March 2010 - Posts

Minnesota Bill Addresses Carbon Monoxide and Air Quality in Ice Rinks

Linda Davis taught figure skating for more than 15 years, taking her time on the ice after hockey players were done.

A year ago, Davis was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning that she blames on her years in the ice arenas that skaters, hockey players, coaches and parents visit throughout Minnesota.

Bills making their way through the Minnesota Legislature are aimed at improving ice rink air quality, especially by reducing carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide, both produced by internal combustion engines.

Davis began experiencing headaches, fatigue and memory problems four years ago.

“Then my symptoms increased to a point of debilitating me,” the West St. Paul resident told a Minnesota House health committee Tuesday. “I had body aches, dizziness, lightheadedness, respiratory problems, heart arrhythmia and intense weakness in my legs and arms, and even numbness and tingling.”

Davis, who requires daily oxygen treatment, said her memory was failing and her skin was gray by the time she was diagnosed.

Davis blamed carbon monoxide created by ice resurfacing devices, such as the well-known Zamboni machines.

Representative Rick Hansen, DFL-West St. Paul, said recent incidents in Morris, Woodbury and Osseo in which hockey players reported illnesses blamed on carbon monoxide or nitrous dioxide illustrate the need for a bill like his.

The committee approved Hansen’s bill, with several “no” votes, sending it to at least two more committees before it reaches the full House.

The bill would require ice rinks to be state licensed, that rink operators would receive training to use ice resurfacers and that engines be equipped with devices to reduce dangerous emissions.

Knowing how to proceed is difficult, Hansen said. “There is not a lot of science there.”

Hansen suggested that funds to upgrade facilities come from the Mighty Ducks program, designed to build ice rinks, but he is concerned that money has not been placed in the fund for years.

“We don’t want it where the poor areas...are at a health disadvantage,” Hansen said.

City officials say the bill could raise costs too much for ice rink owners.

In the meantime, the Minnesota Health Department is looking into the level of carbon monoxide that should be allowed in ice rinks.

Joel Carlson of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission, a former legislator from Moorhead, urged lawmakers to allow health officials to proceed with their investigation of air quality before proceeding with Hansen’s bill.

Michael Sheggeby, president of an ice rink operator organization, said the bill may be moving too fast, given the fact that so few problems have been reported. If it was a major health concern, he said, more illnesses would appear.

“It needs a lot more work,” Sheggeby said.

But Representative Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said the time to act is now.

“We can’t wait,” Hayden said. “Our kids are in trouble…This is a public health emergency.”

Telluride, CO, Fire Department Wants to Fine for Repeated False Alarms

When there’s no smoke and no fire — but the alarm goes off anyway — the firemen come running just the same.

And it costs them money.

Officials at the Telluride, CO, Fire Protection District estimate that responding to false alarms cost them $20,000 in 2009.

“It’s a chunk of money,” said Jim Boeckel, the fire marshal.

Of course, the district understands that false alarms are part of the cost of a preventing fires. And the number of alarms are actually declining, Boeckel said.

But they ask people to perform proper maintenance of their alarm systems. And they wish that people who rent out their homes would make sure that the renters know how to call the alarm company and tell them that an alarm was an accident.

The problem is that a high percentage of calls into the district are false alarms. That is: alarms where there wasn’t even a burnt piece of toast. It was just a malfunctioning alarm.

Last year, of the 505 times that the fire district sent out a truck and firemen to check on a fire alarm, 68 proved to be malfunctioning alarms. That means that 13 percent of calls are a pure waste of time and money.

When the fire department rolls out on a call, it brings the big ladder truck and a crew of between four and seven volunteer firemen who have to roll out of bed or their workout, rush to the station, and head out on a call that — 13 percent of the time — turns out to be less than nothing.

“We don’t want the attitude to sour with the volunteers,” said John Bennett, the assistant chief.

What’s worse, say fire officials, is that they often arrive at the same house or business over and over. It makes them worry about safety.

“When you start getting multiple calls to the same location, then it gets that cry wolf syndrome, and that’s when it gets dangerous,” said Bennett. “You always worry about that because the next time it could be real.”

The department sometimes threatens repeat offenders with fines — those who have three or so alarms within perhaps a month — but almost never actually fines them. They hope to get people to get their alarms in order.

Dust on the alarm can set them off.

“The alarm doesn’t care if it’s smoke or if it’s dust,” Boeckel said, “or if it’s a spider walking through, which we’ve had.”

Ceiling sprinklers can get set off by people hanging clothes on them to dry, or by hanging Christmas decorations there.

The fire officials hope homeowners and landlords will look after the alarms. And save the district money.

Navajo County, AZ, Wants Alarm Ordinance to Minimize False Dispatches

Residents of the Navajo County, AZ, who habitually have false alarms could now be fined for it. 

At a public hearing during the March 9 supervisors meeting, Sheriff K.C. Clark said of the 857 calls received in 2009, only five of them turned out to be an actual break-in or attempted break-in.

"The Sheriff's Office records showed that we received 14 calls in one day alone," he said. "One address showed 18 alarm calls during 2009."

Deputies responding to those calls aren't available for other service that may be needed, he said.

Clark gave supervisors a paper breaking down the problem. False alarms totaled 852 for the year with an average of 2.3 per day. The Pinetop-Lakeside area was highest with 519 calls, more than half the false alarms. The Heber/Overgaard, Pinedale, Clay Springs area was second with 200. The Show Low, Linden area was third with a much lower number - 67. The Snowflake/Taylor area, logging in 44 calls, was third. 

Winslow at 15 and Holbrook at 12 round out the areas in which the sheriff's office responds. Other communities such as White Mountain Lake, Cedar Hills, Woodruff and Joseph City are combined with the already mentioned areas.

The total addresses with two or more alarm calls was 99, with the total alarm calls 330. If the alarm ordinance was triggered at the second call, 231 violations would occur. Addresses with three or more alarm calls was 49 with a total alarms of 232. Potential violations if triggered at the third call was 134. Addresses with five or more alarm calls was 18 with 128 alarms. If triggered at the fifth call, potential violations if triggered at the fifth call was 56.

"I think this is something we have needed," Board Chairman Jesse Thompson said. "It's a big difference if someone else is really being burglarized or robbed."

Supervisor Jerry Brownlow said there are false alarms in big storms in the South County and asked if there were something that could be done about charging for those.

"We all have concerns about how to do this," Thompson said. 

Clark said an ordinance imposing civil penalties for excessive alarm calls would encourage homeowners to service their faulty alarms.

The ordinance calls for a person responsible for a fourth false alarm to pay a civil penalty of $150. For each false alarm after the fourth, the civil penalty will increase in increments of $200 (for instance, $350 for the fifth and $550 for the sixth).

For false robbery alarms, the person responsible for the fourth false robber alarm will pay a civil penalty of $500 with the penalty increasing in increments of $300 (for instance, $800 for the fifth and $1,100 for the sixth) for each false robbery alarm after the fourth.

Niagara Alarm Ordinace Causing Political Row

When Niagara, Ontario, city councillors voted March 29, 2010, to review their policy of charging property owners when the fire department responds to false alarms, it was easy to imagine why politicians might like to leave it on the backburner for a long time. 

When faced with a request to waive $90,900 in charges the fire department levied against 67 properties last year, city politicians did what they do so well. Nothing. 

Instead, council voted Monday to have fire Chief Lee Smith's staff meet with owners of commercial properties facing the charges that range between $300 and $20,000 and, as Coun. Vince Kerrio suggested: "Maybe soften it up a bit." 

A cynic might wonder how long that process will take and might see the political advantages of having that review not see the light of day for months -- say until after October's election. 

Some councillors, including Wayne Thomson and Janice Wing, occasionally complain about the way reports disappear after councillors have voted to have their staff prepare them. In this case, that might be convenient because it would relieve politicians of having to choose between backing their own fire department or backing hotel owners. 

It's a good lesson in how city council works, especially because councillors often hand off thorny issues, despite repeatedly thumping their chests about being the ones who run the city, the ones who make the decisions, the ones who are accountable. 

When faced with a tricky, but clear-cut decision to back the fire department and uphold the bills or give some relief to hoteliers pleading poverty, they conveniently found a way to do neither. 

It's too bad no one suggested hotel owners pay their false-alarm bills out of the 3% "destination marketing fee" a lot of hotels charge now, but no one really understands where the revenue goes. 

Smith said the fire department "resurrected" its false-alarm billings last year to promote public and firefighter safety, but also because all department heads were instructed -- by council -- to look under every rock for potential revenue sources. 

So, Smith found one. Although it doesn't generate big bucks, it's something, at a time the city is pinching pennies. Plus, it addresses a genuine safety issue. When firefighters get tied up with false alarms because a hotel's alarm system malfunctions, it could delay their response to a real emergency elsewhere. 

If councillors side with the fire chief, they'll be seen imposing a hardship on the hotel sector (and other businesses) during tough times.

It's no secret many city councillors are friendly with hotel owners. Wayne Thomson works at the Embassy Suites, Carolynn Ioannoni has done consulting for Niagara 21st Group and Janice Wing has occasionally declares conflicts of interest on hotel matters because her spouse has done consulting work for hotel companies. Vince Kerrio is a hotel owner, and his company is one of the ones facing a false-alarm bill (albeit a small one). 

Vic Pietrangelo is personally chummy with some hoteliers and Jim Diodati works closely with the hotel sector on the Sleep Cheap, Charities Reap event that boosted his profile and sure won't hurt his bid to be mayor. 

It's also no secret that at election time hotel companies regularly show up on the list of donors to candidates' re-election bids. 

All that aside, politicians genuinely understand the pitfalls of adding to a hotel's cost of doing business. 

On the other hand, if they side with the hotel owners and waive the false alarm charges, they'll be seen to be undermining public safety and going against their own fire chief. 

It's also no secret firefighters have some political clout, by word of mouth and through their active professional association whose support candidates court during campaigns. Politicians would rather have firefighters on side with them than have them critical of them. 

So, defer. Defer. Defer. Keep in mind, these same councillors vowed, at the start of their term in 2007, to be more directly involved in managing the city. They were tired of being led around by staff and the mayor -- an implication that happened in Ted Salci's first term as mayor and during the Thomson era before that. 

But it makes you wonder what more they're going to study on the false-alarm bills. On the face of it, there are only two options -- uphold the bills and invoke the wrath of the hoteliers, or waive the bills and tell the world the bylaw isn't worth paper it's printed on.

Security Systems News reports: ESA Code of Ethics on Door Knocking Alarm Companies

Security Systems News reporting on the Electronic Security Association's door-knocking code of ethics.

Saying the Electronic Security Association has “zero tolerance” for dishonest sales tactics by door-to-door sales people, Merlin Guilbeau, ESA executive director, yesterday unveiled a new door-knocking code of ethics and standards of conduct for its members. 

Guilbeau announced the code during a press conference held here on the first day of ISC West. The code is effective now and members who flout the code risk being expelled from ESA, he said.

The Better Business Bureau received 3,000 complaints about alarm companies in 2009, up from 2,100 in 2008. Of 3,900 industries tracked by the BBB, the alarm industry was 70th in the number of complaints received. This is considerably worse than 2008, when the industry was 93rd worst.

“We believe the code will greatly impact the image of the alarm industry with the public,” Guilbeau said.

Complete story available at Security Systems News.

Muskogee, OK, Alarm Ordinance Goes Into Effect March 29, 2010

A Muskogee, OK, city ordinance requiring registration of fire and burglar alarm systems goes into effect Monday, said Derek Tatum, fire chief.

There is no fee for registration, but fines and fees can be levied for nuisance and false alarms — where help is summoned but not needed.

Last year, there were more than 4,000 of those calls in Muskogee, prompting the adoption of the registration ordinance.

The Muskogee Fire Department has mailed out application forms, and they are available from the City Clerk’s Office in the Municipal Building, Third Street and Okmulgee Avenue.

City Clerk Pam Bush said her office is receiving quite a number of completed forms from alarm companies and individuals.

Tatum said the ordinance requiring alarm registration is not new.

“We’re just catching up,” Tatum said. “In many other cities, they’ve had this type of ordinance for some time.”

The ordinance allows three false alarms per year from individual security systems. A fee of $50 would be imposed for the fourth false alarm and $100 for the fifth incident. 

The sixth incident and any after that could carry a $200 administrative fine.

After seven incidents, the alarm owner could be charged in municipal court and fined $200 or more per offense.

Waynesboro, VA, City Council Rejects Fines for False Alarms

Waynesboro, VA, police will not begin fining property owners whose security alarm systems are set off too often.

City Council decided to reject a proposal Monday that would create a new ordinance to fine alarm owners who trigger a certain number of false alarms in a one-year span. The levy's intention was to reduce the number of false burglar and panic alarms, freeing police officers to do other work.

Police Chief Doug Davis said his department responded to 633 false alarms last year. When council first discussed the proposal in January, he said the 633 false alarms wasted 292 man hours — about 28 minutes per call.

Although council members praised the idea of pushing residents to prevent false alarms, the officials said they were not comfortable with adding a fee schedule to the ordinance.

"I don't want to do anything to build on the bureaucracy," Mayor Tim Williams said. "But I do want to build on the education aspect of it and talk to offenders. And in a years time, if we are still seeing problems, we can see if something needs to be done."

Council, however, did reach a consensus to look into another part of the proposed ordinance that would require owners to register their alarms with the city. Davis said this would help police get the proper contact information of the alarm owners when one is set off.

Council instructed City Attorney Todd Patrick to draft an ordinance that would require the alarms to be registered. Council did not decide if this then would require a small fee to cover the costs for the city to handle the registration process.

Goodyear, AZ, PD Wants Verified Response Law for Alarms

Goodyear, AZ, police say responding daily to false alarms is eating away at response times throughout the city and creating safety issues for police officers.

The Police Department asked the Goodyear City Council on March 8 to consider a proposal that would require security companies to verify burglar, robbery and panic alarms before asking for police assistance. 

"We're doing their job for them (security companies), and they're making the money," Police Chief Mark Brown said.

Police responded to 5,300 false, unverified alarm calls from 2008 to 2009; a combined total of 7,950 hours that officers spent away from patrol areas.

In 2009 police received 2,681 alarm calls, of which 98 percent were unverified alarms. The false-alarm case numbers are expected to climb as Goodyear grows and homeowners invest in alarm installations. 

Brown said the unnecessary responses thin out the department's resources and cut into valuable time that officers could spend patrolling or responding to other calls. He said the frequency of false alarms has created a dangerous level of complacency among officers who become numb to the dangers a real alarm could present. 

According to the proposal, police would respond immediately to panic and robbery alarms, which are human-initiated, but burglary alarms would have to meet the following criteria for a response:

• Multiple alarms or varying alarm origins. 
• Verification by on-scene alarm company. 
• Cameras or audio devices monitored by alarm company 
• Witness reports of glass breakage or suspicious activity. 
• At the request of an alarm company. 

The changes would shift verifying responsibility to the alarm or monitoring service instead of the subscribers and would make the company responsible for the cost of false-alarm calls. Security companies that fail to pay fees within a period of time would be subject to additional penalties or license suspension. The changes would also eliminate the position of an alarm coordinator which has been vacant since June, Brown said at the March 8 meeting. 

Mayor Jim Cavanaugh said he supports making the companies responsible for verification, but disagreed with the police response criteria. 

"If an alarm goes off and the alarm company calls the subscriber and they are unable to answer the phone call then what happens?" Cavanaugh asked at the meeting. 

Brown said police would still respond if the company asks for police assistance after attempting to contact subscribers.

"The concern (is) that a person could be hurt and unable to answer a phone and the police don't respond," Cavanaugh said. 

Council members agreed that while limiting false alarms is a concern, citizen safety remains a top priority.

Kentucky House Bill 555 Calls for Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Residences

Hundreds of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. It's a growing problem and now a proposed bill is aimed at protecting people from this silent killer.

"Just having a standard across the board, just like a smoke detector is vital in every home, so to is a carbon monoxide detector," explains Lexington, KY, Fire Chief Marshall Griggs. Over 400 people die and more than 20,000 are seriously injured every year due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Kentucky House Bill 555 is trying to prevent that. The proposal would require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in every single or multi-family home built after January 2011. The Lexington Fire Department responds to over 100 calls a year about possible carbon monoxide poisoning, there's already been 34 so far in 2010. They say the proposed bill will help protect the community.

"It's such a dangerous thing. It's a colorless odorless gas that causes death, eventually, if you're exposed to it for too long. We've seen that first-hand here in the community and we've seen many close calls. So, anything that's going to improve the safety of the community, we're all about that," says Chief Griggs.

The Lexington community is no stranger to tragedy, back in the summer of 1996, the Simmons family was killed by CO poisoning.

"We had an entire family in a home where a car was actually left running in the garage and the next morning they were all found dead, the whole family," comments Chief Griggs.

And Lexington Fire has seen several cases where carbon monoxide detectors saved lives.

"they had excessive levels of carbon monoxide in their home. Their alarm notified them, no one had to go to the hospital, all because their alarm did its job," explains Chief Griggs.

The Kentucky State House Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony on that bill Thursday.

El Cerrito, CA, Passes New Alarm Ordinance

Repeated false burglar alarms in El Cerrito, CA, could cost their owners up to $500 per day under a new city law.

Owners will be required to register systems with the police within four months, although full penalties for noncompliance will not apply until 2011.

The City Council replaced its old alarm ordinance Monday at the request of police Chief Scott Kirkland, who reported that the city has averaged nearly 41/2 false alarm responses a day for the past four years. At roughly 45 minutes per response, the time wasted is the same as losing one officer from patrols for six months per year.

But that estimate is conservative because alarms require an initial two-officer response, Lt. Robert De La Campa told the council. And officers can't leave a property unsecured, so often they wait until an owner or representative arrives to secure it, which can take hours.

The new ordinance creates a database of alarm systems in the city with up-to-date owner contact information, and sets penalties for two or more false alarms in a year, along with listing requirements for alarm companies installing or monitoring systems.

The ordinance was written with advice from the East Bay Alarm Association, and two alarm industry spokesmen were on hand to endorse it.

"This is a model ordinance applying best practices to prevent false alarms from occurring in the first place," said Jon Sargent of ADT Security Systems.

Registering with police costs $26, re-registering every two years $15; failing to register will cost $100. Alarm users must keep contact information current; failure to do so can cost $15.

One false alarm carries no penalty; two through five in a year cost $74 each. Beyond five, the fee is $158 each, up to $500 per day. If an unregistered alarm system is discovered, it will cost the owner $100. The police chief can revoke false registrations.

The law applies to all alarm owners, residential, commercial or industrial, whether using a simple bell alarm or a company-monitored system, De La Campa said.

The ordinance sets requirements for commercial alarm installers and monitors as well, including properly training owners on their use and installing only industry-standard control panels.

Certain systems that cause excessive false alarms, such as doorbell-type single-alarm buttons and automatic voice dialers, will be prohibited.

Alarm monitoring companies must contact police at designated numbers, only after verifying the alarm, except for holdup and panic alarms, and continue supplying information for police to dispatch the call.

They need to have a designated point person for police and must supply a list of El Cerrito customers.

The ordinance puts the city in line with neighboring Albany, Berkeley, San Pablo and Richmond, which have had similar laws for years.

Gene Go of the Crime Prevention Committee asked the council to delay adopting the ordinance because it includes in-house bell alarms.

"We need more education in the community about alarm systems," he said. "It will take time for people to get up to speed."

The ordinance will have final passage in 30 days, after which alarm owners have 90 days to register.

The city will notify all residents by mail. Nonregis

SIAC Honors Marietta, GA, For False Alarm Reduction

The Marietta Police Department was honored March 10 for its alarm ordinance, which reduces the number of false alarm calls the department receives, allowing officers to spend more time on the streets proactively patrolling.

“False alarm dispatches from police are the number one call for service in most cases,” Glen Mowrey of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) said. “For the police department to operate efficiently, these have to be reduced.”

“In the past two years the Marietta Police Department’s alarm management program, which involves all principles of community policing and problem-oriented policing, has reduced alarm calls by 65 percent,” Mowrey said. “This is one of the top in the nation we’ve had in several years.” The police department has seen a 26 percent decrease in the number of total calls for service as a result of the drop in false alarms, he said. “The results of the program are really outstanding.”

As a result of the ordinance, Marietta Police officers have more time to devote to proactive work on the streets, follow up on investigations, community policing, and are able to respond to calls faster, Mowrey said.

The SIAC looked at several aspects of Marietta’s alarm management program including the beginning of developing the program, which included bringing in stakeholders, members of the alarm industry and the community to look at the issue of false alarms, Mowrey said. “The program was then brought before City Council with the best practices for reducing false alarms,” he said. “Council approved the practices, and the ordinance was put in place.”

“The next aspect the SIAC examined was the building and tracking program, which really sets Marietta’s alarm management program apart from a lot of other programs I’m working with,” Mowrey said. “As a result of the program, the police department is able to operate more efficiently and better use officers’ time,” he said. “The department and city are to be commended for the job you’ve done.”

The Marietta Police Department has the highest percentage of reducing false alarms in the past three or four years out of approximately 60-70 agencies across the country Mowrey is working with. “Marietta’s alarm management program is a sustained program because after the first year numbers seem to drop off,” he said. “The Marietta Police Department’s numbers have stayed steady.”

Mowrey encouraged alarm users to pay attention to their alarms, to help make the program work for the city. “Ninety percent of false alarms and activations in Marietta and across the country are human error,” he said. “The Marietta Police Department has done a great job of educating the public about the program, which will ultimately change alarm users’ behavior.”

City Council passed the alarm ordinance in July 2007. Alarm users are allowed up to two false alarms without penalty a year, and then fines will be assessed.
Register your alarm

Under the ordinance, every residential and business alarm user in the city of Marietta must obtain a free permit from the city. The permit registers an alarm system with the city for tracking purposes, and permits are not transferable. Each new occupant of a dwelling or business must apply for a new permit, and failure to register an alarm is subject to a $100 fine.

Complete the registration form online

The ordinance allows alarm users up to two false alarms each 12-month period with no penalty.

Beginning with the third false alarm, fines will be assessed as follows:

* First and second false alarm: no charge
* Third through fifth false alarm: $50
* Sixth false alarm: $100
* Seventh false alarm: $100
* Eighth false alarm: $250
* Ninth false alarm: $250
* Tenth and over false alarm: $500
* Failure to register: $100 

Violations of the ordinance are civil in nature and do not constitute a misdemeanor or criminal charge.

There is also an appeals process for alarm users who receive fines for false alarms.

For more information, call the Marietta Police Department at 770-794-2364.

Clark County, NV, Wants $600 Fee for New Business Fire Alarm Systems

New businesses looking to open shop in Clark County, NV, could face hefty fees when it comes to installing fire alarm systems. Right now it's a process that costs roughly $75. But it could soon cost more than $600.

The Clark County Fire Department is suggesting the changes in an effort to ensure those using the services are supporting the cost of the inspections and monitoring they require.

For new business owners, the changes leave them reeling. At Leticia's Mexican Cocina in Northwest Las Vegas, they don't understand why they fee would increase.

"We've done everything by the book and we want to keep it that way. But it puts a crutch on us to fail in a short span of time," said Leticia Gardea.

Her new restaurant is equipped with a fire alarm system, but her concern is now for other potential businesses looking to open up in a shopping center that's slowly starting to pick up.

"Everybody is holding on and for them to do that to us is kicking us right where it hurts. And if we are standing on one leg, they are going to kick us in the knee. Give us that opportunity to grow," she said. "It's a catch 22. You do that to us and we are going to go backwards and continue to hurt the economy."

Residents have until March 31, 2010 to submit their concerns or comments on this. You can submit by emailing the county, mail, or hand delivering their comments or even by fax.

Peachtree City, GA, Considers Alarm Ordinance

Peachtree City, GA, may soon be considering an ordinance aimed at reducing the amount of false burglar alarm calls.

Last year officers spent 1,511 hours dealing with false burglar alarm calls, Police Chief H.C. “Skip” Clark told the City Council at its retreat Friday. That averages out to four hours and 13 minutes each day that an officer is tied up on a burglar alarm call that in many cases could have been prevented.

“It’s a significant waste of manpower hours responding to false alarms over and over again,” Clark said.

Many of the false alarms could be attributed to human error, an improperly working system or someone with an improper alarm code, Clark said.

Clark is proposing a system that would give businesses and homeowners two “free” burglar alarms per year, but after that a scale of fines would kick in:

• $50 each for the third through fifth false alarms;

• $100 each for the sixth and seventh false alarms;

• $250 each for the eighth and ninth false alarms; and

• $500 for each one over 10 for the year.

Had this fine structure been in place last year it would have raised $185,000, Clark said.

“The reason for us doing this is so we are not wasting time on false alarms, not for revenue,” Clark said. “But that’s what we would have had.”

The program would require citizens and companies to file for a burglar alarm permit so the city will have contact information on hand for someone to rectify the problem, Clark said.

Clark also said that burglar alarms do provide a service, but the data shows that only three last year led to any in-progress incidents and all three were for armed robberies.

Some 23 different locations each had at least 11 false burglar alarms during the year and accounted for 12.7 percent of the entire city’s false burglar alarms, according to police data. Among those were:

• Home Depot, 30

• McIntosh High School, 27

• El Ranchero (Crosstown Drive), 26

• Southern Motor Carriers, 22

• Booth Middle School, 17

• Mike and C’s, Rinnai, Rheumatology and Arthritis Group, 16 each

• Golf Rider, 14; and

• Another 14 locations with between 11 and 13 false alarms each.

Murphysboro, IL, Enacts New Alarm Ordinance

The Murphysboro, IL, City Council voted to add to the ordinance a service fee for the third false alarm call, and everyone thereafter, involving the Fire Department or Police Department.

The service for the police department will be $100, and for the fire department it will be $350.

Williams said that anytime the city has to roll a fire engine out for a call that it was not only that engine and crew going out, but they also have to tone out and bring crews in to cover the station in case of another fire.

"At that point, we're creating overtime for everyone that comes in,'' Williams said. "By contractual agreement, they get paid two hours of overtime just for showing up at the station. The cost is just huge."

Williams went on to say that the city is not seeing nearly as many false alarms calls as it use to get.

"People have taken care of their alarms, trained their personnel, and gotten their folks to understand that you don't want to have false alarms,'' Williams said. "The intent is not to collect money. The intent is to have alarms properly serviced and functioning properly, and people who control the alarms setting them up and turning them off the right way."

Waynesboro, VA, Proposes New Alarm Ordinance

Waynesboro, VA, police burn about 300 hours a year responding to hundreds of false alarms caused by misused and malfunctioning security systems, most repeatedly at city school buildings, according to a review of response records.

An ordinance proposed by police Chief Doug Davis would encourage alarm users to control their systems or face fines if they cause three or more false alarms in a year.

More than 70 businesses and four homes passed that threshold last year, records show. Five of Waynesboro’s school buildings caused 70 responses, including a city high 29 at Waynesboro High. Police responded to 798 false alarms in 2008 and 633 in 2009.

Levying fines on that many businesses could bring in tens of thousands of dollars to the city annually, but the idea is “to educate the alarm user, not to collect a fine,” Davis said.

“We’ve been looking at this for years,” he said.

Davis teamed up with an alarm industry group to craft the ordinance last year and presented it to the Waynesboro City Council last month. Public input will be accepted at a council meeting March 22.

The ordinance would require alarm users to obtain a permit and provide contact information to police. The city would move to a two-call system, in which police would not respond to after-hours alarms until alarm monitoring companies had made two calls to business representatives.

Fines could be waived by attending an alarm class. Fines have not been determined, but start at $25 to $75 for the first offense in some localities.

A report from Marietta, Ga., which had about four times the number of false alarms as Waynesboro, showed that launch of a false alarm fine decreased such calls by 1,000 in a year. Marietta collected more than $223,000 in its first year and $94,000 the second year.

News of the proposed ordinance has spurred some store managers to send word to corporate headquarters and others to review their systems. Some said they worry that police would count as false alarms incidents that are beyond their control.

“Sometimes it’s not me, it’s the mechanism,” said Waynesboro Heritage Museum Director Shirley Bridgeforth.

The museum had seven false alarms in 2008 and five last year.

“I give [employees] training,” Bridgeforth said. “I don’t know what else I could do about it.”

Waynesboro schools Superintendent Robin Crowder said he knows that school buildings cause too many false alarms. He also has a good idea as to why.

“The high school is different … because it’s a public building,” he said. “In a school that has close to 900 students and a hundred staff, what happens is we have kids and families and staff that come in and out of that building all the time.”

“We try to manage that with our custodial staff, but … it’s a hard place,” he said.

The high school triggered 61 false alarms in 2007, but fewer than 30 each of the past two years.

Davis is unsure if city-owned properties would be fined if the ordinance passes. It’s not out of the question, he said.

Crowder worries he’d have to put more limits on who can access school buildings.

“Folks are used to using that building,” he said. “It’s a bind for us. We want it to be a public building. But we also have to make sure we’re not abusing the police department.”

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department, housed in the Rosenwald Community Center, triggered 13 false alarms in 2007 and 14 in 2008, but just two last year.

Other businesses have shown similar drastic improvements, like Wendy’s off of Rosser Avenue, which had just a handful of false alarms in the past two years after tripping 32 in 2007.

In 2009, the Waynesboro County Club led all non-school locations with 21 false alarm calls, records show.

Davis has not suggested a fine schedule yet, but other localities begin with a fine of $25 to $75 and escalate each successive false alarm, sometimes rising to $500 for a tenth or subsequent false alarm.

Even charging on the lowest scale would have cost the Country Club thousands of dollars last year, if the ordinance had been in place.

Club General Manager Rodger Doyle said the club has already been proactive in changing procedures for alarm settings. He noted that motion detectors have been triggered by the movement of branches outside of windows. Alarms can also be triggered by storms.

Davis said such situations would not count against a business.

“This ordinance passes the reasonable test,” said Lynn Comer, president of Shenandoah Valley Security in Waynesboro and member of the executive committee of the Electronic Security Association of Virginia.

Comer said many communities don’t enforce alarm ordinances. Others use ordinances as “moneymakers.”

But she said Davis’ proposal is stronger than most because of his work with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, which seeks to unite alarm companies, police and localities to reduce dispatches and manage alarms.

“The thrust of the ordinance is to change behavior,” said Glen Mowrey, national law enforcement liaison with the alarm coalition. “Most people have no idea the impact the alarm has on law enforcement.”

Nationwide, 98.6% of alarm calls are false alarms. Most are caused by user error, Mowrey said.

At the P. Buckley Moss Museum in Waynesboro — located as far as any business from the police department — director Corrado Gabellieri said he tries to train staff to use the alarm system without error.

The museum averages seven false alarms a year.

Gabellieri said the fine seems appropriate, but noted that few businesses are in the position to invest in a new system.

Crowder spoke similarly. He said security cameras would be a costly alternative. A swipe-card system, too.

“All of that stuff is an expense,” he said.

The Waynesboro Fire Department is working on a similar false alarm ordinance with Mowrey and the alarm coalition.

Navajo County, AZ, Approves Alarm Ordinance

A large number of false burglary alarm calls prompted the Navajo County, AZ, Board of Supervisors to approve a new ordinance that imposes civil penalties for excessive false alarms.

A memo supporting the new ordinance states, “Statistics pulled from the sheriff’s office Spillman reporting system report 857 total alarm calls in 2009. Of those 857 calls, only five were actual break-ins or attempted break-ins. Records show that the sheriff’s office has received up to 14 alarm calls in one day alone. One address has received 18 alarm calls during 2009.”

The ordinance applies to building alarms only, not to auto alarms.

Excessive false alarms is defined in the ordinance as four or more within any 365-day period. The ordinance makes a distinction between false alarms and false robbery alarms, although both will be penalized if there are four or more within a one-year period. A false alarm is defined as “an alarm signal or message, other than a robbery alarm, that indicates an emergency and causes a sheriff’s deputy to respond and that is not caused by or the result of an actual emergency.” A false robbery alarm is “an alarm signal or message that indicates a robbery and causes a sheriff’s deputy to respond and that is not caused by or the result of an actual or attempted robbery.”

The purpose of the ordinance, as stated in the supporting memo, is to “encourage homeowners to service their faulty alarm systems.”

Several exceptions are made in the ordinance, including ones for newly installed systems and for public agencies. While public agencies are entirely exempt from the ordinance, newly installed or re-installed systems are granted a 30-day exception. 

“False alarms and false robbery alarms generated by newly installed and newly reinstalled alarm systems shall not be counted for the purposes of this ordinance for a period of 30 days after the system becomes operational if the responsible person notifies the sheriff’s office in writing within ten days after the installation or reinstallation.”

Other exceptions include notification of the sheriff’s office of a false alarm prior to a deputy’s response and alarms having the same cause within a 72-hour period. The “same cause” alarm provision requires, however, that immediate corrective action be taken and that no additional false alarms occur within the next 30-day period. 

The penalty for a fourth false alarm that is not a robbery alarm is $150. Additional false alarms will increase the penalty by $200 for each additional false alarm. For example, the fine for a fifth false alarm is $350, sixth false alarm, $550, and seventh, $750.

Penalties for false robbery alarms are greater, with a $500 fine for a fourth false alarm within a 365-day period and a $300 increase for each false alarm after that, for a total of $800 for the fifth false alarm, $1,100 for the sixth and $1,400 for the seventh. 

The new ordinance is expected to reduce the number of false alarm calls and free deputies to respond to other requests for service.

“False alarms and false robbery alarms constitute a substantial public danger and a substantial public expense. Of alarm notices received by the sheriff’s office, experience has shown that a large majority are false. Law enforcement resources are diverted from other duties by these false alarms. Law enforcement personnel and the public are endangered by the need for urgent responses to these alarms,” the ordinance notes.

Woodstown, NJ, Introduces Law to Fine for False Alarms

Members of the Woodstown, NJ, Borough Council are looking to reduce the number of false alarm calls the fire department responds to here through an ordinance introduced Tuesday night that would impose fines against any property owner that has more than five false alarms at a location in a year. 

The ordinance was introduced to the public after Reliance Fire Co. Chief Brian Facemyer suggested this course of action to the council after seeing an increase in the number of false alarm calls his fire company responded to in a year. Facemyer stated his support for this ordinance again on Tuesday night. 

Councilman Fran Grenier said the purpose of this ordinance is to reduce the number of false alarm calls in the borough. He added that these types of calls are hard on a volunteer fire department, which ends up using valuable time to cover the false alarms. 

"This is not a method of making funds," Grenier stressed to the public. 

Under the ordinance, it states that "it is unlawful for a property owner to have more than five false alarms at any one location in any calendar year." 

A property owner is defined as any individual, entity, corporation, tenant or other person having a legal interest in a property having an alarm system. 

The violation and penalties for false fire alarms will be: first through fifth false alarms, no fine, but a false fire alarm warning form will be issued to the property owner; sixth false alarm, $250 fine; seventh false alarm, $300 fine; eighth false alarm, $400 fine; nine or more false alarms, $500 fine for each offense. 

All of the penalties collected will be added to the budget of Reliance Fire Co., according to the ordinance. Failure to pay a fire alarm penalty will result in a written complaint to the Mid-Salem County Municipal Court for collection of penalties. 

False alarms, upon investigation, determined to be caused by an electrical storm, lightning or other power fluctuation or power surge beyond the control of the owner will not be penalized, according to the ordinance. 

"There is more than enough opportunity there," Grenier said of the penalties section of the ordinance. 

Facemyer said Tuesday false alarm calls have almost doubled in a one year period. 

He said that Reliance Fire Co., which also covers Pilesgrove Township, responded to 327 calls in 2008, 88 of which were false alarms. Facemyer said in 2009, the fire company responded to 388 calls, with 162 of them being false alarms. Borough officials said they believe Pilesgrove will be considering a similar ordinance in the future. 

Facemyer said the fire company is hoping the ordinance will encourage property owners to properly maintain their alarm systems in order to prevent the transmission of false alarms. 

Mayor Richard Pfeffer said he had two areas of concern when it came to false fire alarms. He said he's worried about firefighters rushing to the station or scene for something they think is a safety concern, and he added he's also worried that multiple false alarm calls to a certain place might result in complacency. 

"We want every alarm to be meaningful," he said, adding the council supports anything that can make the job easier for the firefighters in the borough. 

A public hearing and vote on this ordinance, which also outlines regulations for key boxes on fire alarm systems or sprinkler systems, will be held at the next borough council meeting on March 23.

Wisconsin Law Requires CO Detectors in All Homes and Duplexes by 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has signed a law that will require all homes and duplexes to contain carbon monoxide detectors as a safety precaution.

The law will require detectors on every level of the home, including the basement, but not the attic or storage areas. It takes effect next year.

Supporters say the requirement will save lives even though there is no penalty for not complying. They say up to 2,000 Americans die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The bill enjoyed bipartisan support, but some Republican critics complained it was an unnecessary mandate. The governor signed it in private Wednesday.

Royal Palm Beach, FL, Candidate Wants Alarm Response

The Town-Crier in Royal Palm Beach, FL, is asking questions of candidates for the March 9, 2010 elections.

This week’s questions: “Are you happy with the current management/operation of the village? What, if anything, would you like to change?” and “Why should voters choose you over the other candidate(s) in this race?”

VRICHARD VALUNTAS replies regarding Village Management.

Overall, I am happy with the current management/operation of the village. Most of the residents I have met during my campaign have made positive comments about the village and the way our government is run. 

Even though our village operates quite well, there is always room for improvement. For example, I would like to change how the county’s alarm ordinance is currently being enforced within the village. Under the county’s alarm ordinance, law enforcement is not required to respond to all burglar alarm calls. I believe this is unacceptable, and I would like to have the village enact its own alarm ordinance that would (1) require law enforcement to respond to all burglar alarm calls, and (2) hold those responsible for “false alarms” to bear their fair share for the unnecessary expenditure of our resources. Such an ordinance would help increase the safety of our residents.

Waynesboro, VA, Considers Alarm Ordinance

The Waynesboro, VA, City Council will consider an ordinance change to fine residents for repeated false security alarms.

Waynesboro emergency authorities suggested the false alarm change, in which residents would receive fines after their third false alarm. Fines could be waived by attending an alarm education course.

Waynesboro Police Chief Doug Davis said his department spent more than 300 hours responding to security alarms accidentally set off last year. He said similar ordinances adopted by other municipalities reduced the number of false alarms.

Cascade Township, MI, Considers Alarm Ordinance

A proposed ordinance would fine Cascade Township, MI, residents and businesses for multiple false fire alarms. 

The Township Board has set a hearing for March 10 on the proposed ordinance, which would assess $50 for a third false alarm and no less than $300 for sixth false alarm in a 365-day period. The new ordinance is aimed at stemming a growing number of false fire alarms, which have risen from 118 of the 1,216 responses in 2005 to 170 of the 1,418 responses last year. 

After a second false alarm, violators would be put on notice that a third offense carries a financial penalty. 

Fire Chief John Sigg said most residents and businesses don't have a problem with false alarms although a few had as many as eight false alarms last year. The primary cause is dirty smoke detectors, he said.

Auburn, WA, Alarm Ordinance Reduces False Dispatches by 18.4 Percent

Concerned about many false alarms that take police away from other duties, the City of Auburn, WA, in January 2009 approved a new ordinance aimed at reducing their number.

Among other things, the ordinance allows the City to suspend police service to repeat offenders. It also authorized the hiring of a third-party vendor, Maryland-based Public Safety Corporation, to administer the program and to find and register alarm companies.

City officials said they also wanted to reduce the half-million dollars the City wastes every year responding to false alarms.

Auburn Police Chief Jim Kelly recently told the Municipal Services Committee that police are seeing encouraging results, but added that a comparison is difficult right now because the City gave residents and businesses a six-month grace period before implementing the new ordinance last July. 

Kelly noted: 

• A 12.3-percent decrease in false alarm responses in the second half of 2009 from 2008. 

• A 18.4-percent decrease in the number of false alarms from 2008 to 2009. 

Those numbers are preliminary because “we still have many alarm companies for residential and businesses that need to be registered, and our third party vendor is still working toward getting all of them registered with the city,” Kelly said.

Auburn police identity many of the companies only when officers respond to false alarms, and the PSC then ensures that they are registered.

So far the PSC has registered 52 alarm companies doing business in the city. It has also identified another 47 operating in the area, providing monitoring services or installation.

Kelly said that of the total of false alarms recorded from July through December 2009, 56 percent was to commercial businesses, 36 percent to residential, 7 percent to the Auburn School District and the rest to governmental entities, such as GSA.

“The biggest problem has just been getting all the alarm companies on board, identifying who the players are,” said Assistant Police Chief Larry Miller. “We attempted early in the process to identify the companies, but there were so many out there. What we are finding is that many companies are now calling saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t know anything about this ordinance, please don’t fine us.’ … The whole point of this is not to penalize people out there, it’s to get them into compliance with the ordinance, that’s what we been working toward.”

Here is some of what the ordinance does:

• Allows for the suspension of sites that report three or more false alarms in a year. This means police will not respond. Any alarm company that requests police response to a suspended site without verification is guilty of a violation.

• Outsources administration of the alarm program to the Public Safety Corporation. Kelly remains the ultimate arbitrator on any appeals, but PSC manages the process. The company notifies the police department when three or more violations have occurred during a 12-month period. To be reinstated, the person responsible for the suspended site must compete an online training program and pay a fee. 

• Assesses a fine of $100 for each false residential or commercial burglar alarm. For each false holdup, robbery or panic alarm it assesses a $200 fine, double because of the risk inherent in a code response. 

While PSC began billing Aug. 1, the City allowed alarm owners one free warning through January, one year from the adoption of the ordinance.

"If people realize there's going to be a financial impact, it's going to get their attention," Miller said. "We can't have our officers running about the city willy nilly chasing these things down," Miller said.

• Requires a $24 residential and commercial annual registration fee but allows a $12 senior discount.

• Requires the alarm companies to train all of their operators to limit the number of mistakes.

• Requires "enhanced call verification," meaning all alarm users or alarm companies must make two calls before they call 911 – the first to the location of the alarm, the second a followup to a second line or a cell phone to try to contact somebody to determine whether the alarm is valid.

• In many cases requires "sequential verification," meaning before the alarm companies can ask for an officer response, more than a single activation has to go off, like both a front-door alarm and a motion detector.

• Requires alarm companies to install the new "CPO1" technology standards on all newly issued, newly installed alarm systems in the city. People that have existing systems do not have to have them retrofitted, but all new systems must comply with the standards, which are designed to reduce the number of false alarms.

Miller said PSC takes 25 percent off revenues the city would receive. The city netted $77.402 in the six months that PSC has been managing, primarily through registration, and there is an additional $44,800 in outstanding revenue from 2009.