June 2009 - Posts

River Forrest, IL, Board Rejects Permitting of Alarm Systems

There was little support Monday night among River Forest, IL, village trustees to impose a permit fee for burglar alarms at village homes and businesses. 

River Forest Police Chief Frank Limon Monday night suggested the permit fee and a fine for excessive false alarms at homes and businesses. Limon suggested the fee and fine to try to recover the costs incurred by the department for false alarms. 

Limon suggested a $50 initial permit fee along with a $25 annual renewal fee to help defray data entry costs to the village. He also suggested a $50 fine for homes or businesses with four or more false alarms to reduce their incidence. 

If put in place in 2008, according to information Limon provided to trustees, the $50 false alarm fine would have recovered about $15,000 for the department. 

"About 18 percent of our alarm users were responsible for nearly 50 percent of our activations," Limon said. 

Each alarm requires two squad cars to respond, Limon said. Officers remain on the scene for 20 to 30 minutes making sure all is secure. That's half the force on the street during the day, Limon said, two-thirds late at night. 

"Keep in mind that most of them are false and unfounded calls," Limon said. "Add the fire department to those types of calls, and you're also looking at additional resources that are really being wasted going to those calls." 

But there was not much appetite among trustees to impose a permit fee or fine. Trustee Catherine Adduci said she was concerned the fee was more punitive than necessary. A fee could be a disincentive for residents to purchase an alarm system, she said. 

"I understand it's a revenue enhancer, but I'm not sure it's a good one," she said. 

Trustee Michael Gibbs was concerned people would choose to instead deactivate their alarm systems. Perhaps the village should have something in place for people who have five or more false alarms in a year, he said, but fining people because of false alarms was not agreeable. 

Having an alarm activate and knowing the police will come on the scene is comforting to residents, Village President John Rigas said. There was a crime spree through town several years ago, and residents were concerned about their safety. 

Rigas said he understood such fees were common in other towns, but he was not more supportive of the idea. 

"I understand it takes police officers off the street doing one thing or another," Rigas said. "But there's nothing more comforting than the response you get with that."

Omaha, NE, May Fine for False Alarms

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle will introduce a false fire alarm fee, eliminate support for the city's convention and visitor's bureau and increase parking fees to help balance the city's 2009 budget.

Suttle announced the changes at a news conference Wednesday. But those measures will only cover part of the predicted $5 million shortfall in 2009 and an $11 million shortfall in 2010.

Suttle says the city should be able to cover a little more than $1 million of the shortfall with the changes he announced.

But Suttle says the city will have to consider a tax increase this year if its labor unions won't agree to a freeze on wages.

Issaquah, WA, Officials Consider False Alarm Ordinance

Home and business owners in Issaquah, WA, who cry wolf could face fines under a false alarm ordinance being considered by city officials. The proposed legislation would require alarm users to pay to register the devices as part of the effort to cut the number of false alarms. 

Police Chief Paul Ayers addressed concerns with the proposal when he presented the legislation to the Council Services & Operations Committee June 18. The full council could consider the proposed ordinance as early as next month.

Another measure will go the council alongside the proposal — a contract with a Colorado Springs, Colo., company, ATB Services, to manage the ordinance. ATB employees work with alarm providers to include the permit fee in customers’ bills. Ayers said the company provides similar service for Olympia and Lakewood.

Ayers said a two-year permit would cost $24, and $12 for senior citizens and disabled people. For alarm users without a false alarm during the two-year period, the renewal fee would be waived. Violators would be fined.

Patrol Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum said ATB has a relationship with the major alarm providers.

When Ayers presented the proposal to the Services & Operations Committee in February, members raised questions about whether the ordinance would limit officers from responding to legitimate calls.

At the February meeting, Ayers said alarms deter criminals, but the devices do not always help officers nab criminals. Only a few arrests resulted from the hundreds of burglary alarms officers responded to last year.

“As we’ve presented this in the past, the only concern that came up was about touching bases with the business people,” Ayers said.

He presented the bill to Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee on March 5. The committee later endorsed the proposed ordinance.

Services & Operations Committee members discussed the proposal in February and April. Ayers has said the bill aims to cut wasted dollars and effort by police officers.

Ayers said businesses are the most frequent false-alarm offenders. He attributed the disparity to employee turnover and employees who accidentally trip panic alarms. Of the false alarm alerts received by police last year, 54 percent originated at businesses while 46 percent came from residences. Officials said police responses to the calls wastes thousands of dollars and hours of manpower each year.

Behrbaum said in the worst case last year, officers responded to 16 false alarm calls from the same business.

Several Washington cities have enacted false alarm ordinances, including Kirkland and Redmond on the Eastside. The ordinances led to a dramatic drop in the number of false alarm calls received by first responders, according to police and fire figures.

When the Redmond ordinance went into effect in January 2000, false alarm calls to the Redmond Fire Department dropped to 1,687 from 2,476 calls the previous year.

Services & Operations Committee members endorsed the proposal, saying the measure would free up officers for more important tasks. Councilman Fred Butler, an alternate Services & Operations Committee member, said outreach to alarm users would be another way to cut the numbers of false alarm alerts.

Carrollton, TX, Now Requires Enhanced Call Verification

The North Texas Alarm Association reports that on Tuesday, June 6, the Carrollton, TX, City Council unanimously approved changes to the City's alarm ordinance. According to a statement from the North Texas Alarm Association, the changes related to false alarms reduction methods mirror the recent changes enacted from SB0568 affecting Chapter 214, subchapter F, Local Government Code. The adopted changes to the Alarm ordinance are effective immediately (starting June 7, 2006). 

Dealers and monitoring companies are suggested to verify that their monitoring station personal (or contract station) is utilizing enhanced call verification (ECV is a form of two-call verification) on all alarms in the city of Carrollton. Also of note is that Carrollton requires all alarm systems to be permitted, but the city does not have a no-permit, no-response policy. However, the alarm users must have an alarm permit or they will be subject to fines under city ordinance (that policy has been in effect since 1984). 

Fines have also been put in place to charge frequent sources of false alarms, starting with $50 for the fourth and fifth false alarms, then rising to $75 and then to $100. 

"I think the Carrollton Police Department did a great job in making changes to the benefit everyone," said Chris Russell, of the North Texas Alarm Assocaition. "They openly communicated with us for months and provided us numerous opportunities for feedback and input. Their adoption of ECV as defined in the TBFAA model ordinance should allow for the most seamless and effective migration of ECV for alarm monitoring personal while reducing false alarms and assisting our customers in further false alarm reductions." 

The City of Carrollton website lists a phone number of (972) 466-3525 for ordinance questions.

Lady Lake, FL, Enacts New Alarm Ordinance

Burglary alarms are going off in rising numbers in Lady Lake, and a lot of those are false alarms. 

Lady Lake, FL, town commissioners voted 5-0 this week to implement an ordinance to address bogus beeps and rings, by setting a $50 fine for false alarms that police respond to. 

The ordinance only applies to businesses and churches, which the police chief said account for at least 75 percent of alarms in the town. 

However, owners and lessees of the structures do get some reprieve. They are allotted four false alarms within a calendar year, with the $50 fine being leveled on the fifth and subsequent false alarms. 

Police Chief Ed Nathanson said law enforcement officers deal with alarms on a daily basis, and each one must be treated as if it were valid. 

"Aside from being time consuming and tying up responding officers, it is also an area that creates a liability for the town and community alike," the chief said. "The ever increasing number of false alarms simply had to be addressed in a proactive endeavor to curtail them." 

The town also will level a $50 fine if someone fails to show up to the structure to shut off the alarm within 30 minutes of being notified by police. 

The ordinance passed Monday after a second reading. Initially, the fine was $75 for each false alarm after the first one. 

Defendants can appeal the decision. A magistrate can waive the fine upon request in instances such a lightning, power lines or any "good cause" that might have resulted in a false alarm. 

Nathanson said the new ordinance should not make businesses more reluctant to install alarm systems. 

"Not if they are professional and responsible," he said.

NY State House Approvesd Carbon Monoxide Bill

A bill named for a teen who died of carbon monoxide poisoning earlier this year has been approved by the New York State Assembly.

"Amanda's Law" would require all homes in New York State to have require contractors when replacing a hot water tank or furnace to install a carbon monoxide detector. 

Amanda Hansen, 16, of West Seneca was found unconscious at a friend's house in January. Police later determined she had been exposed to lethal levels of carbon monoxide in the home's basement, where she and the friend were having a sleepover. She later died at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital.

Assemblyman Mark Schroeder introduced Amanda's Law to legislators on Thursday.

"This is a major step in protecting all New Yorkers from the dangers of carbon monoxide. This silent killer can't be seen or smelled - that is why it is so important that all homes in New York have a carbon monoxide detector," a statement from Schroeder said.

The bill will now be introduced to the state senate for approval.

Gainesville, FL, Has New Fire Alarm Ordinance

Gainesville, Fla., is turning to a new fire ordinance in October to help slow down the high number of false alarms to which the city' fire department has been responding.

The new ordinance goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2005, and will assess fines for repeated false alarms.

The ordinance allows one false alarm a year for permitted systems, and then proceeds into a fee structure for ensuing false calls, starting with $25 and moving to as high as $400 per false alarm. Permitting of a fire alarm system costs $15 per year.

The city has had a similar ordinance for burglar alarms since 2000.

According to a report in The (Gainesville, Fla.) Alligator newspaper, the city's fire and rescue department was facing approximately 1,400 false fire alarms each year, with a cost to the department of approximately $370,000.

Pittsburgh, PA, Considers Revising Alarm Ordinance

Pittsburgh, PA, commissioners are considering an alarm ordinance that would carry an annual fee for residences and businesses with alarm systems.

The ordinance would augment a 2003 ordinance that requires start-up alarm fees of $25 for residential security systems, $50 for residential fire systems and $100 for commercial and multifamily properties. 

Under the proposed legislation, the start-up fees would remain, but an annual $35 fee would be assessed, too. Officials say the new fee is necessary to keep up with administrative costs as well as provide updated property owner and contact information.

Commissioner Jean O'Toole opposed enacting a new fee.

Batavia, IL, Toughens Alarm Ordinance

Automatic alarm scofflaws in Batavia, IL, should prepare for penalties or have their security systems repaired.

The Batavia Police Department and Batavia Fire Department have prepared a proposed ordinance that would assess fines ranging from $50 to $300. 

Some aldermen would like to see stiffer fines for chronic cases involving commercial or residential property owners who fail to heed the warnings and maintain their security systems. 

"Nobody cares about $50," Alderman Cathy Barnard said, suggesting the fines should be increased. 

Deputy Police Chief Gregory Thrun and Fire Marshal Tom Springer on Tuesday presented details of an ordinance before members of the City Services Committee. 

Under the proposed ordinance, the departments would waive fines for the first two calls to account for mechanical failure and human error. For a third false alarm in a 12-month span, the departments will issue a $50 fine. 

The fourth false alarm would result in a $100 fine. For five to nine false alarms, the fine increases to $200. And for 10 or more false calls, the fine increases to $300.

Thrun said 10 businesses accounted for more than half of the 955 alarms in 2008, with some of them having in excess of 15 to 20 false alarms in a year. The Fire Department responded to 546 fire-oriented alarms in 2008, with more than a dozen businesses having repeated false alarms.

Thrun said the cost of manpower being taken away from more productive duties and responsibilities, along with the cost of equipment making needless responses, and the potential liability of an accident occurring during the emergency response itself warrant the implementation of an updated ordinance.

The deputy police chief said with the police department's newer records management system alarm module, they'll be able to track and regulate alarm responses by police units and forward the information to the city's Finance Department. The fire department uses a computer software program which will process their alarm responses. 

"This will help reduce the needless response to false alarms," Thrun said. 

The city has had an alarm ordinance on the books since 1972, with the last revision more than 20 years ago. Thrun said the frequency of false alarms has become apparent with the affordability of security systems. 

The committee did increase the fifth false alarm to $200 to give property owners incentive to have the security alarm system repaired and maintained. 

The proposed ordinance will be presented to the City Council.

"It is sending a message that we want the systems maintained because it is costing everyone," Volk said. "Let's review it in a year, and if there aren't fewer repeated (offenses), let's bump up the fines," he said.

Maine Govenor Signs Carbon Monoxide Bill

Maine Gov. John Baldacci today ceremonially signed a measure intended to cut down on the number of carbon monoxide poisonings in Maine. LD 550 updates a law that governs the placement and testing of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and clarifies that both types of detectors must be powered by a battery and electricity.

"According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, between 150 and 200 people are hospitalized each year in Maine for carbon monoxide poisoning," Baldacci said at the signing. "This is a piece of legislation that is certain to improve the safety of Maine homes and I am pleased to sign it."

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, a Cumberland County Democrat. It will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

Conroe, TX, Outsources Management of Alarm Compliance Law

Conroe, TX, council entered into a shared revenue contract with Dallas-based PMAM Corp. to manage all aspects of the city’s automated alarm ordinance.

The city permits a total of 3,402 automated alarms (both residential and commercial). Each permit holder is allowed five false alarms a year. Permit holders are fined $50 for each false alarm above that.

City Finance Director Steve Williams said the company’s False Alarm Management System will increase revenue through more efficient billing procedures. The city also should see better use of police manpower as the number of false alarms drops, he said.

The contract calls for the city to receive 72 percent of any increased revenues, with PMAM receiving the remaining 28 percent. There is no financial commitment required on the city’s behalf, Williams said.

Saginaw Township, MI, to Fine for False Alarms Caused by Fire Maintenance

Fifty times or so every year in Saginaw Township, Michigan, on-call paid volunteer fire crews hustle to false alarms at businesses, said Fire Chief Jim I. Peterson.

It usually happens when a fire sprinkler company doesn't shut off an alarm or notify emergency authorities in advance of maintenance work or a test, officials said.

"They're just needless runs," Peterson said.

That's about to get a little more costly for those on the receiving end of the fire run.
Saginaw County's largest suburb has imposed a minimum fine of $250 when contractors or service workers fail to turn off or trip alarms and the Fire Department shows up.

"It's preventable," said Assistant Chief Linda Schluchter.

A tenant or an alarm system owner will face a warning on a first violation, a $150 fine the second time and $250 for a third offense.

Schluchter said the township makes a distinction between contractors who frequently work with alarm systems and, for example, group homes or hospitals that are required to carry out annual fire drills but aren't accustomed to notifying the Fire Department beforehand.

"Rather than give them an immediate punishment, we wanted to make sure we give them some consideration," she said.

Peterson had no figures on the typical cost of a false alarm, though a fire engine pumper run can cost about $200 an hour, he said.

Illinois Towns Consider Alarm Ordinances

The cities of St. Charles and Batavia, both in Illinois,, are considering a crackdown on nuisance false fire alarms. Ordinances proposed for both towns could set fines for multiple "nuisance" false alarms with the aim of convincing building owners to fix any glitches in their systems. 

The Batavia Fire Department has a draft ordinance that could be voted on this summer. 

Tom Springer, Batavia's fire marshal, said that pending City Council approval, the city could start issuing fines from $50 to $300 a call, depending on the frequency of nuisance alarms.

Springer said that in 2008, city firefighters responded to multiple nuisance alarms at 14 addresses, three or more times an address.

St. Charles Fire Chief Patrick Mullen is drafting an ordinance for that city. 

"Every time a fire truck is on the street, there is an element of risk for the firefighters and people on the street," Mullen said.

"There are also costs involved, the price of gas for going back and forth. But probably the biggest benefit is gaining greater efficiency."

Last year in the U.S. there were about 721,000 nuisance false fire alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Fire officials said a nuisance false alarm is classified as mechanical or electrical failure that causes a system to sound, sometimes multiple times, and is caused by a lack of system maintenance and a lack of regular testing.

Mullen said an alarm caused by a power surge or one caused by, say, burning toast, is a false alarm but is not considered a nuisance and is not subject to fine. 

Businesses and apartment buildings are required by ordinance to have automatic alarms, which includes fire alarms wired directly to the local fire department through a telephone line or by way of digital radio signal, Mullen said. 

Mullen added that there are also alarm services building owners hire that phone fire departments during emergencies.

The Geneva Fire Department answered about 3,000 calls last year.

Since the city of Geneva started fining building owners a decade ago, the number of nuisance false alarms have dropped off to nearly zero in that city.

"I can't remember the last time we fined anybody," said Stephen Olson, Geneva's fire chief.

"Our fines are $100 for the first false alarm and $125 for the second," Olson said. 

Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkel said his village for the past five years has had an ordinance on the books that sets fines for nuisance false alarms.

"Once they [building owners] start getting bills, you'd be surprised how fast they fix their systems," Kunkel said. 

Kunkel added that he was the fire marshal for Aurora in 1997 and helped write an ordinance that dramatically reduced the number or nuisance alarm problem in that city.

Muncie, IN, Alarm Ordinance Drastically Cuts False Alarms

Nine years after the creation of a false alarm ordinance in Muncie, IN, the law has yet to generate much revenue for city government.

But that doesn't mean it is an ineffective law, according to officials.

David Miller, the Muncie fire department's chief fire investigator, said fire alarm owners are taking false alarm calls more seriously, correcting their alarm systems to avoid monetary penalties.

"Before they kind of blew it off," he said.

The law, approved by city council in 2000, fines property owners $150 for false fire and burglar alarms beginning with the owner's third violation at a given address in a calendar year.

At a recent Chat with the Mayor event, a firefighter asked whether the city was collecting the false alarm fees. His overall line of questioning centered around how the a $3.8 million budget shortfall would affect the fire department.

Mayor Sharon McShurley was unsure whether the fees were being collected, saying she had little time to deal with the issue given she had recently announced the layoff of 40 firefighters and the closure of two stations.

Turns out, the city is collecting the fees. There's just not much to collect.

So far this year, Muncie's police and fire department's have responded to 678 false burglar and fire alarms, according to Diana White, who administers the alarm tickets in the building commissioner's office. White estimated that burglar alarms accounted for more than 95 percent of the false alarms that pass her desk.

Of those 678 false alarms, only 30 were eligible for the $150 fine and all of those were in connection with burglar alarms.

White said 21 violators have paid their fines so far, generating $3,150 which is split between the city's general fund and police and fire departments.

The remaining nine will likely go to city court.

The city could generate a little more money by adopting stricter false fire alarm regulations more in line with other cities.

According to Brad Shipp, executive director of the False Alarm Reduction Association, many cities fine commercial property owners on the first violation.

On the other hand, Shipp noted, many of these same cities also exempt homeowners and state institutions, whereas Muncie's ordinance does not.

Muncie's burglar alarm provisions, which are the same as those governing false fire alarms, are also more strict than most, Shipp said.

Former councilman David Taylor, who proposed the ordinance, said he is not surprised related revenue has been relatively low. The whole purpose, Taylor said, was not to make money but to act as a deterrent.

"At the time, it was to keep down the calls," he said.

While Miller said he has seen fire alarm improvements in connection with the ordinance, Muncie Deputy Police Chief Roc Barrett was less encouraged about burglar alarms.

The Muncie police responded to 1,480 false burglar alarms in 2007, he said.

This year they are on the same pace.

But according to Barrett, there are too many unknown variables to determine whether the ordinance has been successful.

For example, Barrett said, more people might have bought burglar alarms since 2007. So even if police are responding to the same amount of alarms, the percentage of alarm systems that are generating false alarms would have gone down.

"You can't prove what you don't have the information for," he said.

Kennebunkport, ME, Voters Approve Alarm Ordinance Changes

Kennebunkport, ME, voters approved changes to the fire alarm ordinance establish that states while false alarms caused by weather, wild animals or power outages are beyond an owner’s control, other causes are not.

First offenders will receive only a written warning for false alarms; any offense after the first will result in a penalty, starting at $50 for a second offense, $200 for a third offense and $500 for any after that. 

The fire code ordinance change, also approved, simply changes the language in the ordinance to reflect state code.

U.S. Senators Introduce Carbon Monoxide Bill

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar along with and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson introduced legislation Tuesday to combat deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act, modeled after similar legislation in Minnesota, would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to enforce stronger standards to protect people against the deadly dangers of carbon monoxide.

"When someone dies from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s not just a private tragedy," said Klobuchar. "It’s a public tragedy, too. Because we know that, so often, it could have been prevented with better safeguards."

The Residential Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act includes two key provisions. First, it would strengthen the safety standards for carbon monoxide alarms. The legislation would make these safety standards mandatory for all carbon monoxide alarms sold in the U.S.

Second, the legislation would require that the CPSC complete its review on whether portable generators sold in the U.S. can be equipped with safety mechanisms that, among other things, detect the level of carbon monoxide in the surrounding area and automatically turn off the portable generator before the level of CO reaches a threatening level.

Minnesota has a state law that requires all homes to have working CO alarms. Experts recommend installing them on each floor and near sleeping areas. A recent survey found that half of homes nationwide do not have CO alarms. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 500 people die each year in America due to accidental CO poisoning. Another 15,000 people end up in the emergency room. 

According to the CDC, 73 Minnesotans died of accidental CO poisoning between 1999 and 2004.

Rogers, AR, to Vote on Burglar Alarm Ordinance

Two months after the Rogers, AR, City Council voted to allow the Rogers Fire Department to levy a fee for false alarms, the Police Department is making a similar request. Police Chief Steve Hamilton said it has taken longer for his request because while the Fire Department had no violators in mind when its ordinance passed, Hamilton already has many businesses that would qualify for fines. 

In the ordinance, which is on the agenda for the June 9, 2009, City Council meeting, business and office owners would have to pay a civil penalty of $50 per false alarm after the first three within a year, and $100 per false alarm after seven. Upon the 12th false alarm, the Police Department will no longer respond without a caller confirming that the alarm is legitimate. There are already 36 businesses with 12 or more false alarms in 2008 alone, Hamilton said. 

Hamilton said there is no legal requirement that the Police Department respond to alarms, but he does not want to eliminate the practice. The department has just received so many false alarms - each requiring two officers for about 40 minutes - that Hamilton is beginning to see it as a misuse of resources, he said. 

Residents would not be immune, if the ordinance is approved, but their fines would be less than those for commercial and office property. The penalty set by the proposed ordinance is $15 per false alarm after the third and $30 after the seventh. Upon the 12th false alarm, the department would again stop responding without separate notification. 

Hamilton said those affected by the penalties would have 10 days from notification to appeal the fines to him. He also said he would wave the penalty if the property owner could show proof that a faulty alarm had been repaired. 

Mayor Steve Womack is already supporting the ordinance. 

"That's just good business," Womack said. "They are just inundated with false alarms. It's just not good use of tax dollars."

Payson, AZ, Fines after 4th False Alarm

The Payson, AZ, town council is continuing to wrestle with a second year of flat or declining revenues due to the recession – compounded by deep but still mysterious future reductions by the state.

The proposed budget maintains most town services – including almost all of the current recreation programs and full summer schedule for the pool in Rumsey Park.

False Alarms: Better check out your burglar alarm system. The fourth time it sends out a false alarm, that’ll cost you $50. By the time you get up to six false alarms, it’ll cost you $100 every time the bell rings and the squad cars roll.

Fayetteville, AR, Ordinance Results in Less False Alarms

Fayetteville, AR, residents have been charged $6,800 since March 1 for not following an ordinance requiring they register alarm systems with the city or for having false alarms that require police response. 

The Fayetteville Police Department is still being lenient, giving residents time to become familiar with the new ordinance, which took effect March 1, said Police Chief Greg Tabor. 

The ordinance requires registration and established a $250 fee for noncompliance to compensate the department for man hours used to respond to false alarms. The ordinance, passed in November 2007, gives one freebie, Tabor said. 

Tabor told the City Council on Tuesday that the department received 106 fewer false alarm calls since March 1, compared to the same time period last year. 

"We don't know if that's a coincidence or from the impact of the ordinance," Tabor said. 

Assuming the reduced number was a result of the ordinance, 70 man hours were saved. 

Of the false alarms, 74 percent were nonresidential. 

To date, 2,300 alarms were registered through the False Alarm Reduction Program. 

Tabor said the most common complaint is people claiming they didn't know about the requirement, although several notices have gone out with utility bills and alarm companies are to inform customers. 

"We've been very lenient. If they go ahead and register, we waive the fee," he said. "We've only had two complaints about the ordinance itself, so we don't see any reason for changes." 

Three people have requested formal review of their situations, and each time a fee was eliminated after consideration, he said. 

James "Butch" Coger, representing Custom Home and Commercial Electronics, gave public comment. He said education is more effective than charging a fee, and suggested not charging until a third offense - and then giving the person or business an option to take a training class. 

Classes typically last 45 minutes, he said, and teach the dangers of false alarms, which take police resources off the streets. His company would provide the class free to customers, he said. 

"I am not against the ordinance. I'd just like to see it fine-tuned," Coger said. 

Coger asked if any alarms were exempt, but the chief said no. 

"As far as I know, there's nobody exempt. We already had an issue with a federal building - they tried to get out of paying, and we're still working on that," Tabor said. 

Alarms can be registered by phone at 877-575-0933 or online at www.crywolf.us/fayettevillearcrywolf/default.asp.

Kennebunkport, ME, Voters to Decide on Alarm Ordinance

When Kennebunkport, ME, voters head to the polls June 9, they'll have not only two selectmen to choose, but several ordinance changes to decide as well.

Two of the proposed changes involve the fire department, and Fire Chief Paul Moshimer was on hand May 28 to go over the changes with the Board of Selectmen.

The first change, Moshimer said, cleans up the existing fire alarm ordinance.

"Basically, it puts some teeth into the ordinance," he said. "It has property owners be more respectful about getting us information on their alarm systems."

The changes to the ordinance make it clear that while false alarms caused by weather, wild animals or power outages are beyond an owner's control, other causes are not. While first offenders will receive only a written warning, any offense after the first will result in a penalty, starting at $50 for a second offense, $200 for a third offense and $500 for any after that.

"We had 460 alarms in 2008," Police Chief Joe Bruni said. "The majority were repetitive. It's a public safety issue."

The second fire code ordinance change simply alters the language in the ordinance to reflect the state code.

"We were concerned there might be confusion," Moshimer said. "It's just a housekeeping measure."

Flowery Branch, GA, Approves False Alarm Ordinance

Flowery Branch, GA, City Council now has a false alarm ordinance on the books, with several changes.

The biggest change was deleting the section requiring alarm system owners to register their systems and get a permit. The Council got rid of that section after hearing opposition to it from two homeowners and Councilman Craig Lutz, who said it was an invasion of privacy.

Lutz said he supported the ordinance as a tool to cut down the number of false alarm calls in the city.

Homeowner and former mayor Jim Mathis said requiring permits would create an administrative burden.

“Think about what you’re doing by taking in registering of alarms and adding to the city’s work load," Mathis said. "I’m not sure that’s where you want to go.”

Ed Asbridge also said it would be a cost and administrative nightmare and single out new homeowners.

“My suggestion is very simple,” Asbridge told Mayor and Council. “Just have the ordinance without the permit; why burden yourself with all that.”

Police Chief Gerald Lanich said he could make it work using a database instead of permit records.

“It’ll enable us to still know where the problems are,” Chief Lanich said. “We can address those without maintaining a total data base of all the alarms in Flowery Branch, we’ll just maintain the trouble alarm systems.”

Written warnings would be issued for the first and second false alarms and alarm classes would be no charge to users.