December 2012 - Posts

Lauderhill, FL, Fines for False Alarms likely to Increase

On Nov. 26, commissioners tentatively approved a fine increase for false alarms in Lauderhill, FL. A second reading took place at the commission’s meeting on Dec. 10.

Currently, a property can have up to three false alarms without penalty, but the updated ordinance would cut that down to two. As a part of the new plan, a third false alarm would cost $50, a fourth false alarm would increase from $25 to $100, a fifth would increase from $50 to $200 and six or more false alarms would increase from $100 to $200 per false alarm. These new fines could double if the property owner doesn’t post a contact with their alarm or if the alarm does not stop sounding within 15 minutes in a residential area or within 30 minutes in a commercial area.

Officials said that the charges coming from this new ordinance still won’t cover the full cost of responding to the false alarms, but they anticipate that higher fines will ensure that property owners make sure their alarms are in good working order.

Dunwoody, GA, City Council Still Skeptical of Proposed False Alarm Ordinance

On Dec. 17, Police Chief Billy Grogan answered questions posed by the Dunwoody, GA, City Council, but could still not get an affirmative vote to pass a proposed false alarm ordinance.

If passed, the ordinance would allow the city to collect fines for businesses and home owners after the police or fire departments respond to the third false alarm.

The largest issue holding the council back from passing the ordinance is that, within the ordinance, the police department has the right to not respond to a business or residence if false alarm fines are not paid. To this issue, Grogan explained that there are cities with a similar ordinance who continue to respond to alarms despite the alarm owner having an unpaid fine, however, these cities have less reduction of false alarms compared to cities that have a non-response clause in their ordinance. 

In the end, Councilors Lynn Deutsch and Denis Shortal remain opposed to the non-response clause in the ordinance. Councilor Adrian Bonser indicated that she would affirm the ordinance with the non-response clause if the past due period for unpaid fines was extended from 30 days to 60 days. Councilor Terry Nall asked the city staff to amend the ordinance and bring it back for a vote.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms Required in Washington

Taking effect on Jan. 1, a state law will require all existing residences in Washington State to install carbon monoxide alarms. This law includes installing CO alarms in all apartments, condos, hotels, dormitories and residential institutions. Owners of single-family homes will also be required to have detectors when their home is sold or when they apply for a remodeling permit.

The push for changes to building codes in Washington took place after power outages from a December 2006 windstorm in the Puget Sound area caused hundreds of people to use external generators or indoor barbecues for heat which led to eight deaths and several injuries due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dana Catts, education specialist with the Seattle Fire Department, said, “Because of the frequency of winter storms in our area, it’s important to have carbon monoxide alarms, because you can’t see it or smell it.”

Bicknell, IN, City Council Looks into Alarm Ordinance

Following a presentation by Bicknell Police Chief Kip Hoffman, the Bicknell, IN, City Council has asked the City Attorney to draft a business alarm ordinance. In his presentation, which expressed the police department’s frustration when responding to false alarms, Hoffman said that having a city alarm ordinance would save the city money and prompt business owners to fix the problem themselves.

As a part of this potential alarm ordinance, businesses would be fined a fixed dollar amount after every third false alarm. Council members have suggested setting the fine at $100.

A draft of the ordinance is expected to be ready for reading at the Council’s first meeting in January.

Conneaut, OH, City Officials Seek Solutions to False Alarms

On Dec.11, the City Council in Conneaut, OH, held a meeting with the public safety committee where concerns were expressed towards unnecessary false alarms.

Administrators are looking to legislation for fining repeat false alarm offenders.

According to Councilman Thomas Kozesky, there will be no penalty for the first incident, but a second false alarm can result in a letter from the city. It is only after three or more false alarms will an offender be fined.

Councilmen are studying a successful ordinance established in nearby Ashtabula, OH, for suggestions in establishing their own ordinance.

Columbus, IN, Authorities Charging for Excessive False Alarms

The public safety agencies in Columbus, IN, plan to take more serious enforcement of an ordinance that provides fines for repeat false alarms. These changes to the ordinance will be effective beginning January 1, 2013.

Terms given to the new ordinance are that police will respond to three false alarms in a calendar year without charge. A fine of $25 each will be charged for the fourth and fifth false alarm and a $50 fee will be put on each subsequent false alarm after five.

The terms of this ordinance applied to fire department responses are that alarm owners will get three to six false alarms in a calendar year without penalty; this depends on the number of detectors and pull stations in a facility. The next three false alarms will cost $50 each, $100 for each of the next three and $200 for each false alarm after that.

The money generated through the false alarm fines will be used toward upgrading and buying equipment for police and firefighters.

Orchard Park, NY, False Alarm Law Proven Successful

In January 2012, the Town Board in Orchard Park, NY, enacted the “avoidable alarm” law that would help to reduce the number of false alarms triggered in homes and businesses requiring police and firefighters to respond.

On December 5, the Town Board learned that this law has effectively reduced the police workload and collected $1,400 in fines collected because of the law.

The structure of the law is built so that property owners receive warning letters for the first three avoidable alarms to police in a calendar year. The fourth and fifth alarms generate fines of $50 apiece and the fine increases to $100 apiece for six or more false alarms. False fire alarms will only receive one warning before incurring fines.

Police Lt. Mark Pacholec said that the number of canceled false alarms has increased due to alarm companies actively calling police to report that an activated alarm is false before police vehicles are dispatched to it.

South Portland, ME, Council Approves Update to False Alarm Ordinance

On Dec. 3, the City Council in South Portland, ME, gave final approval to an ordinance update which would allow the city to deny business license renewals to any company with outstanding fines for false alarm calls.

The city’s false alarm ordinance was first established in 1984 and last updated in 2006. However, most of the infrastructure was not put into place until 2011, when the city of South Portland merged dispatch operations with Portland, ME.

According to the City Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, South Portland has $42,069 in unpaid false alarm bills dating back from January 2008. Taking action, it was decided to include restrictions to license renewals as a part of the ordinance’s existing fee structure.

City Attorney Sally Daggett made an announcement at the latest City Council workshop session saying that the city clerk’s office has the ability to withhold business license renewals even for bills incurred before the ordinance change goes into effect on Dec. 23.

Louisville, KY, City Files Lawsuits at Businesses and Residents with Unpaid False Alarm Fines

The city of Louisville, KY, has been getting serious about collecting false alarm fines. The city filed 37 lawsuits, with at least 13 pending lawsuits on the way, towards businesses and residents who owe thousands of dollars in unpaid false alarm fines.

Some of the businesses targeted by the lawsuits include a Taco Bell which owes $10,700 in false alarm fines, a Baptist Fellowship Center which owes $5,431 and a Blockbuster which owes $5,300.

The two-fold purposes of these lawsuits are to take charge against offenders of the ordinance and to send a message to other alarm owners about the consequences of having continuous false alarms.

Although many of the targeted businesses say that the lawsuits are unfair, Bill Cooper, president of the Kentucky Electronic Security Association, said that the ESA has supported the city’s decision to bring lawsuits against multiple false alarm violators and that “police response is not a right, but a privilege.”

Madison, WI, Free CO Alarms to “Meals on Wheels” Homeowners

The Madison, WI, Fire Department is installing 100 free carbon monoxide alarms in the homes of Meals on Wheels recipients. The alarms were provided by a city grant.

The free smoke alarms will also be installed in homes which need more alarms to comply with the city’s smoke alarm ordinance.

According to Fire Department spokesperson, Lori Wirth, the 100 CO alarms should be installed in all Meals on Wheels homes before Christmas.

Lowell, MA, City Waives Alarm Ordinance Fines

City Manager Bernie Lynch announced on Dec. 4 that the residents and businesses in Lowell, MA, who were recently fined $300 for not complying with the city’s burglar-alarm registration ordinance, will have their fines waived.

At the Dec. 4 Council meeting, issues were raised about the ordinance including the hefty fines associated with “non-compliance.”

Councilor Rita Mercier stated that she had received calls from concerned residents who had been fined for not registering their alarm, but they had never received any information telling them how to register their alarms.
Lynch said that the city has received similar calls to what Mercier described, along with calls from people who were fined but don’t have an alarm and others who had paid under the wrong account numbers.

To resolve this issue, everyone who has a phone number connected to their alarm account will receive a phone call telling them to ignore the $300 fine. These alarm owners will also receive a written correspondence about the fines.

Lynch said he intends to come back to the council at a later date with modifications to how the ordinance will be administered.

Riverside County, CA, Board of Supervisors Approve Finalization of False Alarm Ordinance

On December 4, 2012, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to authorize the Office of Emergency Services to work with the Office of County Counsel for the finalization of a new false alarm ordinance in Riverside County, CA.

The issue of false alarms was raised by Supervisor Jeff Stone who asked what might be done to prevent false alarms while considering ways to save the fire department money.

In 2008, a law was enacted in Riverside County that fined alarm users $100 for the third false alarm caused on their premises. The fine would go up by $50 for each additional false alarm.

The Office of Emergency Services is expected to return with a new proposed ordinance for the board to consider early in 2013.

Wilton, CT, Selectmen Mulling over False Alarm Ordinance Proposal

The Selectmen on the Wilton, CT, Board are considering a proposal that would change the city’s false alarm ordinance. This ordinance would modify the fee structure for false alarms as well as deal penalties for homeowners who fail to register their alarms.

In the current alarm ordinance, the first two false alarms go without penalties, but the third and fourth false alarm will result in a $50 fine. Each subsequent false alarm after four will result in a $100 fine.

The proposal to the ordinance will keep the first two false alarms penalty-free, but the third false alarm will institute a $100 fine that will continue for each subsequent false alarm. Under the proposed ordinance, the penalty for failing to register an alarm will be $50 and there will be a mandatory $100 registration fee.

Whereas the current ordinance gives alarm owners 30 days to register their alarms, the new proposed ordinance will give people 45 days. The proposed registration fee of $100 is a one-time fee as compared to the current ordinance which has alarm owners pay $5 per year for their alarm system registration.

The selectmen are setting a date for an informational meeting on the ordinance proposal. The ordinance change will require approval by appropriate legislative town bodies.

Newark, NJ, Residents Reminded to get Alarm Permits

Authorities in Newark, NJ, are taking extra steps to remind alarm users that they must have a permit to use their alarm.

The information acquired from the permit helps ensure that the police department has current information about an alarm user’s home or business and supplies the current emergency contact information, should the alarm be activated. Having a permit also helps to avoid some staggering false alarm fees if the alarm malfunctions.

Authorities are asking residents to update their permit if there are any changes to their current information or emergency contact’s information.