments are no different.

Albemarle, VA, police have three patrol shifts, with the evening squad of 24, including supervisors, being the largest.

They cover 726 square miles, so it’s a chore in itself to adequately patrol county roads with a full squad.

False alarms on average can take two officers out of the loop for a half-hour. Such calls often can last an hour.

“It’s a drain on our manpower,” Albemarle police Lt. Todd Hopwood said recently.

Charlottesville and county police are looking for ways to curtail the number of false alarms and improve methods of collecting fees repeat offenders have to pay.

“It’s very, very time consuming, and very frustrating at times,” said Sgt. Peter Mainzer Jr., who heads the Albemarle police patrol division.

With so many alarms turning out to be false, it can also be dangerous for officers, Mainzer said. They “don’t want to get lulled into a lackadaisical approach to it.”
The city and county have ordinances against repeat false alarm offenders.

In Charlottesville, there is a $100 fee after three false alarms in a 12-month period. There also is a $25 fee for those who fail to turn off an alarm within an hour of being notified.

Charlottesville police collected $41,800 in false alarm fees in fiscal 2008 (the total included some fees from the prior year, too), according to Lt. David W. Shifflett Jr.
In Albemarle, two false alarms in a 12-month period can result in a fee, the amount of which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Fee amounts collected were not available.
County police have struggled to collect on false alarm fees, Hopwood said.

The department is working on a grant that could fix that problem, he said. The competitive grant would bring in money from the federal stimulus package and would allow the department to buy computer software aimed at tracking such calls. The grant also could help the department establish a program aimed at cutting down on false alarms, Hopwood said.

Charlottesville police are also looking into “various software products” to help improve the department’s ability to track false alarms and collect fees, Shifflett said in an e-mail.

False alarm-specific programs can work.

The Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department won an award from the False Alarm Reduction Association for a program it instituted.

In 2000, the department had 51,426 false alarm calls. It eventually created a program that tracked false alarms and instituted education classes for repeat offenders among other things. By 2006, false alarm calls had fallen to 20,911.

Glen Ellyn, IL Hikes Fees and Penalties for False Alarms

Glen Ellyn, IL, officials say starting next year, people will have to pay more for registering a burglar or fire alarm in Glen Ellyn. 

Instead of a one-time $5 charge, residents will have to pay $25 each year.

And if people set off a false alarm, in which members of the police and fire departments are called, the culprits will have to fork over $50 for four to eight false alarms; $100 for nine or 10; and $200 for 11 or more. The first three false alarms in a year will carry no penalty.

Previously, those who set off false alarms could get away with the first four in a calendar year before incurring a $25 fine for each transgression.

According to officials, the additional fees will generate an extra $42,500 next year.

In 2008, Glen Ellyn police responded to 1,033 commercial and residential alarms. Of that number, 285 were false alarms that would have resulted in fines under the new ordinance, police said.

If the fines had been in effect last year, they would have generated $26,200 -- instead of the $7,125 that actually was brought in. Plus, the new permit fee would have raised $23,600

Michgan Law Requires CO Detectors in Homes/Hotels

A Michigan law requiring carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in new homes will take effect March 23, 2009, and will be enforceable starting Dec. 1. 

A second law also signed by the governor will require a carbon monoxide alarm in every hotel room in the state. 

The Overbeck family, whose parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their Northern Michigan retirement home six years ago, were at the State Capitol today for Gov. Jennifer Granholm's ceremonial signing of the legislation. 

"We have made it our mission to make sure this doesn't happen to another Michigan family," said Liz Overbeck, 47, of Redondo Beach, Calif. "My mother and dad would be so proud." 

Patty and Gene Overbeck died in their home overlooking Elk Lake in Antrim County when, after returning from a shopping trip, Patty accidentally left her car running in the garage. Carbon monoxide circulated throughout the house, and the couple died within hours. 

Rep. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard, named his bill "The Overbeck Law." 

"Because of what happened to you, because of what you suffered, you have made a difference," McDowell told family members. 

The Overbecks now will take their crusade to other states. Thirteen states have similar laws. 

"We started in Michigan. This is our first victory," said Katie Overbeck, 43, of Orange County, Calif. 

The Overbecks said they were met with opposition from the building industry, which resisted a mandate that will add cost to the construction of a house. Each carbon monoxide smoke detector costs $30 to $50. 

The family worked with Steve Biggs, chairman of Town & Country Cedar Homes, which built the Overbecks' retirement home, and Sandy O'Niel, whose family also was a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

"We're called out to carbon monoxide emergencies every year where families did not know they could protect themselves with a simple, inexpensive alarm," said Chief Tom Cochran of the Lansing Fire Department. He said it's recommended that alarms be installed within 10 feet of the main sleeping area.

Washington County, MD, to Increase Fines for Repeat False Alarms

During a recent public hearing in Maryland, the Washington County Board of Commissioners discussed a proposed false alarm ordinance to collect higher fines from consistent false alarm generators rather than require all alarm users to pay a high yearly permit fee.


Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore and assistant county attorney Andrew Wilkinson said to their knowledge there were no industry professionals present at the public meeting, held here at the Washington County Administration Building. "There were a couple of citizens there, but we addressed all their issues prior to," Mullendore said. "There were actually no public comments whatsoever."


Mullendore said the ordinance passed, but not as originally proposed. "There were some modifications to it. We did agree to drop the fee for the initial permit, and we also dropped the business permit, as well as the reinstatement fees," Mullendore said. "It permits us to do the false alarm violation fees. Those are still established at $30 for residential, $60 for business." Mullendore said the first two violations result in a warning, while the third violation is when the fees kick in, adding $20 per residential violation and $25 per business violation to the respective base fees up to a maximum of $100 per violation for residential and $200 per violation for business.


The new ordinance will take effect Jan. 1, 2010. "That's because we're in the process of doing a consolidated emergency communications center," Mullendore said, "and we wanted to be sure that was up and running before we try to administer this."


According to Wilkinson, the 2010 implementation date means "there's some time here for people to get their permits." Permits will still be required, but, according to Wilkinson, will have no associated cost. However, if alarm owners choose not to get the appropriate permit, the fees kick in right away. "The response to a non-permitted site--somebody that doesn't get a permit, but their alarm goes off anyway--it's the same fees, but they don't get a first and a second false alarm free," Wilkinson said. "From the first false alarm, they're going to get fined. No freebies."

Flint, MI, Councilman Neeley Wants Fines for Dealers, Not Home Owners

If your alarm is going off, you'd better make sure it's a real emergency -- or the city of Flint, MI, might start charging you for wasting its time. And, maybe it could plug a few budget holes at the same time. 

Under a plan by City Councilman Sheldon Neeley, each home and business would get two free false alarms. After that, the alarm company would be charged for false alarms. 

The fines? They start at $50 and increase by $25 for every subsequent false alarm call. 

Neeley said the fines could generate enough money to help curb some of the city's budget crunch.

"We're just looking to get our costs recouped," Neeley said.

The idea is unique in this area but is used in other Michigan communities.

The proposal is expected to go before the City Council soon. The city has an ordinance on the books to bill the homeowner for false alarms, but it hasn't been enforced.

Similar plans are in effect in some other Michigan communities, including Hamtramck.

"We had to do this eventually," said Neeley, who is running for mayor. "What happens if there's a (real) alarm, and the city can't respond because we don't have the people to respond?"

Steve Tessmer, owner of Soggy Bottom Bar and Wolverine Bump and Paint Shop, said he believes the security companies would just pass along the costs to home and business owners.

"This is already what we're paying taxes for," said Tessmer, who has security at both of his businesses. 

But Pat Brown, co-owner of Mike's Triple Grille in downtown, said it seems reasonable and would be a way to discourage false alarms. 

Deltonya Burns, owner of Global Security in Flint, said that "without a doubt," the cost would be passed along to customers.

Burns said most municipalities that charge for false alarms bill the building owner, not the security company. She sees logistical problems with billing out-of-town security companies.

"The companies would dispute the charges, and the city would end up in court," Burns said.

Burns said it's also difficult to know whether an alarm is truly a false alarm.

"Maybe one time, the homeowner left a window open, and the wind caused a motion detector to go off, but a lot of times, you just can't tell," Burns said. "It's very difficult to prove. There's too many variables."

Burns said her company does work throughout Genesee County, and she hasn't heard of any other local government that charges for false alarms. But she said it's common in other Michigan communities.

Bill Cooper, Hamtramck's city manager, said officials there approved a false alarm ordinance in 2002, but the city hasn't fined anyone yet.

Cooper said it's difficult to say whether the ordinance has reduced the overall number of false alarms, but he said a few businesses that were repeat offenders fixed the problem after the ordinance was approved.

How it would work 
• Security companies for businesses or homeowners would be billed for false alarms under a proposed ordinance. 

• Each address would get two "free" false alarms per calendar year. If there were continued false alarms, the security company would be charged $50 for police calls and $75 for fire calls. For each additional false alarm, the fine would increase by $25. 

• The City Council is expected to consider the proposal within the next few weeks.

$200 Fines for Response to Unregistered Alarms in Manteca, CA

In Manteca, CA, if you have an alarm and you don’t have a free city permit it is going to cost you $200 if it goes off and Manteca Police respond after July 1.

That is one facet of a plan to reduce city costs exceeding $80,000 a year that are spent responding to false alarms plus to help free up police officers.

The City Council Tuesday will consider adopting a revised alarm response policy crafted by Police Chief Dave Bricker and fine tuned with the support of the alarm industry. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

The city currently allows two false alarm responses a month without charging. The third, fourth, and fifth false alarm each month results in a $50 charge each.

There is no charge currently for not having an alarm permit or for the owner failing to respond. The new ordinance charges $200 for no alarm permit and $100 if the owner fails to respond.

New rules would limit false alarms to two a year and not two a month. There is no charge for the first two responses. The third false response is $100, the fourth response is $200, and the fifth is $400.

If adopted, the city would give those who have alarms but no city permit for them until June 30 to obtain one. The alarm permit comes with details on the owner’s responsibility and city policies plus provides police with contact information.

Manteca has 23,618 residential units. There are currently 1,312 burglar alarm permits issued or about 5.6 percent of the housing stock. During 2008, police responded to 3,527 residential burglary alarms. Mechanical failure or owner error accounted for 98.7 percent of those calls and not criminal activity.

Each alarm response took an average of 18 minutes to respond, check the structure and contact the owner. Due to the nature of the calls it requires two officers. Manteca Police devoted 2,116 hours last year responding to false alarms.

The contract for alarm service is between the alarm company and the alarm owner and is not binding on the city.

Maine Lawmaker Wants Mandatory CO Detectors

A Windham, ME, Democrat wants to increase the use of carbon monoxide detectors in Maine homes.

Sen. Bill Diamond is the sponsor of LD 550, "An Act to Protect Maine Residents from Home Fires and Carbon Monoxide." The bill seeks to require all new homes, as well as any that are being sold, to have modern smoke detectors and at least one carbon monoxide detector.

Multifamily homes that are sold would also be required to update their smoke detectors and have at least one carbon monoxide detector, according to the bill.

"We had a father and son die in Windham after they were overtaken by carbon monoxide," he said. "It can be prevented with a $20 device."

The bill calls for a fine of up to $500 for those who violate the law.

In Maine, approximately 150 people are taken to the emergency room or are hospitalized each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Diamond's office.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is impossible to see, taste or smell, which means it can cause death without warning, according to the agency.

Mild effects of exposure can be mistaken for the flu.

A public hearing on the bill was originally scheduled for Monday, but it was postponed. The committee has not announced a new date.

Snowmass, CO, Advances CO Detector Law

The Snowmass, CO, Town Council passed an ordinance on first reading March 2, 2009, that would require residents to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. 

Per the ordinance, the detectors must be on each floor and audible in all sleeping quarters.

If the room contains a fuel-burning appliance, like a gas stove or oven, the carbon monoxide detector must be in the room. 

Homes heated without the use of any fuel (such as homes with electric baseboard heat) would be exempt. So would homes that do not have an attached garage, where carbon monoxide can be created when a car is left to warm up in the enclosed space. 

Council pointed to a recent local tragedy as the catalyst for the new ordinance. All four members of the Lofgren family, of Denver, died from carbon monoxide poisoning during a Thanksgiving stay in an Aspen-area home. The residence did not have a carbon monoxide detector.

Kittle said the building department will try to monitor compliance by asking residents to contact the building department upon installation.

A similar ordinance went into effect on Monday in Aspen and unincorporated Pitkin County.

Jeffersonville, IN, Approves Second Reading of Law that Increases Fines

The Jefferson, IN, council gave secondary approval to an ordinance creating fees for those with faulty fire and burglar alarms that routinely call police and fire personnel to false alarm scenes.

The first three false alarm calls in a calendar year aren’t charged. After that, alarm owners will be fined $150. The fifth time it happens, owners will pay a $250 fine. And on the sixth occurrence, owners would pay a $350 fine.

The third and final reading of the ordinance is expected later this month.

Madison, WI, Requires Tamper-Resistant Detectors, 10-Year Lithium Batteries

The Madison, WI, common council voted unanimously to adopt the Peter Talen Smoke Alarm Ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting, making it law that Madison landlords place tamper-resistant smoke detectors in every bedroom.

The memorial ordinance was first proposed to Common Council Nov. 18, 2008, exactly a year after the 23-year-old Plymouth native and UW-La Crosse student lost his life in a fire at 123 N. Bedford St. while visiting his brother in Madison.

The ordinance, effective in August, demands the use of new tamper-resistant smoke detectors with lithium batteries that last 10 years, and will require that landlords place fire alarms in every bedroom. The alarms also feature a silence button, rather than removing the batteries.

Patricia Talen, mother of Peter Talen, showed her strong support in backing the ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting. “I have learned in a very difficult way that life is precious,” Talen said, addressing the council. “You are all affirming life and its precious value by adopting this ordinance.”

Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, introduced the ordinance to the council last fall and has worked closely with the Talen family, Madison Fire Department and others in drafting and carrying out the proposal.

“I’ll never forget the day of November 18, 2007,” Verveer said. “I ended that day by saying to myself that there has got to be something to do to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring.”

Verveer said he was being given a tour of the burned-down house by a Madison firefighter when he saw a smoke alarm sitting on top of a refrigerator. “The fact of the matter is that if this ordinance was in effect then, Peter Talen would still be alive today,” said Verveer.

Verveer also said this fire alarm ordinance gives Madison the status of having the most progressive model in the entire state of Wisconsin for fire safety.

The new 10-year lithium battery smoke detectors can be purchased for $17, or landlords can buy them in bulk for a reduced price.