August 2009 - Posts

N.Y. Gov. Paterson Signs Amanda's Law Requiring CO Detectors

New York Gov. David Paterson passed a new measures called Amanda's Law, which requires all homes to be outfitted with carbon monoxide detectors. The previous law applied only to homes built or sold after July 30, 2002.

The bill is named for Amanda Hansen, a 16-year-old from West Seneca who died in January of carbon monoxide poisoning from a defective boiler while at a sleep-over at her friend's house.

The detectors can be found in home improvement hardware stores for under $100. Under the law, contractors who replace a hot water tank or furnace would have to install the detectors, too.

Garden City, NJ, Inks New Alarm Ordinance

The new Garden City, NJ, alarm law was met with citizen backlash at a recent village meeting. The ordinance calls for an annual alarm system license fee - the amount is yet to be determined by the board of trustees but not to be “excessive,” according to Mayor Rothschild. The local law also sets forth penalties for four or more false alarms during any consecutive 12-month period.

For Manny Velez of Nassau Boulevard, paying a fee just for having a house alarm almost makes him not want one at all. “Paying a fee for having an alarm almost deters you from having one,” he said. “I have no problem paying a fee for an additional service.”

Bob Orosz questioned why residents would be required to pay a fee to the county or town when it’s the village forces that are responding to the alarm. “In essence we’re paying on top of being monitored,” he said. “Why not pay the village and forget about the county and the town. That makes sense to me. I’m paying for the village to respond to the alarm. I’m not paying the county or the Town of Hempstead. They’re not coming. The village is coming. I think that would be a way to get revenue.”

Arnold Finnamore also objected: “I think its unfair we have to pay two fees for one alarm system.”

According to Fire Captain Gil Frank, Nassau County requires a registration fee through the Fire Marshal’s office. The Garden City Fire Department does not have full time dispatching. 

“When Headquarters Company personnel (career personnel) are not in Headquarters to monitor the emergency lines, the Nassau County Fire Communications office (FIRECOM) answers our emergency lines. For that reason, all monitored fire alarms are required to notify the Nassau County Fire Communications office (FIRECOM) when a signal is received. FIRECOM then either notifies or dispatches the responsible fire department for response,” Captain Frank said. “Even if we had full time dispatching, there is a county requirement that requires residents to pay the county a registration fee.”

Tom Pinou, president of the Western Property Owners’ Association, said his members couldn’t understand why they were being charged for something that’s really part of their taxes as far as the police or fire departments responding.

“From our board’s perspective, we understand the interest in raising revenue. But we all had a problem with this one as far as registering something and paying an additional cost,” Pinou told trustees. “We understand that if there are multiple false alarms it is fair to charge the resident. But to charge the resident for having a system was not something we wanted to really understand. It felt like we were getting double dipped.”

Kathy Wood of Tullamore Road questioned how the proposed law addresses carbon monoxide detectors. Mayor Rothschild assured that a carbon monoxide alarm is considered a “viable call for a possible emergency,” and hence the resident would not be charged for a false alarm.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly told residents that the board has not yet set any fee. “We’re not setting a fee this evening,” he said. “The fee could be set at zero.”

Trustee John Mauk said the premise of the law was really to focus on the frequency of false alarms in the village. “The intent of this is really to address situations to reduce false alarms,” Mauk said. 

There will be no penalty for up to three false alarms within any consecutive 12-month period. However, four to eight false alarms imposes a mandatory fine of $50 for each occurrence within any consecutive 12-month period; nine to 12 false alarms imposes a mandatory fine of $100 per each occurrence within any consecutive 12-month period; 13 or more false alarms imposes a mandatory fine of $200 for each occurrence within a 12-month period.

Every alarm system must be equipped so that upon activation of a burglary alarm, there will be a mandatory delay of at least 30 seconds before the transmission of a signal to the police department so as to enable the user to abort the signal in the event that it was triggered inadvertently. This delay, the law notes, will not be applicable to a robbery (hold up) or to medical emergency alarms.

Further, every alarm system that also signals a fire alarm must be equipped with a “separate distinguishing signal for each kind of alarm” and every alarm system emitting an “audible, visual or other similar response outside the premises” must include a device that automatically shuts off the outside audible or visual signal or other response within 15 minutes from activation.

Trustees Don Brudie and John Watras did not approve this local law. However, it still passed by a vote of 6-2.

Sandpoint, ID, Considers Alarm Ordinance

Sandpoint, ID, home and business owners might want have to have their checkbooks handy the next time their house burns down or their security alarm goes off.

The City Council is mulling a proposal that would charge residents for wracking up numerous false alarms, and another that would tack on a user fee for some emergency calls, including structure fires.

After a debate, the council voted 5-1 to send the false alarm plan to a September public hearing, but decided the user fee proposal needed more work and remanded it back to the Administrative Committee. Councilman John Reuter voted against both proposals, and Councilman Michael Boge voted against the user fee plan.

Under the false alarm proposal, home and business owners would not be charged for the first two false alarms each year, but would be fined $150 for the third, $300 each for the fourth through sixth, $500 each for the seventh through ninth, and $1,000 each for the tenth and all additional false alarms. 

City Attorney Will Herrington said the goal of the ordinance is to curtail excessive false alarms, not to generate funds.

“The revenue enhancement that it provides is not the primary issue for me,” he said. “Having a fee structure for false alarms gets the people who have false alarms in their system to correct the problems and deficiencies with those systems.”

Both Fire Chief Robert Tyler and Police Chief Mark Lockwood said they have wasted too many man hours responding to false alarms and agreed that a more affective deterrent was needed. Tyler said his crew has responded to as many as seven false alarms from one location in a single day, and Lockwood said there are local businesses that have had more than 30 false alarms in a year.

Tyler also asked the council to implement a user fee for emergency responders, which would charge home and business owners a fee for the use of fire personnel on calls ranging from structure fires to medical emergencies to downed power lines and trees. Tyler said the program would add a much-needed revenue source to the department’s ever-tightening budget.

“Every year I come here looking for capital expenditures for apparatus replacement and major equipment replacement. I hear every year, ‘You find me the money.’ I don’t know where the hell the money is,” he said. “Our fleet is aging. I don’t know where else to get the money.”

While the majority of the council was willing to accept some form of user fee, Reuter said he couldn’t support any plan that would punish residents who lost their home to a fire.

“How does it affect homeowners who have homeowner insurance, and how does it affect homeowners who don’t have homeowners insurance?” he said. “So my house burns down and I didn’t get homeowners insurance. ... Now I owe the city money on top of the fact that I don’t have a house?”

McKinney, TX, Revisits Verified Response Law Less than a Year Later

The McKinney, TX, City Council will revisit the "no response" alarm ordinance but is not saying why.

City and police officials confirmed that city council members will discuss the ordinance at their upcoming workshop on Monday.

The ordinance that took effect on Oct. 1, 2008 says McKinney police officers will not respond to unregistered alarms if they activate whether the nature of the alarm is accidental, a technical glitch or related to a crime progress.

The owners of the alarm can receive fines up to $500 for activating an unregistered alarm. The McKinney City Council approved an ordinance regarding the alarm law in 2007 after the McKinney Police Department proposed the idea to council members at a workshop session.

SIW Reports: 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.

Annapolis, MD, Holds off on Alarm Registration unitl 2010

A new Annapolis, MD, law now requires residents and businesses with burglar alarms to join the county's alarm registry or face a $125 fine, but police are urging security system customers not to sign up until an electronic system is ready in January.

Advertisement "The thing that needs to be stressed here is: We're going be very lenient with this," county police Deputy Chief Emerson Davis said.

The new law, which took effect this month, is aimed at reducing the time police spend on false alarms - a tally that reached more than 8,500 hours last year. Police respond to an average of 85 false alarms every day, which they say diverts resources from legitimate public safety work.

The new law is designed to deter false alarms by imposing a series of increasing fines for unnecessarily summoning the police three or more times to the same address within a year. The registry is part of administering the rules.

"What we were hoping was for most people to hold off and register electronically," Davis said. "We've always said we want to implement the program no later than Jan. 1, 2010. That's always been our goal."

The law requires both the alarm user and the alarm company to file contact information with county police so officers know whom to call when a faulty alarm needs to be shut off. Registering is free and, by law, all the information will be kept confidential.

Davis said the $125 penalty for failing to register a system will be used sparingly, if at all, and only in instances when there's no other way for police to get residents or businesses to comply with the law.

"If we get an alarm (set) off at a residence, and we go there and we find out by being there that the alarm is not registered, we'd work with the homeowner to get it registered," Davis said. "Only in those rare instances where you have some defiance, then we'd work through the (fine) system. We're really doing this through education."

County officials are currently in the procurement process to select a way to administer the program and the e-registration system. In the meantime, police plan to post a link to a registration form on the county's Web site, www.aacounty.org.

"If people feel compelled to register now, they can fill it out and we will accept it," Davis said.

Until the law was passed earlier this summer, Anne Arundel County was one of only a few jurisdictions in Maryland without a way to crack down on bogus calls. The oft-cited success story among these programs is the one in Montgomery County, which saved $1.7 million in police resources in 2006 through its false alarm system, according to the False Alarm Reduction Association.

The Annapolis City Council last month adopted a fine schedule to punish repeat offenders, but it does not include a registry provision, city spokeswoman Rhonda Wardlaw said. The fines will take effect in the city on Sept. 1.

Anderson, IN, Businesses to Pay for False Alarms

Anderson, Indiana, businesses within the city will have to pay if their alarm systems send police on a false call.

The Anderson City Council on Thursday approved on all three readings an ordinance setting fees for false alarms answered by the Anderson Police Department when the systems are unnecessarily tripped.

While the first false alarm run will result in a warning, subsequent offenses will cause fines. The second offense within a calendar year will net a $50 fine, the third offense $100 and the fourth offense $200. Subsequent offenses will bring a $300 fine each.

The city’s general fund will receive 25 percent of the fines paid, while the rest will go to APD’s non-reverting police training fund.

City attorney Tim Lanane said the ordinance was similar to one passed for false fire alarms.

“It really adds up,” he said. “They’re really trying to get to some of the repeat offenders, so to speak.”

City Councilman Mike Welch said, as part of the Police Merit Commission, he has ridden with officers responding to false alarms. He said oftentimes, nighttime cleaning and maintenance workers accidentally trip the alarms when they enter.

“I’ve noticed and observed some of these businesses the officers have to go out to,” he said. “It happens over and over again, and a lot of times it’s the same ones and it is costly.”

The ordinance says the false alarm calls cause unnecessary wear and tear on police vehicles and put officers and the public in danger. It says a large number of false alarm calls are made by private emergency systems.

False alarmed is defined as “the activation of an alarm system eliciting any response by the Anderson Police Department which is not in response to actual or threatened danger to a person or damage to property” and can include activation of an alarm system through mechanical failure, malfunction, improper installation or maintenance or a negligent, reckless or intentional act of an alarm user.

Police can use their discretion in assessing fines.

Ocean City, MD, May Revisit CO Ordinance due to Non-Compliance

Elected officials Ocean City, MD, say they'll take another look at the law that mandates carbon monoxide detectors for resort hotels, condominiums and other multiunit dwellings, with an emphasis on compliance from property owners.

"We just need to make sure that everyone out there knows the law and follows the law," said Council President Joe Mitrecic. "If we have to start inspections, then we have to start charging -- that's not what I want to do. We need to get the owners of these buildings to start complying. Other than going room to room in the entire town, I don't know what else we could do to make them comply."

Mitrecic said the law passed in 2007 --created in the aftermath of a 2006 incident that left two tourists dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in a hotel room --is "the right ordinance."

He called hotel owners that don't install CO detectors "penny-wise and pound-foolish."

"If something goes wrong, it could cost them a lot more in the long run. It could cost them millions," he said of possible lawsuit settlements.

The hot-button issue arose Aug. 11 when the seven-story, 94-room Americana Hotel was evacuated for a carbon monoxide leak that sent three people to the hospital and sickened many others.

Ocean City Fire Marshal Sam Villani closed the Boardwalk hotel for occupancy pending an ongoing investigation that is still searching for the source of the leak.

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the CO law is "strong, as written," but said officials may need to add some measures to check for compliance. The law already requires buildings with fuel-burning appliances to send a document of certification to the Fire Marshal's Office that CO detectors have been installed.

Neither the Americana nor the El Capitan condo, another Boardwalk property evacuated for a leak earlier this summer, had CO detectors installed.

Meehan said he believes the lack of detectors was "the exception, not the rule. But nonetheless, it's a serious problem even if a few haven't complied."

"It would be impossible to check everybody in one week. We have to be realistic, but we have to be direct and we want to be firm, and we want to get it done," he added.

Meehan also noted the dispatcher who took the call for sick guests that brought firefighters to the Americana had alerted crews to be on the lookout for a possible CO leak, based on victims' symptoms.



"Right away, we were prepared to address what could have been a problem under any circumstances, and I think that's important for the public to know." Meehan said.

Fire officials will meet with the council Sept. 1 to review the issue. It's a meeting to which Councilman Jim Hall is looking forward.

"I'm very concerned about it," he said. "It's a high priority for me to find out what happened at (the Americana) Hotel and make sure this never happens again. Three incidents is too much. I want to understand it, I want to learn from the fire marshal and the safety folks what went wrong, what could go wrong and what we can do to correct the situation to make sure this never happens again."

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she's displeased that some hotels still haven't installed CO detectors, despite a February deadline.

"Honestly, I'm very, very disappointed that the Americana had two years to do what we asked them to do and they didn't do it," she said.

"Right now the ordinance says you only need these detectors adjacent to the room where the source is," she added. "We very well may add some more stringent specifications. Every single room may need to be equipped with a CO detector."

Knight also said the town and the state are among the few states and municipalities that require CO detectors. For that reason, Knight said she and her husband always pack a portable CO detector when they travel.

Councilman Lloyd Martin said when the ordinance was passed, the council took property owners on good faith that they'd comply.

"But as it goes through, it sounds like some people didn't do it," he said. "So you have to give (the law) some more teeth. That's where we need to put it. With six people in the Fire Marshal's Office, you can't do inspecting of 30,000 units. We just don't have the manpower."

Martin suggested bringing in a third-party inspector to check for CO detectors at the same time hotels are checked for fire alarms and sprinklers.

"I don't think we can physically do all the buildings in a timely manner ourselves," he said. "Some of these places have to be inspected three times a year. Just add CO to the list of things they do every year, or bi-annually, as needed. To me, that's the easiest way, because these people are already in the buildings and their report has to go to the Fire Marshal's Office anyway."

Meehan also noted the dispatcher who took the call for sick guests that brought firefighters to the Americana had alerted crews to be on the lookout for a possible CO leak, based on victims' symptoms.

"Right away, we were prepared to address what could have been a problem under any circumstances, and I think that's important for the public to know." Meehan said.

Fire officials will meet with the council Sept. 1 to review the issue. It's a meeting to which Councilman Jim Hall is looking forward.

"I'm very concerned about it," he said. "It's a high priority for me to find out what happened at (the Americana) Hotel and make sure this never happens again. Three incidents is too much. I want to understand it, I want to learn from the fire marshal and the safety folks what went wrong, what could go wrong and what we can do to correct the situation to make sure this never happens again."

Councilwoman Mary Knight said she's displeased that some hotels still haven't installed CO detectors, despite a February deadline.

"Honestly, I'm very, very disappointed that the Americana had two years to do what we asked them to do and they didn't do it," she said.

"Right now the ordinance says you only need these detectors adjacent to the room where the source is," she added. "We very well may add some more stringent specifications. Every single room may need to be equipped with a CO detector."

Knight also said the town and the state are among the few states and municipalities that require CO detectors. For that reason, Knight said she and her husband always pack a portable CO detector when they travel.

Councilman Lloyd Martin said when the ordinance was passed, the council took property owners on good faith that they'd comply.

"But as it goes through, it sounds like some people didn't do it," he said. "So you have to give (the law) some more teeth. That's where we need to put it. With six people in the Fire Marshal's Office, you can't do inspecting of 30,000 units. We just don't have the manpower."

Martin suggested bringing in a third-party inspector to check for CO detectors at the same time hotels are checked for fire alarms and sprinklers.

"I don't think we can physically do all the buildings in a timely manner ourselves," he said. "Some of these places have to be inspected three times a year. Just add CO to the list of things they do every year, or bi-annually, as needed. To me, that's the easiest way, because these people are already in the buildings and their report has to go to the Fire Marshal's Office anyway."

LaMirda, CA, Looks to Reduce False Alarms

LaMirda, CA, officials are looking for a way to reduce the number of false burglary alarms and are considering establishing a program to require those with alarms to get a permit. 

"It would enable us to have information and determine whether it was a false alarm or something was going on at the home," said Anne Haraksin, assistant to the city manager. 

City staff are also looking at fees charged for false alarms and whether to adjust them upward. 

Right now you don't get charged for a false alarm until the third incident. The cost for a third false alarm is $50, $100 for a fourth and $200 for a fifth or more. 

False alarms are a real problem, City Manager Tom Robinson said. 

"Each time, you're calling out a car with two deputies to check out the situation," Robinson said. "We'd like to get better control of that." 

On average, deputies spend 17.5 minutes responding to an alarm call, according to a city staff report. And that costs La Mirada $32.90 for each deputy, the report stated. 

Councilman Gabe Garcia, who also is a reserve police officer for the city of Orange, said he knows why false alarms happen. 

"People set the alarm and forget when somebody enters or they don't remember the code," he said. 

Officers going to the site can't just assume that it's a false alarm, he said. Garcia said he likes the idea of the burglary alarm permit process. 

"It's a means of accountability on residents and businesses," he said. 

If there is some kind of personal accountability, it will force all with alarms to make sure they work right, so that air conditioning or something else doesn't set them off, he said. 

The proposed burglar alarm permit would cost $30. It might raise around $20,000 annually. 

As part of the application, business owners and residents would be required to provide the name of their alarm company, its current phone number, and an emergency contact who can respond to the location within 30 minutes. 

Ed Corpus, owner of Advanced Alarm Inc. in Santa Fe Springs that sells alarm systems, said the city's idea is probably a good one. 

"It makes people more responsible for their alarms," he said.

Vallejo, CA, Wants to Toughen Alarm Ordinance

Vallejo, CA, police are seeking the go-ahead to further crack down on false security alarm calls.

The City Council on Tuesday will hear a report about proposed amendments to strengthen a July 2007 ordinance that was meant to reduce unnecessary false calls to police.

In a report released this week for the Vallejo City Council, Police Chief Robert Nichelini said that ordinance's provisions have curbed the more than 6,000 annual average false alarms by only 9 percent in the past two years.

Though the police department averages $340,000 a year in fines due for false alarm calls, less than $140,000 has been successfully collected, according to the department report.

Those who do not pay the false alarm fines are put on a police "no response" list.

With modifications to the city law, alarm system owners would be required to register and receive a permit from the city. This would allow the department to identify the owner and know whom to bill after receiving the false alarm call, the report states.

The department is also proposing the hiring of a firm to manage the billing, noticing and warning duties related to the ordinance.

Nichelini's report to the council includes a request to move forward in drafting the ordinance amendments, with a council vote on changes tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22.

Madison, WI, Now Requires Hard-wire or 10-Year Batteries in Smoke Detectors

The City of Madison, WI, will amp up its smoke alarm regulations beginning Saturday, August 15.

Smoke alarms in all rental properties must either be hardwired or have a non-removable 10-year battery.

The new ordinance also requires an alarm in every bedroom or sleeping area.

The city council passed the measure following the 2007 fire-related death of Peter Talen.

Investigators found six disabled smoke alarms in the Bedford St. home where the 23-year-old was staying.

Landlords face a $170 fine if they are not up to code by Saturday.


Below is the news release posted by the City of Madison Fire Department Public Information Officer Lori Wirth:

1st Part of New Smoke Alarm Ordinance Takes Effect This Week

As leases turn over this weekend, renters will find more information about fire safety as part of the move-in process. The first half of the City of Madison's new smoke alarm will take effect Saturday, August 15. The new ordinance passed by the City Council in March requires smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries designed to last the life of the smoke alarm. Under the newly adopted ordinance, all smoke alarms must have a 10-year battery in a tamper-resistant alarm unit. 9-volt batteries will no longer be used UNLESS they are being used as a battery back-up to a hard-wired alarm. The ordinance also requires additional alarms in the residence: 

In each bedroom 
In each sleeping area 
Within six feet of each door leading to a bedroom or sleeping area of each unit 
On each floor of the building 
But the ordinance also includes targeted educational efforts and spells out the responsibilities for tenants and landlords, including maintenance of the alarms, fire safety information, and fines for tenants if alarms show signs of tampering. Fines of $172 may be assessed for a first offense.

1) The owner of any residential building shall:

a) Replace the battery for a secondary power supply in all smoke alarms each time the lease is renewed or once each year, whichever time period is shorter, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

b) Replace the batteries in any smoke alarm whenever the battery is insufficient or unable to power the smoke alarm.

c) Replace non-operational, damaged, or missing smoke alarms with smoke alarms meeting the requirements of MGO 34.42 (2)(a).

d) Provide all tenants with the manufacturer's maintenance and testing instructions.

e) Upon each new lease and at least once every 12 months for every continuing tenant, provide tenants with fire safety educational materials as prescribed by the Fire Chief. Materials are available at www.madisonfire.org.

f) Upon each new lease and once every 12 months for every continuing tenant, complete and sign this document as prescribed in MGO 32.06(4).

2) The tenant shall be responsible for:

a) Maintaining and testing, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, smoke alarms that are within the dwelling unit during the term of the tenancy.

b) Notifying the owner in writing if a smoke alarm becomes inoperable. The owner shall have five days from receipt of such written notice to repair and replace the inoperable alarm(s). Any smoke alarms which are powered with standard batteries which are found to be inoperable shall be replaced by the owner with smoke alarms meeting the requirements of MGO 34.42 (2)(a).

c) Completing and signing this document as prescribed in MGO 32.06(4).

3) No person, including tenants or occupants, shall tamper with, remove, alter, damage or otherwise render any smoke alarm inoperable (MGO 34.26).

4) Where smoke alarms powered solely by commercial light and power have been installed and maintained in accordance with this chapter, such smoke alarms shall continue to be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

5) No smoke alarm may remain in service for more than ten years unless the manufacturer specifies a different service life.

Greenville, TX, Proposes Increased Alarm Registration Fees

The proposed budget for the City of Greenville, TX, includes a slight cut in the property tax rate, along with a freeze in the salaries of virtually all city employees.

There are no calls for increases in any rates for services, with the exception for an increase in the amount paid for burglar alarm permits. The budget calls for the loss of a handful of employees through attrition.

City Manager Steven Alexander presented the proposed budget to the City Council.

“This was a difficult budget, very difficult as a matter of fact,” Alexander said, noting that the city has experienced an overall decline in the amount of revenue it receives. “We’ve had to pull way back on our operating budgets.”

SIW Reports: Somerville, TN, Inks Alarm Ordinance

Somerville, Tenn., is responding to false fire alarms with the recent passing of an ordinance. The ordinance passed with a unanimous vote by the Somerville Board of Mayor and Aldermen. 

The new ordinance requires contact information of the alarm owner or person responsible for controlling the fire alarm system be provided to the fire department. The ordinances also adds a fee for excessive false alarms, providing the first two false alarm for free, then charging a $50 for all subsequent false fire alarms.

Wichita Toughens Alarm Ordinance

The budget Wichita City Council members approved Tuesday doesn't raise the tax levy but does increase court fees, water fees and false-alarm fees.

Those who have home or business security systems will pay a greater share for the 23,000-plus false alarms the city's police and fire vehicles go to each year — after one free false alarm, property owners would pay more for each one until the seventh, when the fee tops out at $750.

Washoe County, NV, Fining for False Alarms

The Washoe County, NV, Sheriff's Office is reminding residents about a potential $50 fine after recent confusion over its little-publicized false alarm ordinance.

On May 3 of this year, deputies responded to a false alarm at Incline resident Ed Strauss' home on the 700 block of Golfers Pass residence.

Strauss was out of town at the time, and the emergency contact he listed with the Burgarello Alarm Company, an elderly female friend, wasn't able to respond to the late night alarm.

The ordinance — Washoe County Code 54.045 — was enacted in 1992 and states a responsible party must meet deputies after every false alarm.

Strauss, who paid the $50 under protest, argued he wasn't properly noticed of the ordinance.

Brooke Keast, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, confirmed the WCSO did not relay county code 54.045 on the notice left on Strauss' door, but said it's the responsibility of homeowners to know the ins and outs of owning an alarm system.

“The Sheriff's Office reminds resident there are ordinances pertaining to the use of alarms and alarm systems and to be aware of those ordinances prior to an event,” Keast said.

Flushing, MI, Imposes $1,000 Fine for 2nd False Alarm

A Flushing, MI, ordinance will improse fines of $1,000 for the second false alarm in a calendar set. 

This leaves residents like Erba Hynes, loves to cook in her Cedarwood Senior Apartment condo, is a tough spot.

Because of sensitive fire alarms, she often accidentally sets off the smoke detector. She's had to call the fire department and say everything was OK.

But not everyone makes that call, and the fire department is called out to the scene with what often amounts to a false alarm. If it happens again, it will cost the apartment complex.

After the second fire run or false alarm in a calendar year, the city is going to start charging property owners $1,000 each time they are called out. The move was approved at the July 13 Flushing City Council meeting and will go into effect near the start of September.

Apartment complexes such as Cedarwood, which has more than 100 fire alarms, will be allowed a third run.

That's going to be a problem for Cedarwood, which had three fire runs in June alone, all of which were false alarms.

"That happens a lot," said Hynes, 85. "We have fire alarms that are really sensitive."

It means Cedarwood, along with other senior apartment complexes such as Elmcrest and Fostrian, are going to have to make changes. The three complexes amounted to six of the eight fire runs in the city of Flushing in June.

Issaquah, WA, Inks Alarm Ordinance that Requries Registration

Issaquah, WA, police officers responded to more than 1,000 burglary, robbery or duress alarms last year, according to police figures. 

But most alerts were false.

Now city and police officials are cracking down on false alarms, and violators could pay fines for wasting officers’ time. City Council members approved a false alarm ordinance July 20 — setting fees to register alarms and penalties for users whose alarms accidentally alert police.

Alarm users will be required to pay $24 to register their systems. Violators could face fines up to $200, depending on the type of alert and the infraction.

Officials described businesses as the main false-alarm offenders due to employee turnover and a lack of education about alarm systems.

“The police response to these alarms cost our city thousands of dollars each year and, of course, takes time from our officers responding to them that does not allow them to respond to other activities in the city,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said.

Police Chief Paul Ayers noted how several Washington cities have enacted false alarm ordinances, including Kirkland and Redmond on the Eastside. Ordinances in those cities have led to a dramatic drop in the number of false alarm calls received by police.

Officials will enter a contract with a Colorado Springs, Colo., company, ATB Services, to manage the ordinance. ATB works with alarm providers to include the permit fee in customers’ bills.

“If we could get it down to an alarm a day, we would be very pleased,” Ayers said.

Councilman Fred Butler asked the police chief if the ordinance would raise money for the city amid a budget shortfall.

“I hope to make no money for the city when this is done,” Ayers said. “Our goal with this ordinance is to have a reduction — like our neighboring cities have — a 60 to 70 percent reduction in false alarms.”

Clay County, FL, Sherrif Warns of False Alarm Fines

The Clay County, FL, sheriff says fines could cost up to $250 if deputies respond to false alarms.

Sheriff Rick Beseler hopped from neighborhood to neighborhood as part of National Night Out and came armed with a message about home alarms that are wasting his deputies time. In 2008, he says 2,440 hours were wasted responding to false alarms.

"Each one of those calls takes two deputies to respond because of the potential danger. When you pull two deputies to respond to a false alarm, it's a tremendous amount of wasted time," Beseler told First Coast News' Erich Spivey.

The sheriff says deputies responded to 6,653 alarm calls in 2008. Of those, 5,632 (84 percent) were false alarms.

So those deputies are going to start writing tickets, that can cost up to $250 for a single violation.

Alarm companies say many false alarms are caused by homeowner error, like forgetting passwords. "Alarms can be a tremendous crime-fighting tool, but people have to be careful to make sure their pets are not left in the house to trigger the alarm," Beseler says.

New Mat-Su Borough, Alaska, Alarm Ordinance

If your Mat-Su Borough, Alaska, home or business has a commercial fire alarm system that goes off every time a birthday candle is blown out, service it now or face fines if fire crews gear up and respond. 

The Mat-Su Borough Department of Emergency Services began charging this month for responding to false fire alarms. 

The first response is free, but the second is $150 and the cost goes up by an additional $25 for each successive response. 

Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele said the fees are an attempt to recoup some of the costs associated with having on-call responders don their gear and prepare to fight fire. 

"What we're trying to do is encourage people to actively maintain their systems," he said.

Steele said the false alarm fee won't come into play if, for example, a child at a school pulls a fire alarm as a prank, or if someone smells smoke but there isn't an actual fire. 

The false alarm fee is aimed at electrical alarm systems that ring for no reason, he said. 

In 2008 the Central Mat-Su Fire Department responded to 98 false alarm calls, up from 72 false alarms in 2007. 

Most are in commercial buildings, Steele said, although he said more private homeowners are installing alarm systems as well. 

Ned Hahn, president of Guardian Security Systems Inc. in Anchorage, one of the largest security firms in the state, said user error -- someone burning food in a microwave, for example -- is a major reason fire alarms go off when they shouldn't. Failing to clean sensors regularly and replace them as needed is another top reason, he said.

Saugatuck, MI, to Fine for False Alarms

False alarms will now cost Saugatuck, MI, home and business owners. So will major accidents and fallen power lines.

The Saugatuck City Council on Monday joined Douglas and Saugatuck Township in adopting an ordinance to recover costs from some police, fire and emergency medical calls.

The ordinance is designed to recoup costs for work “above and beyond the normal call of duty,” said City Manager Kirk Harrier, not normal municipal services.

Incidents that could lead to a bill include false alarms, hazardous material emergencies, illegal fires and water rescue attempts.

Billable events also include “excessive” requests for emergency assistance. The new rules define “excessive” as assistance at a location more than five times in 30 days.

Fallen power lines take a lot of fire department time, said John Blok, fire chief of the Saugatuck Township Fire District.

“We have spent up to four hours waiting for Consumers Power to respond to down wires,” Blok wrote in a memo. Consumers Energy provides power to the Saugatuck-Douglas area.

“We have spent over $400 on a single call to down wires.”

Assessable costs include wages of emergency workers and cost of equipment.

The ordinance is not intended to recover costs for local calls from people who already pay taxes, such as fires, “reasonable” false alarms and medical emergencies, Blok said.

Holland adopted similar rules last year which force businesses to pay $250 for each false alarm after the first two.

Saugatuck, MI, to Fine for False Alarms

False alarms will now cost Saugatuck, MI, home and business owners. So will major accidents and fallen power lines.

The Saugatuck City Council on Monday joined Douglas and Saugatuck Township in adopting an ordinance to recover costs from some police, fire and emergency medical calls.

The ordinance is designed to recoup costs for work “above and beyond the normal call of duty,” said City Manager Kirk Harrier, not normal municipal services.

Incidents that could lead to a bill include false alarms, hazardous material emergencies, illegal fires and water rescue attempts.

Billable events also include “excessive” requests for emergency assistance. The new rules define “excessive” as assistance at a location more than five times in 30 days.

Fallen power lines take a lot of fire department time, said John Blok, fire chief of the Saugatuck Township Fire District.

“We have spent up to four hours waiting for Consumers Power to respond to down wires,” Blok wrote in a memo. Consumers Energy provides power to the Saugatuck-Douglas area.

“We have spent over $400 on a single call to down wires.”

Assessable costs include wages of emergency workers and cost of equipment.

The ordinance is not intended to recover costs for local calls from people who already pay taxes, such as fires, “reasonable” false alarms and medical emergencies, Blok said.

Holland adopted similar rules last year which force businesses to pay $250 for each false alarm after the first two.

Saugatuck, MI, to Fine for False Alarms

False alarms will now cost Saugatuck, MI, home and business owners. So will major accidents and fallen power lines.

The Saugatuck City Council on Monday joined Douglas and Saugatuck Township in adopting an ordinance to recover costs from some police, fire and emergency medical calls.

The ordinance is designed to recoup costs for work “above and beyond the normal call of duty,” said City Manager Kirk Harrier, not normal municipal services.

Incidents that could lead to a bill include false alarms, hazardous material emergencies, illegal fires and water rescue attempts.

Billable events also include “excessive” requests for emergency assistance. The new rules define “excessive” as assistance at a location more than five times in 30 days.

Fallen power lines take a lot of fire department time, said John Blok, fire chief of the Saugatuck Township Fire District.

“We have spent up to four hours waiting for Consumers Power to respond to down wires,” Blok wrote in a memo. Consumers Energy provides power to the Saugatuck-Douglas area.

“We have spent over $400 on a single call to down wires.”

Assessable costs include wages of emergency workers and cost of equipment.

The ordinance is not intended to recover costs for local calls from people who already pay taxes, such as fires, “reasonable” false alarms and medical emergencies, Blok said.

Holland adopted similar rules last year which force businesses to pay $250 for each false alarm after the first two.

New Castle County, DE, Ordinance Cut False Alarms by 25 Percent

A year-old law in New Castle County, DE, that cracks down on false home security alarms is working.

New Castle County Police said there were 25 percent fewer false alarms calls in the last 12 months than in previous years, which has freed up officers to respond to more serious calls.

Lt. Craig Weldon, who administers the department's alarm program, said there are 13,000 registered alarm systems countywide. Generally speaking, alarm companies have been responsive about fixing malfunctioning systems, Weldon said, and have made a practice of telling customers they must register their system.

"The law has made the alarm companies do their jobs," he said. "Before, they were entering into contracts with private citizens and we did the work. Now we actually have alarm companies call us to cancel alarms [they know are false]. We never had that before."

In addition to requiring registration, property owners can be fined for repeated false alarms. Fines start at $100.

Numbers to know

Alarm System Law 
30 days: after installation, alarms must be registered with New Castle County by calling (866) 839-2731.

2 warnings: for false alarms within 12-month period

$100 fine: 3rd false alarm

$200 fine: 4th false alarm

$250 fine: subsequent false alarm within 12-month period*

* Police can suspend response after the 5th false alarm or if fines are unpaid (Service has not been cut to anyone yet, according to police).

To date, the county has collected $62,000 in fines, but 95 percent of that is passed on to Affiliated Computer Systems, the company which tracks and registers all the alarms. Still, the legislation was never designed to be a money-maker, said sponsor Timothy Sheldon (D-Pike Creek).

"This is probably the legislation I'm proudest of," he said. "It came out of an idea I got at a civic meeting...and it's helped us free up officers."

In 2006, the earliest year for which data is available, 97 percent of all alarms were false. That year police responded to nearly 14,000 false alarms.

That number is down by more than 3,000, but Weldon said it will be difficult to make further inroads. Models in other jurisdictions show the reductions tend to level out between 20 and 30 percent.

"If [we] never had to respond to another false alarm again, that would be ideal," he said, "Short of that, this is the best solution."

new Almont, MI, Alarm Ordinance Passed

Among the issues talked about at the recent Almont, MI, township board meeting, An alarm ordinance was passed that would allow the township to collect money from repeated false alarms that firemen have to answer.

Franklin and Somerset, NJ, Pass New Alarm Ordinance Requiring $25 Registration

Home and business owners with burglar-alarm systems in Franklin, Somerset, NJ, had better make sure they are using the units correctly, because the fines for false alarms are being raised.

An ordinance to raise the penalties was adopted by the Township Council and goes into effect on July 19.

Both residents and businesses will not be charged for the first three false alarms in a calendar year. A fourth false alarm will incur a $50 fee; the fifth, sixth and seventh will be $75 each; eight and above will be $100 each. There will also be a $15 court fee for each false alarm starting with the fourth one. Residents were previously given warnings after the third, sixth and ninth false alarms, and were not fined until the 10th.

Many false alarms are caused by system malfunction or user error, but police are required to answer each call with the expectation of finding an intruder. 

"False alarms eat up our resources and tie up units that would otherwise be available for other emergencies,'' said Sgt. Philip Rizzo. 

False alarms also cost the township money, factoring in police salaries, vehicle wear and tear, fuel and personnel time in receiving and analyzing the calls.

In addition to the fines, the ordinance establishes a one-time registration fee of $25 for each residential alarm and $50 for each commercial alarm. All alarm devices must be registered within 30 days of installation or activation with a central monitoring center, and additional fines will be incurred for failure to register. Any alarms registered with the police department prior to July 19 will not be required to pay a registration fee.

New False Alarm Ordinance in Anne Arundel County, MD

A new Anne Arundel County, MD, false alarm ordinance will take affect in mid August. Alarm system owners will be allowed three false calls in a year, after which they can expect a $50 ticket from county police. Continued false dispatches will result in fines of up to $250 for each false alarm.

Any business or residence with an alarm system will be required to register it with the police department or face a fine.

Authorities say the measure is not aimed at raising revenue, but at freeing up man hours. 

At least 12 other jurisdictions in Maryland have similar laws to help curb false alarms. The often-cited example among police officials across the country is nearby Montgomery County, which saved $1.7 million in police resources in 2006 through its reduction program, according to the False Alarm Reduction Association.

The new ordinance softens a proposal from last year to crack down on the false alarms, which required a fee for registering alarm systems and carried much stiffer penalties for repeat false alarms—as much as $1,000 for each false alarm that summons police.

SIW Reports: Sante Fe Ups Fines, Requires Alarm Registration

Penalties for the thousands of false burglar alarms logged in the city of Santa Fe, NM, each year are supposed to cost property owners more money under new rules aimed at better use of police resources.

City councilors, who unanimously adopted the rules, want both alarm companies and alarm users to be more responsible about the frequency with which emergency dispatchers are notified of suspected problems.

Rules already required alarm users to register, pay annual permit fees and, if they initiate false alarms, pay fines. However, the Police Department hasn't had a system to enforce the rules for more than four years, and procedures needed updating, said Lydia Lioce, administrative manager.

Supporters say stiffer penalties for false alarms will eventually reduce the amount of time cops spend dealing with the calls, allowing more time for pro-active policing and other calls.

The new rules set a $100 penalty for an unregistered alarm. While alarm users are not charged for the first three false alarm calls, subsequent false alarms that result in police being dispatched will cost $150. The sixth time and every subsequent false alarm during will cost $300 each. Current rules allowed five false alarms per year per address, then authorized fines of $25 for each subsequent false alarm.

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect in 90 days, then police plan a 90-day grace period before they start collecting fines. During that period, the city manager will have to decide whether to administer the program in-house or hire a firm to use dispatch records to generate bills for fines.

Alarm companies are also required under the law to notify their customers about the city's new rules.

New Carbon Monoxide Protections Take Effect This Fall in Maine

Beginning at the end of October in Maine, all new residential construction, along with all rental properties, will have to have a carbon monoxide detectors. 

Beginning at the end of October, all new residential construction, along with all rental properties, will have to have a carbon monoxide detectors. It's the result of a bill passed at the behest of people like Brunswick school teacher Christina Fedolfi. 

Fedolfi explains how she came to be involved in this legislation. "Last Thanksgiving on November 28th, my sister Caroline, her husband Parker, my eight-year-old niece Sophy, and my 10-year-old-nephew Owen, died from Carbon Monoxide poisoning in Aspen, Colorado in a rental house they had won in a silent auction raising money for their children's school."

It is, Fedolfi says, darkly ironic that her sister's family were all-too-aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and their family home had 6 detectors in it. Caroline Lofgren and her family were among the hundreds of Americans who die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning, says Fedolfi, while as many as 20,000 are treated in hospital for it.