Marys Medicine



False Alarm Perspectives:
A Solution-Oriented Resource
Ohlhausen Research, Inc.
International Association of Chiefs of Police
The author gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following persons andorganizations: International Association of Chiefs of Police, Security Industry Association; especially: Private Sector Liason Committee, False Alarm Virginia Williams William CunninghamJerry Germeau Alarm Industry Research and Education Foun- dation; especially: Dick MellardCharles Reynolds Professional Alarm Services Organizations of North America; especially: Ira SomersonCurt Wengeler National Crime Prevention Institute; especially: Dr. Wilbur Rykert National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association;especially: Underwriters Laboratories; especially: Central Station Alarm Association; especially: Although space prevents listing them all, the author also wishes to thank the scoresof other persons who provided interviews and information for this paper.
This document is published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police,515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2357. Telephone (703) 836-6767.
1993 International Association of Chiefs of Police This publication is made available with the understanding that the distributing or-ganization is not engaged in rendering legal services. If legal advice is required,the services of an attorney should be sought.
If you are ready to put an end to the enormous problem of false alarms—to halt theunnecessary police dispatches, the waste of time and money, and the loss ofalarms' deterrent value—then this document can help. The pages that follow put atyour fingertips a timely compendium of information on false alarms.
Read the detailed overview of the false alarm problem, look at relevant state laws, see what local ordinances have achieved, examine pertinent court decisions,study the theory and practice of private response to alarms, and search the list ofpublications and organizations that may be able to help you.
This document does not lay out the ultimate answer to the false alarm problem. Instead, it brings together, in one useful package, a range of informationand resources you can use to forge your own solution—one that satisfies the de-mands of the citizens, businesses, and public agencies in your particular city,county, or state.
Executive Summary Unnecessary calls for police service due to false burglar alarms have grown into atremendous problem. Burglar alarms serve as useful deterrents to crime, but theamount of time and money police spend responding to the 7 million to 15 millionor more false alarm calls every year has become intolerable to many law enforce-ment agencies. Projected growth in the use of alarms portends a worsening prob-lem.
False alarms are caused primarily by technological, installation, and user er- rors. Solutions that are currently being tried or proposed include the following: alarm verification installer training repair or upgrading requirements dispatch cancellation nonresponse by police Court decisions have raised the question of whether particular false alarm ordinances are clearly written, whether they are fair, and who must pay the finesthey levy. Other cases have looked at false alarms as the proximate cause of injuryto responding police officers.
Many organizations are currently working to reduce the number of false alarms. This document was produced under the auspices of the International As-sociation of Chiefs of Police with funding assistance from the National Burglarand Fire Alarm Association and the Central Station Alarm Association.
False Alarms in Perspective False alarms, nuisance alarms, false activations, false relays. By whatever name,undesired activations of burglar alarms aggravate and confound police depart-ments, alarm companies, alarm users, and local governments. The problem of"false alarms" (the most common term) is old but getting worse, and many partieshave called for an increase in efforts to combat the problem. However, it's a com-plex issue. Definitions and solutions are slippery, with different factions holdingmany opposing views.
This document, produced under the auspices of the International Associa- tion of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with funding assistance from the National Burglarand Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and the Central Station Alarm Association(CSAA), does not purport to solve the problem of false alarms. Nor does it attemptto say everything that can be said about the subject. Instead, it serves as a resourceto which interested parties can turn for an overview, a compilation of relevant statelaws, a sample of local ordinances, a roundup of court decisions, a look at privateresponse to alarms, and a list of helpful organizations and publications. IACPhopes readers will use this document to determine the best solutions for their ownstates and communities.
What is a false alarm? Some definitions of false alarms include all alarm signals
that occur when no intrusion has been attempted; other definitions restrict the
category to include only alarm signals that are caused by user or mechanical error
but not those caused by severe weather, power outages, or telephone line disor-
Further distinctions include "nuisance alarms," which are unwanted alarm system activations in which a sensor properly responds to a stimulus, but thestimulus is not a burglar. "True false alarms" are system activations due to me-chanical defects. "False dispatches" are unnecessary requests for police assistance;they may result from nuisance alarms, true false alarms, or errors by alarm moni-toring stations. Many other terms are used and distinctions made.
Significantly, the fact that an alarm system mistakenly sends a signal to a central station (false alarm) does not necessarily require that police be called (falsedispatch). Some solutions to the "false alarm" problem focus on reducing the num-ber of times central stations call police rather than the number of times alarm sys-tems send signals to central stations. Other solutions focus on making alarm systems "smarter" so that central station operators need not be burdened withdeciding whether to call the police.
In addition, some parties would like to see the category of canceled alarms included in statistics. A canceled alarm occurs when a central station calls policedispatchers to say that the alarm just reported is now known to be false and thepolice therefore need not travel to the scene. Police worry that criminals may can-cel dispatches once they hear an alarm; alarm companies claim they could reducepolice dispatches if police departments would accept cancellations. Various meth-ods—including transfer of incident and dispatcher numbers and the use of customcomputer software—are being tried in an attempt to ensure that cancellations aregenuine.
The particular type of false alarm this paper is concerned with is the type that causes police to travel unnecessarily to an alarm site—for whatever reason. Tostay within common parlance, this paper will describe that type of alarm with themost common term, "false alarm," whenever it is not essential to use a differentterm.
How common are false alarms? Almost everyone agrees they are too common, but
exactly how common depends on definition and point of view. The usual way to
quantify false alarms is to express them as a percentage of all alarm calls. Looked
at that way, 95 percent to 98 percent of all alarm calls are false—that is, they do
not indicate an actual or attempted intrusion.1 That view makes the problem look
The reverse way to quantify false alarms is to quote the number of false ac- tivations per installed system per year. In many areas of the country, that numberequals one to two false alarms per year per system. That view makes the problemlook slight.
Neither view reflects the situation quite accurately. The real problem for police is not the false alarm rate but the number of unnecessary calls for service—that's what wastes their time. If a city with 10,000 installed alarm systemsexperiences 100 alarm-related calls for police service, and 98 of those calls are un-founded, the false alarm rate is 98 percent. Yet having to respond 98 times overthe course of a year does not constitute a major problem, and in fact the vast ma-jority of alarm systems did what they were supposed to do.
On the other hand, merely examining the number of false calls per system per year leaves the problem somewhat unilluminated. By one estimate, 7 percentof U.S. homes and 40 percent of U.S. businesses have alarm systems, for a total of7 million systems.2 Other estimates run as high as 15 million installed systems. Ifeach generates only one false call for police response annually, that's still 7 million 1William C. Cunningham, John J. Strauchs, and Clifford W. Van Meter, Private Security Trends, 1970-2000: The Hallcrest Report II (Stoneham, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1990), p. 282.
2Security Letter, September 16, 1991.
to 15 million unnecessary police runs.3 In some regions, alarm calls account for 10percent to 30 percent of all calls for police service.4 Even discounting troublesomesystems that send an inordinate number of false alarms, the occasional false alarmfrom almost every system adds up to a large number of calls.
Moreover, a figure of one false police notification per system per year is probably low. CSAA estimates there are about 2.2 false alarms per system per yearnow overall. Of course, some cities with aggressive false alarm reduction pro-grams encounter much lower rates.
Unchecked, the problem will snowball along with the steadily increasing number of alarm system installations. Populous cities already typically experiencetens of thousands of false alarm calls annually; the largest cities dispatch police tohundreds of thousands of false alarms each year.
How long have false alarms been a problem? As long ago as 1882, when Mark
Twain wrote a short story called "The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm," false
alarms have been cause for discussion. After describing the miseries he suffered
from "three or four hundred false alarms" from his residential alarm system, the
narrator concludes, "Yes, sir, a burglar alarm combines in its person all that is ob-
jectionable about a fire, a riot, and a harem, and at the same time none of the com-
pensating advantages, of one sort or another, that customarily belong with that
That is not to say the false alarm situation has inhabited its current plane for more than a century. Today's high level of false alarms follows rapid growth in thealarm industry in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. The growth in installed systems wasbased on such factors as declining prices for alarm systems, the introduction of re-tail sales of alarm equipment, and increased fear of crime. Those factors seem un-likely to disappear anytime soon; most indicators suggest more and more busi-nesses and residences will have alarm systems installed.
What causes false alarms? The three main causes are technological errors, instal-
lation errors, and user errors. Engineers familiar with alarm technology note that
new equipment made by the better manufacturers rarely causes true false alarms
(that is, when a sensor trips the alarm even though nothing was there to sense).
The necessary design changes have already been made. Technological errors ap-
pear to be on the decrease.
Installation errors (for example, use of particular types of sensors in inap- propriate places) still account for a significant percentage of false alarms. Some in-stallers know what they are doing; others do not. Many states require licensing of 3The number could well be higher. Unfortunately, as with many numbers used in this report, complete,inclusive, national statistics are notably lacking.
4Hallcrest II, p. 282.
5Found in Jan./Feb. 1980 issue of Alarm Signal, p. 27.
security equipment installers, but the specific licensing requirements are not al-ways rigorous. Installation errors continue to cause false alarms.
User errors are generally held to cause the greatest percentage of false alarms. Numerous surveys have attributed 40 percent to 60 percent of false alarmsto mistakes by users. One study recently found 75 percent of false alarms to becaused by user error.6 Inadequate user training and the complexity of some alarmsystem controls are often cited as causes of user-initiated false alarms.
Numerous other factors—a lack of maintenance, changes in the layout of the protected site, and the continued use of older, less reliable systems and sen-sors—cause false alarms. The Canadian Alarm and Security Association(CANASA) lists 30 causes: Inherently high false risk Unstable equipment Misused equipment Exceeded equipment limits Sensitivity set too high 8. Misapplied equipment Wearing Out
Electronic failure 10. Resistance increase11. Physically loosened 12. Weather13. Adjacent construction14. Machinery/decoration15. Power loss 16. Bell problems Improper operation procedure
17. Improper/incomplete training18. New employee/cleaners/ friend/relative19. Testing procedure 6CSAA False Alarm Study (Bethesda, Md.: Central Station Alarm Association, 1992), p. 2.
Wrong code or key
20. Memory failure21. Loss of passcard Improper station procedures
22. Installer forgot to send to station23. Station lost data sheet24. Station misentered data25. Misdirected procedures 26. Wrong account number27. Misprogrammed account number (A vs. O)28. Wrong codes used29. Wrong format30. Wrong receiver number Why exactly is the current rash of false alarms a problem for police? Expense-
conscious police departments recognize that alarms have a cost. They consume
officer time, waste fuel, increase the risk of accidents, cause wear and tear on
equipment, reduce police service to areas with a greater need for officer presence,
and over time erode officer caution. The frustration level among some police
chiefs is high. An article in Security Dealer quotes one chief as saying,
We have a false alarm ordinance, and 98 percent of our alarms are false. We have gottenit down to 90 percent periodically, but it is still a serious manpower problem. We have acommittee of alarm companies, police officers, and citizens working on the problem.
We've tried everything (e.g., punitive damages, inspections, etc.) and it's not getting thejob done. It's a huge problem, and we don't know how it's going to turn out in thefuture.7 Some law enforcement officials find excessive alarm response incompatible with their mission. Police Magazine quotes the executive director of the PoliceExecutive Research Forum as saying, "So much of what the police departments dois for the benefit of some industry. And this [alarm response] is just another ex-ample of it. These private entrepreneurs are making a profit off the police."8 The view that police are being asked to subsidize private businesses (alarm companies) raises the competing question of whether private businesses andhomeowners are being asked to subsidize (through user fees and fines) a legitimaterequest for a public service.
False alarms waste police time but are not unique in that regard. When someone calls to report a trespasser in the back yard, and it's actually the gas meter 7Keith W. Strandberg, "What Do 900-Numbers and Security Dealers Have in Common?" Security Dealer,November 1991.
8Paul Sweeney, "The True Cost of False Alarms," Police Magazine, May 1983, p. 47.
reader, that's a false alarm. By one measure, more than half of all calls for policeservice are not crime-related.9 Why bother using alarms at all? False alarms aggravate police, alarm companies,
and alarm users. But, as consumer items, alarm systems wouldn't exist if they
provided no benefit. The alarm industry claims alarm systems help police capture
criminals in the act, leading to a higher conviction rate with less need for police
investigation than would be the case without alarms; alarmed premises are also
said to be less vulnerable to criminal attempts than other premises. Studies have
borne out both conclusions.
Even law enforcement representatives—who often find false alarms a costly nuisance—grant that alarmsystems serve a usefulpurpose. The report Private Where Do All These Alarm Systems
Security by the Law Come From?
Enforcement AssistanceAdministration's PrivateSecurity Task Force states, In 1990, the number of alarm companies oper- "Alarms offer a proven ating in America was estimated at 13,000.
method for crime reduction Growth is expected to drive that number to and criminal apprehension."10 24,000 companies in the year 2000.
Similarly, in a survey Alarm companies' 1990 revenue was $4.5 of 1,000 police and fire chiefs, billion. (That figure includes the portion of their income derived from the sale, installation, and 85 percent of the police monitoring of fire and life-safety systems as officials said security systems well as burglar alarm systems.) That same year, decrease the likelihood a home alarm companies employed 120,000 persons.
will be burglarized; almost 90 The size of alarm companies varies widely, percent felt security systems from large national firms to sole proprietors.
increase their chances of The difference in size can be seen from the sta- apprehending burglars; and 85 tistic that in 1989 the 10 largest alarm compa- percent said they encourage nies (out of approximately 13,000) generated the installation of electronic 31 percent of the industry's revenue.
security systems in residences SOURCE: Private Security Trends, 1970-2000: The Hall- and businesses in their crest Report II. Research has also 9William C. Cunningham and Todd H. Taylor, Private Security and Police in America: The HallcrestReport I (Stoneham, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1985), p. 64.
10Private Security: Report of the Task Force on Private Security (Washington: Law EnforcementAssistance Administration, 1976), p. 155.
11Survey conducted by STAT Resources for the Security Industry Association; reported in March 1991Security Dealer, editorial page.
shown the economic benefit of alarm system use. One study compares the cost ofresponse to the losses avoided and demonstrates that alarms are a positive benefitto a community—not even counting, of course, the unquantifiable benefits oflower crime and a lower fear of crime.12 False alarms are a nuisance but perhaps are not the underlying problem. As one alarm company owner puts it, "False alarms are the side effect of a cure forthe problem of burglary." What types of solutions are out there? Given the multitude of alleged solutions
to the false alarm problem, one might think the issue had been settled long ago.
Research turns up scores of practices that are touted as ways to reduce false
alarms, and most of them have been tried in one locale or another, yet obviously
the problem has not been solved. The tenacity of the problem shows there is no
silver bullet that will stop false alarms in their tracks, at least not yet, at least not at
a cost that the parties involved are willing to bear.
Solutions fall into several major categories:• technical (improved alarm technology and installation)• customer education and public awareness• training of installers and police crime-prevention personnel• regulation of alarm companies and installers• alarm control ordinances• police alarm response policies13Naturally, what works in one city won't necessarily work in another, and even the best of the solutions have only succeeded in cutting a city's number offalse alarms in half. Nevertheless, here are some specific measures thought to bevaluable in the fight against false alarms: • Verification. Central stations use several types of verification—telephone,
audio ("listen in"), and video—in an attempt to contact an authorized person at theuser's site after an alarm has been received. The goal is to detect whether the alarmwas tripped accidentally. If the central station determines it was, a police call canbe avoided. Some parties, such as CSAA and NBFAA, favor verification as a falsealarm reduction means except for holdup and duress alarms.
However, others deem it unnecessary on the grounds that a user who acci- dentally trips an alarm can readily call the central station to cancel it. They alsofear that verification's delay of police response could be dangerous.
User training. Since a large proportion of false alarms is caused by user
error, training users—and, in the case of commercial users, their employees—onthe proper use of alarm systems is a sensible false alarm reduction measure.
NBFAA describes four basic strategies for subscriber education: 12Simon Hakim and Andrew J. Buck, The Hakim-Buck Study: Deterrence of Suburban Burglaries(Cheltenham, Pa.: Metrica, Inc., 1991).
13Hallcrest I, p. 212.
1. Install systems with features that alert subscribers to potential false alarms before signals are transmitted.
2. Provide initial and ongoing instruction. Use plenty of decals and in- struction sheets.
3. Educate or drop users who cause an inordinate number of false 4. Mount a public awareness campaign involving law enforcement of- NBFAA also advises alarm companies to urge law enforcement officials and local alarm associations to send problem users letters that explain the gravityof false alarms. CANASA recommends that municipalities mount their own falsealarm reduction public awareness campaigns using general municipal funds plusfees derived from alarm users.
Installer training. Unwisely installed alarm systems are more prone to
generate false alarms than wisely installed systems. To improve installer training,in the late 1980s NBFAA introduced the National Training School for training andcertifying alarm technicians. Courses are offered through NBFAA chaptersthroughout the United States.
Some parties believe the answer to improving installer training is state cer- tification by exam. To maintain certification, installers might be required to par-ticipate in continuing education (as lawyers and doctors are), and complaint reviewboards could be established and granted the power to strip installers of theircertification.
Local ordinances and state laws. Perhaps 2,000 cities and counties em-
ploy false alarm laws, as do half a dozen states. Do false alarm ordinances reducethe number of false alarms? Of the 30 ordinances examined in Section 3, most arereported to have reduced the false alarm problem somewhat. The degree of reduc-tion ranges from insignificant to 50 percent or more.
Most ordinances allow a fixed number of "free" false alarms before impos- ing a series of fines. After that, the features are unpredictable. Among the otherterms of various false alarm reduction ordinances are the following: — users must register their alarm systems— after a certain number of false alarms, users must prove they have repaired their systems — police may set a policy of not responding to particular users' alarms after a certain number of false calls — users must provide police with names of persons who can come to the alarm site with keys and the ability to reset the alarm — alarm companies must verify alarms by one method or another be- fore summoning police 14Alarm Industry Quality Control Manual: A Comprehensive False Alarm Reduction Program (Bethesda,Md.: National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, 1980), p. 8.2.
— alarm installers must be trained and registered— users or alarm companies whose systems generate false alarms must pay service charges or user fees as opposed to actual fines Opinion on using laws to control false alarms varies widely. Some parties consider ordinances indispensable: they provide an organized way to address thefalse alarm issue; their alarm registration requirements make it possible to track thesuccess of false alarm reduction efforts; and they keep alarm users within reason-able limits. Others parties look at alarm ordinances as a last resort: they often aredeveloped without the advice of the users and alarm companies they regulate, andthey might reduce alarm use.
If the false alarm issue is addressed by law, should that be at the state or lo- cal level? The point is much debated. One side claims that because policing in theUnited States is decentralized and cities vary from one to the next, the false alarmproblem must be solved with local ordinances. The other side says alarm compa-nies cannot be expected to comply with hundreds of differing local ordinanceswithin a single state, so state law is best. There have even been calls for nationalregulation.
Fines. Most major cities and many smaller ones employ ordinances that
levy fines for excessive false alarms. Those fines range from tens to hundreds ofdollars per false alarm. Like most false alarm reduction measures, fines are muchdebated. Supporters say fines give alarm users an incentive to learn to use theirsystems correctly and to test, repair, upgrade, and maintain their systems. Finesalso produce revenue that can be used to support false alarm reduction activities bypolice departments and governments.
Detractors note that just as parking fines have not eliminated illegal park- ing, false alarm fines will not eliminate false alarms. Wealthier alarm users willpay even high fines willingly, while other users and potential users may be dis-couraged from using alarm systems at all. There may also be legal challenges tolevying fines without providing users with a hearing at which it is determinedwhether a particular alarm signal really was false (see Section 4).
Permits. Alarm permits provide a mechanism whereby governments and
law enforcement agencies track alarm system use and enforce standards. Fewpeople believe alarm permits alone reduce false alarms. Some parties feel that theeffort necessary to administer a permit system detracts from energies that couldbetter be spent in controlling false alarms more directly.
Some private companies provide the service of administering permits and collecting fines for municipalities. Such a service lifts the administrative burdenfrom the municipality and generates revenue. Some parties fear that false alarm re-duction programs may become just another form of municipal revenue-generation;others approve of the fee collection on the grounds that false alarm reduction pro-grams should pay for themselves.
Nonresponse. Some law enforcement agencies will not respond to unveri-
fied alarm calls from a particular system after they have received a certain numberof false alarms from that system and will resume service only after a specified pe-riod or after seeing proof that the system has been repaired or the problem other-wise solved (for example, through user training). Other departments are reluctantto practice nonresponse; instead they revoke a user's permit and, while still re-sponding to subsequent alarm calls, treat those calls as misdemeanors. Many de-partments feel duty-bound to respond to alarm calls no matter what.
The biggest concern regarding nonresponse is over what happens when a legitimate, serious alarm call is relayed to the police and, because it comes from analarm system that has no permit, the police don't investigate. Though rare, inci-dents like that have happened. In one case, a residential alarm user who was facedwith a dangerous intruder activated a panic signal. A central station relayed thealarm to police, who chose not to respond because the user had no permit. Thealarm user was raped by the intruder.
Private response. Private response to alarms has been practiced for years.
Sometimes it is done to comply with insurance or other standards. In other cases,neighborhood associations contract with private responders to obtain faster re-sponse than the police provide.
Some law enforcement personnel are happy to turn the responsibility for alarm response over to someone else. Others feel, however, that private response isan encroachment on their turf. Many parties are concerned about the level oftraining that private responders typically receive and about the dangers those re-sponders may face—or pose—when they arrive at the scene of a burglary.
Time-of-day differentiation. False alarms are most likely to occur around
the times when people turn their systems on and off—that is, when they enter andleave a building. Some police departments use that knowledge to treat alarm callsdifferently depending on when they are received. For example, in Calgary, duringbusiness hours alarm companies must perform telephone verification of commer-cial alarms before calling the police. However, at night the police respond withoutverification.
It is also possible to designate some alarm signals as entry or exit alarms, meaning alarms that occur within one or two minutes of when an alarm systemwas turned on or off. By placing some alarms in that category, central stations cangive police an opportunity to assign those alarms a lower response priority. It's anapplication of risk management that follows from the assumption that a burglary isunlikely to begin, say, 30 seconds after an alarm user leaves the premises.
Standards. Some parties, such as Professional Alarm Services Organiza-
tions of North America (PASONA), feel false alarms would be greatly reduced ifalarm systems were designed, manufactured, installed, tested, maintained, andused in accordance with national standards and codes. PASONA encourages police chiefs to ask for ordinances that require compliance with the Underwriters Labora-tories (UL) burglar alarm system certificate program.
In that program, central stations apply to be listed by UL. Then, if they choose, they can apply for a UL certificate for each alarm system they serve. ULenforces standards by inspecting the central station and a statistical sample ofalarm system installations. Proponents claim UL standards benefit alarm users andthe police departments that respond to their alarms.
Opponents of that approach view required adherence to national standards as yet another layer of regulation to endure. They also point to the costs associatedwith meeting those standards and the cost of inspections.
UL claims that municipalities that have adopted its certificate program for fire alarms have cut their false alarms by 80 percent to 90 percent. As yet, no mu-nicipalities are known to have adopted the UL certificate program for burglaralarms. For authorities who wish to know which central stations and which alarminstallations are UL listed and certificated, UL offers an on-line database. (SeeSection 6: Resources.) Standards related to false alarms are also being developed by the Security Industry Association. Its standards for passive infrared sensors address environ-mental causes of false alarms; its control panel standards address human error; andits glassbreak standards address the location, environment, and acoustics of glass-break detectors. SIA is also studying other technologies, as well as improved prod-uct manuals for installers and end users.
Codes. In an effort to raise the quality of alarm installation and ensure the
use of high-quality equipment, there have been calls for the introduction of mu-nicipal codes for alarm systems. Like building codes and fire codes, alarm systemcodes would specify methods and materials and would be enforced through ap-proval processes and site inspections. Alarm codes could also be incorporated intoexisting building codes and be enforced by current inspectors.
Repair or upgrading requirements. Many local ordinances allow police
to suspend response for users whose systems cause excessive false alarms. Re-sponse is only reinstated after those users show they have taken steps to correctwhatever was causing the false alarms.
It's possible to take that idea a step farther. Richard Mellard of the National Crime Prevention Institute has suggested a set of ascending requirements for up-grading alarm systems after each false alarm. For example, after a user's first falsealarm, an upgrade to sensor identification could be required. That way, at the nextfalse alarm, technicians would know which sensor caused the problem. After auser's second false alarm, second or third event dispatching (accumulation) couldbe required—that is, the system would not alarm simply from one event but wouldrequire that two or three sensors trip before it transmits an alarm.
Better equipment. A smaller and smaller percentage of false alarms is at-
tributed to technological problems, and new technology and different approaches to alarm system manufacturing and design are further reducing the prevalence ofequipment-caused false alarms. Other measures and features that are believed toreduce false alarms include —sensors with greater dependability—duplication of certain types of sensors (such as motion detectors)—alarm panels that require several sensors to trip before transmitting an —alarm panels that accept cancel codes so that users acting quickly can cancel their own false alarms Conversely, the elimination of some sophisticated alarm system features has been encouraged on the grounds that they cause false alarms at a rate grossly dis-proportionate to any proven usefulness of those features. For example, "1+" duresscoding—whereby a user whom a burglar has ordered to turn off the alarm systemsends a silent alarm by keying in a code one number higher than the regular pass-code—is said to have been used successfully almost never. What usually happensis that users enter the duress code accidentally, missing their correct code by justone digit. Fatigue, hurry, long fingernails, and wide fingers are to blame.
One suggestion regarding alarm system options is that manufacturers should preset the options to the settings that cause the fewest false alarms. If a particularcustomer desires a more sophisticated or more sensitive feature, he or she can askthe installer to change the equipment as needed.
Another area of technological improvement is dispatch—the communica- tion between central station and police department. Goals include the quick trans-fer of more detailed information to police (such as which alarms in a building haveactivated) and suitably secure means of canceling police dispatches. Options underconsideration include secure fax machines and direct computer hookups betweenalarm companies and police departments. One protocol that enables central sta-tions and police dispatchers to communicate via computer is called SANTA(Standardized Alarm Notification Transmission Alternative). SANTA is managedby the Municipal Response Management Corporation, a subsidiary of CSAA, andis currently being used in Minneapolis.
Measuring success in false alarm reduction isn't a simple matter of numbers. If the
number of false alarms in a city declines, does that mean the alarm systems are
still protecting homes and businesses but sending fewer false alarms? Or does it
mean users are so afraid of false alarm fines that they leave their systems off when
they should be on or even turn their systems off permanently? Or does it mean
sensors have been turned down to such low sensitivity levels that they miss legiti-
mate events? Or does it mean alarm users have switched to private alarm respond-
ers, and is that what the police department wants? If the number of false alarms
rises, could that be due to an increase in the number of alarm systems? Or an in-
crease in attempted burglaries that appear to be false alarms?
Some people want to reduce false alarms to 0.2 per system per year; others are shooting for zero. Still others note that if alarms ever succeed completely indeterring burglary, every alarm will be a false one, and that will be a happy end.
Major national-level efforts to reduce false alarms include the NBFAA Fast Start
Program; a series of false alarm training courses developed by the Alarm Industry
Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) and implemented by NBFAA; and
several efforts by CSAA.
The Fast Start Program is an eight-step program that aims "to help reduce false and unnecessary police alarm dispatches by 50% nationwide in one year." Aone-page synopsis of the steps, along with contact information, can be found in theappendix.
The AIREF/NBFAA training series is being tested in Dallas and will spread around the country. The first workshop of the series provides an overview of falsealarm prevention and will be presented to police departments, alarm dealers,neighborhood associations, chambers of commerce, and other interested parties.
Subsequent workshops will separately target alarm users, alarm installers, centralstation dispatchers, alarm salespeople, and police departments.
Over the last two years CSAA has made much progress in determining the technical and human sources of false alarms. It has created standards for centralstation operators and has asked all its members nationwide to participate in an on-going, monthly false alarm report and evaluation. The report will be able to quan-tify the effects of false alarm reduction efforts on a national basis. CSAA has alsobrought together manufacturers of alarm hardware and software and elicited theirparticipation in efforts to fix technical problem areas.
Frustration with false alarms drives some governments and police departments to
act unilaterally to escape the burden of excessive false alarm response. They
threaten to or actually do suspend all police response to alarms, or they enact ordi-
nances that impose draconian penalties and restrictions on alarm users and alarm
However, since false alarms are caused by—and can be prevented by—so many different parties, it makes sense to involve everyone in the solution. A"solution" imposed from above can enforce no more than a few of the false alarmreduction measures listed in this chapter. A true solution, however, will probablyrequire the simultaneous use of many measures by many people working inconcert.
Many states require licensing and training of alarm system installers. Likewise,many states treat deliberate sounding of false alarms as an offense. However, fewstates have established laws governing unintentional false alarms.
Among the states with false alarm laws on the books, some merely declare that local jurisdictions may establish their own false alarm policies and schedulesof fines within boundaries set by the state law. Other state laws actually set thosepolicies and fines.
A search of the laws of 50 states plus the District of Columbia showed that only Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and the District of Columbia have on theirbooks any kinds of laws regulating false alarms. Interestingly, Hawaii, which doesnot regulate false alarms, requires alarm companies to share their false alarm dataconfidentially with the police. A search of the U.S. Code did not reveal any federallaw governing false alarms.
Maryland law regarding false alarms is as detailed as and reads much like a local
ordinance on false alarms. Passed in 1992, it sets out a schedule of fines and es-
tablishes circumstances under which alarm users must have their systems repaired.
Key elements:• $30 fine for each false alarm response after the third in 30 days or theeighth in 12 months.
Alarm system is deemed defective after exceeding number of falsealarms above. User must have system inspected and give authorities re-port on probable cause of false alarms and actions taken to prevent fu-ture false alarms. Maximum fine of $500 and imprisonment of 90 daysfor continuing to use a defective alarm system.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Maryland Annotated Code, Article 27 (1992)Section 156C. Negligent or accidental activation of system (a) In general. —Except for alarm systems activated by acts of God, weather condi- tions, or causes beyond the control of the alarm user, an alarm system that is negligentlyor accidentally activated as a result of faulty, malfunctioning, or improperly installed ormaintained equipment shall be subject to the provisions of subsections (b) and (c) of thissection.
(b) Civil citation. —A law enforcement agency or fire department may issue a civil citation to an alarm user if the number of false alarms to which any law enforcementagency or fire department actually responds exceeds: (1) 3 responses within a 30-day period; or(2) 8 or more responses within a 12-month period.
(c) Fines. —The civil citation shall include a fine of:(1) $30 for each initial false alarm; and(2) $30 for each additional false alarm.
[Section 156A , in part:] (g) False alarm. —(1) "False alarm" means any request for immediate assistance by a law enforcement agency or fire department regardless of cause that is not in responseto an actual emergency situation or threatened suggested criminal activity.
(2) "False alarm" includes:(i) Negligently or accidentally activated signals;(ii) Signals that are the result of faulty, malfunctioning, or improperly installed or maintained equipment; and (iii) Signals that are purposely activated to summon a law enforcement agency or fire department in a nonemergency situation.
(3) "False alarm" does not include:(i) Signals activated by unusually severe weather conditions or other causes beyond the control of the alarm user or alarm system contractors; or (ii) Signals activated during the initial 60-day period following new installation.
(4) (i) an alarm system that is activated a second time within a 12-hour period when the premises are unoccupied shall be deemed 1 false alarm if: 1. Access to the building is provided to the alarm system contractor; and2. An alarm system contractor or an employee of an alarm system contractor re- (ii) Failure to comply with item (i) of this paragraph shall result in each subsequent alarm being counted as a false alarm.
[Section 156D, in part:]Defective systems (a) Presumption. —In this section an alarm system is deemed a defective alarm sys- (1) More than 3 false alarms occur within a 30-day period; or(2) 8 or more false alarms occur within a 12-month period.
(b) Notice of condition. —A law enforcement agency or fire department that an- swers a false alarm shall provide written notice to the alarm user of the defective condi-tion.
(c) Actions by alarm user. —Upon notice from the appropriate law enforcement agency or fire department, an alarm user who has a defective alarm system shall: (1) Have the system inspected within 30 days by an alarm system contractor or alarm user, if qualified; and (2) Within 15 days after the inspection file a written report with the law enforce- ment agency and fire department.
(d) Report. —The report shall contain:(1) The results of the alarm system contractor or alarm user's inspection;(2) The probable cause of the false alarms; and(3) Actions taken or recommendations for eliminating the false alarms.
(e) Penalty for continued use. —Any alarm user who continues to use a defective alarm system is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is subject to a fine not ex-ceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or both.
Michigan's law is less detailed than but similar to Maryland's. However, it features
a standards-meeting requirement apparently unique among state laws.
Key elements:• System exceeding four false alarms in calendar year is deemed defec-tive. User must have the system examined by an alarm contractor andmay then be required to implement whatever corrections the contractorsuggested.
Alarm systems in businesses and residences must meet the standards ofUnderwriters Laboratories, American National Standards Institute, oranother national standards-setting body.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Michigan Compiled Laws, Article 338.1085Sec. 35. (1) As used in this section "false alarm" means the activation of an alarm sys-tem through mechanical failure, malfunction, improper installation, or the negligence ofthe owner or lessee of an alarm system or of his employee or agent. False alarm does notinclude an alarm caused by a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or other violent conditionbeyond the control of the owner or lessee of an alarm system or their employee or agent.
(2) An alarm system experiencing more than 4 false alarms within a calendar year is deemed defective and upon written notice to the owner or lessee of the alarm systemby the enforcing authority the owner or lessee shall have the system inspected by analarm system contractor who shall within 15 days file a written report to the departmentof the results of its inspection of the system, the probable cause of the false alarms, andits recommendations for eliminating false alarms.
(3) Upon receipt of the report the department may after notice and hearing order the owner or lessee to correct the system based upon the recommendations contained in thereport.
Article 338.1083Sec. 33 [in part] (2) An alarm system installed in a commercial or public building shall utilize equipment and methods of installation equivalent to or exceeding minimum Underwrit-ers Laboratories, American National Standards Institute, or any other nationally recog-nized testing laboratory requirements for the appropriate installation.
(3) An alarm system installed in a residence shall utilize equipment equivalent to or exceeding minimum applicable Underwriters Laboratories or American National Stan-dards Institute requirements for household burglar alarm systems.
(4) If the alarm system was installed prior to the effective date of this act, it shall be inspected and certified by an alarm system contractor licensed under this act within 6months after the effective date of this act.
Ohio law allows, but does not require, townships to bill alarm users for excessive
false alarms.
Key elements:• $25 per false alarm response after the third false alarm response in acalendar year.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Ohio Revised Code Annotated (Baldwin)505.511 False security alarm; charges assessed (A) The board of trustees of a township police district may, after the township po- lice, a law enforcement agency with which the township contracts for police services,and the county sheriff or his deputy have answered a combined total of three falsealarms resulting from the malfunction of the same commercial or residential securityalarm system within the township in the same calendar year, cause the township clerk tomail the manager of the commercial establishment or the occupant, lessee, agent, or ten-ant of the residence, a bill for twenty-five dollars for each subsequent false alarm fromthe same alarm system during that year, to defray the costs incurred. If payment of thebill is not received within thirty days, the clerk shall send a notice by certified mail tothe manager and to the owner, if different, of the real estate of which the commercial es-tablishment is a part, or to the occupant, lessee, agent, or tenant and to the owner, if dif-ferent, of the real estate of which the residence is a part, indicating that failure to pay thebill within thirty days, or to show just cause why the bill should not be paid, will resultin the assessment of a twenty-five dollar lien upon the real estate. If payment is not re-ceived within thirty days or if just cause is not shown, the sum of twenty-five dollarsshall be entered upon the tax duplicate, shall be a lien upon the real estate from the dateof the entry, and shall be collected as other taxes and returned to the township generalfund. The board of trustees of a township police district shall not cause the townshipclerk to send a bill pursuant to this division if a bill has already been sent pursuant todivision (B) of this section for the same false alarm.
(B) The county sheriff may, after he or his deputy, the township police, and a law enforcement agency with which the township contracts for police services have an-swered a combined total of three false alarms resulting from the malfunction of the samecommercial or residential security alarm system within the unincorporated area of thecounty in the same calendar year, mail the manager of the commercial establishment orthe occupant, lessee, agent, or tenant of the residence a bill for twenty-five dollars foreach subsequent false alarm from the same alarm system during that year, to defray thecosts incurred. The sheriff shall not send a bill pursuant to this division if a bill has al-ready been sent pursuant to division (A) of this section for the same false alarm.
Texas law on false alarms is extensive and detailed. It sets limits on the policies of
sheriffs' offices and municipalities regarding false alarm response. Interestingly, it
allows populous counties to charge a fee for each false alarm the sheriff's office
responds to—with no free ones.
Key elements:• A county of more than 2.2 million persons may establish a system ofcharges for any false alarm responses by the sheriff's office. Fees shallnot exceed actual cost of response. Fees may be fixed or may vary de-pending on the circumstances of the alarm.
If a municipality requires alarm permits, permits must be valid for atleast one year. However, the municipality may revoke or suspend per-mits. Permit fee may not exceed $50.
A municipality may not withhold police response to a permit holder be-cause of excessive false alarms if the permit holder has paid all falsealarm fees.
A municipality can judge an alarm as false only if a response is madewithin 30 minutes and an on-site inspection shows the alarm was false.
A municipal fine can be levied only for the sixth and subsequent falsealarms in a 12-month period. Fine shall not exceed $50 and shall not ex-ceed the actual cost of the response.
Counties may charge $75 for a sheriff's office response to each exces-sive false alarm and may revoke permit if more than nine false alarmsoccur in a one-year period. Counties may charge full cost of responsewhen alarm user intentionally activates alarm system for any reasonother than emergency.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Texas Local Government Code (1993)Title 4, Subtitle B118.133. Sheriff's Response to False Alarm in County With Population of More Than2.2 Million (a) The commissioners court of a county with a population of more than 2.2 million by order may adopt a system by which the county charges a fee if the sheriff's office ofthe county responds to a security alarm and the emergency for which the alarm devicewas designed to give notice does not exist.
(b) The fee shall be charged to a person exercising control of the property on which the alarm device is installed.
(c) The commissioners court shall set the amount of the fee. The court may set a single fee that is charged for each response to a false alarm or may establish a fee struc-ture under which different fees are charged according to the differing circumstances ofeach false alarm. However, the amount of a fee may not exceed the amount of the actualcosts incurred by the sheriff's office in responding to the alarm.
(d) Fees collected under this Act shall be deposited in the county treasury to the credit of the general fund of the county.
Title 7, Subtitle A 218.001 (1993) Definitions In this chapter: (1) "Alarm system" means a device or system that transmits a signal intended to summon police of a municipality in response to a burglary. The term includes an alarmthat emits an audible signal on the exterior of a structure. The term does not include analarm installed on a vehicle, unless the vehicle is used for a habitation at a permanentsite, or an alarm designed to alert only the inhabitants within the premises.
(2) "Permit" means a certificate, license, permit, or other form of permission that authorizes a person to engage in an action.
218.002. Categories of Alarm Systems The category of alarm system to be regulated is burglary.
218.003. Duration of Municipal Permit (a) If a municipality adopts an ordinance that requires a person to obtain a permit from the municipality before a person may use an alarm system in the municipality, theordinance must provide that the permit is valid for at least one year.
(b) This requirement does not affect the authority of the municipality to:(1) revoke, suspend, or otherwise affect the duration of a permit for disciplinary rea- sons at any time during the period for which the permit is issued; or (2) make a permit valid for a period of less than one year if necessary to conform the permit to the termination schedule established by the municipality for permits.
218.004. Fee for Municipal Permit If a municipality adopts an ordinance that requires a person to pay an annual fee to obtain a permit from the municipality before the person may use an alarm system in themunicipality, the fee may not exceed the rate of $50 a year.
218.005. Termination and Discrimination (a) Except as provided in Subsection (d) of this section, a municipality may not terminate its law enforcement response to a permit holder because of excess false alarmsif the false alarm fees are paid in full.
(b) In permitting free false alarm responses and in setting false alarm fees, a mu- nicipality must administer any ordinance on a fair and equitable basis as determined bythe governing body.
(c) A municipality may not terminate an alarm permit for nonrenewal without pro- viding at least 30 days' notice.
(d) A municipality may set standards for systems to be permitted and may refuse to permit particular systems which in its discretion have a history of unreliability.
218.006. On-Site Inspection Required A municipality may not consider a false alarm to have occurred unless a response is made by an agency of the municipality within 30 minutes of the alarm notification andthe agency determines from an inspection of the interior or exterior of the premises thatthe alarm was false.
218.007. Penalty Limitations (a) A municipality may not impose a penalty or fee for the signaling of a false alarm by a burglar alarm system unless at least five other false alarms have occurred duringthe preceding 12-month period.
(b) A penalty or fee imposed for a false alarm must be established by ordinance based on the type and level of emergency response provided. This fee may not exceed$50 in the case of the category of burglar alarms. The penalty or fee for a false alarmmay not exceed the actual expenses incurred for the response.
Title 7, Subtitle B237.001. DefinitionsIn this chapter: (1) "Alarm site" means the specific property or area of the premises on or within which an alarm system is installed or placed.
(2) "Alarm system" means an alarm signal device, burglar alarm, heat or motion sensor, or other electrical, mechanical, or electronic device used: (A) to prevent or detect burglary, theft, pilferage, fire, or other loss of property;(B) to prevent or detect intrusion; or(C) primarily to detect and summon aid for other emergencies.
(3) "False alarm" means an alarm signal received by a law enforcement official that is later determined not to involve a criminal offense, attempted criminal offense, fire, orother emergency.
237.002. Authority to Regulate; Adoption of Rules (a) The commissioners court of a county by order may authorize the sheriff of a (1) propose rules to implement this chapter;(2) regulate the incidence of and response to false alarms in accordance with the rules proposed by the sheriff and adopted or modified by the commissioners court underthis chapter; (3) establish procedures for application for and renewal and revocation of an alarm (4) establish procedures that include notice to the permit holder and an opportunity for a hearing for permit revocation or suspension if the permit holder violates this chap-ter or an order of the commissioners court or a rule adopted under this chapter; (5) establish fees in accordance with this chapter for the issuance of the permits;(6) require that any permit issued under this chapter be kept at the alarm site and produced for inspection on request of the sheriff or the sheriff's representative; (7) require that a permit must be issued and unrevoked before a sheriff or other law enforcement official may respond; and (8) establish a number of free false alarms for each category of alarm system and impose a service response fee for any alarm in excess of the number of free responseswithin the preceding 12-month period.
(b) A county may not impose a penalty or fee for the signaling of a false alarm by an alarm system unless five other false alarms have occurred within the preceding 12-month period.
(c) A penalty or fee imposed for a false alarm must be established by rule based on the type and level of emergency response provided. The fee for more than five falsealarms shall not exceed $ 75 per false alarm above the number of free responses. If thereare more than nine false alarms in a one-year period, the alarm system permit may berevoked.
(d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, the owner or lessee of premises on which an alarm system is installed may be charged the full costs incurred bythe county when the owner or lessee or the agent or employee of the owner or lessee in-tentionally or knowingly activates the alarm system for any reason other than an emer-gency or threat of an emergency of the kind for which the alarm system was designed togive notice.
(e) The sheriff or the sheriff's representative shall provide a copy of the rules to a person and assess a fee for the copy in accordance with the open records law, Chapter424, Acts of the 63rd Legislature, Regular Session, 1973 (Article 6252-17a, Vernon'sTexas Civil Statutes).
237.004. Permit Fees (a) The sheriff of a county who regulates alarm systems under this chapter may authorize the county auditor to assess and collect fees for the issuance or renewal of apermit under this chapter in reasonable amounts set by the commissioners court.
(b) All fees received under this chapter shall be remitted to the county treasurer to be deposited to the credit of the general fund of the county.
237.005. Municipal Authority Unaffected This chapter does not affect the authority of a municipality in the county to enact ordinances regulating alarm systems.
237.006. Criminal Penalty (a) A person who violates this chapter, an order of the commissioners court, or a rule adopted under this chapter commits an offense.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
237.007. County Liability The county, the commissioners court, the sheriff, and the sheriff's employees or agents are not liable for an action arising out of the regulation of or failure to regulatealarm systems.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia law has a different tone than the laws already described,
emphasizing contact persons, training, and the duties of alarm users.
Key elements:• Alarm users may not cause or permit false alarms and must teach theiremployees how to use the systems.
Systems must be kept in good working order.
Users who have not contracted with an alarm dealer for an alarm agentto respond to the scene of an alarm must provide the telephone numbersof at least two people who can arrive at the scene within half an hourafter the police call them to deactivate and reset the alarm system.
Fines range from $40 to $100.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Chapter 31. Security and Fire Alarm Systems Regulations.
Section 6-3102. Definitions."False alarm" means any alarm signal communicated to the Metropolitan Police De-partment or the District of Columbia Fire Department that is not in response to an actualor threatened fire, an actual or attempted burglary, a holdup, an assault, or an unlawfulentry requiring an immediate police or fire department response. The term "false alarm"shall include a negligently or accidentally activated signal; a signal that is the result offaulty, malfunctioning, or improperly installed or maintained equipment; and a signalthat is purposely activated to summon the Metropolitan Police Department or the Dis-trict of Columbia Fire Department in non-emergency situations. The term "false alarm"'shall not include a signal willfully activated by an alarm user upon a good faith beliefthat an actual or threatened fire, an actual or attempted burglary, a holdup, an assault, oran unlawful entry is about to occur or a signal activated by unusually severe weatherconditions or other causes, that is identified and determined by the Mayor to be beyondthe control of the user or of the alarm dealer.
Section 6-3107. Duties of security alarm users.
(a) An alarm system user shall not cause or permit any false alarm.
(b) It shall be the responsibility of alarm users to instruct any employees or others who may have occasion to activate an alarm that alarm systems are to be activated onlyin emergency situations to summon an immediate police or fire department response.
Alarm users shall also instruct appropriate employees as to the operation of the alarmsystem, to include setting, activation, and resetting of the alarm.
(c) Alarm users shall be responsible for seeing that alarm systems are maintained in good working order and that defects which could cause false alarms are promptly re-paired.
(d) Users of alarm systems who have not contracted with an alarm dealer for an alarm agent to respond to the scene of alarm activations shall indicate the telephonenumbers of at least 2 responsible persons who are capable of deactivating and resettingthe alarm system and of assisting the police or fire department to secure the premises, ifnecessary, and who may be notified by the Metropolitan Police Department or District ofColumbia Fire Department to respond to the scene by either: (1) Posting the names ofsuch persons on a sticker or other sign on the premises in a conspicuous place visiblefrom outside the premises; or (2) filing the names with the Mayor as defined by regula-tion. Such person or persons shall respond to the scene within one-half hour after beingrequested to do so by the Metropolitan Police Department or District of Columbia FireDepartment unless good cause is shown.
Section 3-3111. Penalties generally.
(a) Unless otherwise specified, any person who violates a provision of this chapter shall be fined no less than $40 nor more than $100.
(b) All fines levied pursuant to this chapter are civil in nature.
(c) Civil fines, penalties, and fees may be imposed as alternative sanctions for any infraction of the provisions of this chapter, or any rules or regulations issued under theauthority of this chapter, pursuant to Chapter 27 of this title. Adjudication of any infrac-tion of this chapter shall be pursuant to Chapter 27 of this title.
Hawaii's law does not actually regulate false alarms but does address them.
Key elements:• On request, alarm businesses must provide police with data about falsealarms and systems in operation. Alarm businesses and police shall co-operate to reduce the number of false alarms.
Alarm businesses shall keep detailed, accurate records on false alarmsfor at least two years.
Here are the relevant parts of the law: Hawaii Code Annotated, Division 2, Title 25436M-4. Alarm businesses that maintain, service, or monitor alarm systems shall, uponrequest by the police, share with them the data about false alarms and alarm systems inoperation needed to determine the monthly false alarm rate for each alarm business.
Data obtained from each alarm business shall be used by the police only for statisticalpurposes and shall not be released to others. Alarm businesses and the police shall coop-erate to reduce to a minimum the number of false alarms reported to the police.
436M-3.Each alarm business that maintains, services, or monitors alarm systems shallkeep accurate and up-to-date business records as may be required for at least two years.
The records shall include a log of all alarm activations, the date and time of each acti-vation, the reason (insofar as the reason can be determined) for each activation, andmonthly counts of the number of activations at each alarm user site that are reported tothe police.
436M-1."False alarm" means any alarm activation that is communicated to the policebut that is not in response to an actual or threatened criminal act. False alarms includealarm activations caused by negligence, by improperly installed or maintained equip-ment, and by efforts to summon the police for a purpose other than that for which thealarm is designed. False alarms shall not include alarm activations for which the causecannot be determined, or is in reasonable doubt, or is beyond the control of the alarmuser or alarm business.
Regardless of whether they are in fact the most effective solution, local ordinancesare among the most visible of the many means of controlling false alarms. Thespecifics of alarm ordinances vary, but they typically provide for alarm systemregistration, a certain number of "free" false alarms, fines (often ascending) for ex-cessive false alarms, and sometimes a point at which police may elect not to re-spond to calls from a particular system.
Not presuming to say which provisions would be most effective for a spe- cific city, this section instead presents three case studies that examine the degreeof success of ordinances in three particular cities. (Two of the ordinances are pre-sented in this report's appendix.) The section then summarizes the elements of 30cities' false alarm ordinances, presenting comments as they were received frompolice department spokespersons, and lists points of contact for anyone wishing toobtain a copy of or learn more about the ordinances summarized.
In addition to sample ordinances employed by various municipalities, model ordinances have been written by such groups as NBFAA, IACP, and CA-NASA: NBFAA's ordinance ("Model Security Alarm Ordinance") is availablethrough NBFAA headquarters in Bethesda, Md.
IACP's ordinance ("Model Burglar and Holdup Alarm Systems Ordi-nance"), written 20 years ago, is primarily interesting as a historicaldocument. It provides for alarm business licensing, identification cardsfor alarm business employees, installations' compliance with nationalstandards, inspection of installations and alarm business premises, col-lection of alarm statistics, alarm user permits, and revocation of alarmuser permits after four false alarms in a calendar year.
CANASA's ordinance is reprinted in the appendix of this report.
Case Studies
1: Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon
Portland's first false alarm control ordinance was developed in 1975. Having
topped 5,000 alarms in one year, the cities in Multnomah County, the county
where Portland is located, decided to enact similar ordinances that the sheriff's of-
fice would administer centrally. The ordinances required alarm owners to obtain
permits, and at certain intervals they levied fines against owners who had multiple
false alarms. (At the fourth false alarm in a year, a $40 fine was levied; at the
eighth, $100; at the twelfth, $180). The ordinances did not call for any notificationof an owner when the police responded to a false alarm, so many owners were notaware of their false alarms until fine notices were received. The rate of falsealarms continued to increase steadily.
The number of alarms reached a peak in 1989, at 34,848. At that point, the ordinances was updated, and the fine at four false alarms increased to $50, withfalse alarms five through nine free. At 10 false alarms, the fine was $100 for eachfalse alarm. This brought about a slight decline in the number of false alarms in1989, the first year that the number of false alarms did not increase at the samerate as the number of permits.
But this slight decrease did not satisfy Portland. In 1990 and 1991, a mayor's committee met to address the alarm issue. The committee's report calledfor the appointment of an alarm outreach officer, whose duty it was to notify alarmusers of the problem of false alarms and to administer the ordinance. The officer'sefforts were to be financed by an increase in the permit fee. The report also calledfor a tougher stance on fines, beginning fines on the second false alarm. On thesixth false alarm, the committee recommended suspension of police response.
The Multnomah County Alarm Task Force sent each city in the county an ordinance that implemented the recommendations. The Portland Police Bureau ap-pointed an alarm outreach officer in 1990 and passed a new, tougher, ordinance,using the committee's recommendations, in 1991.
The alarm outreach program used numerous methods to make the public aware of the false alarm problem and attempted to reduce false alarms at the user'slevel. Being mainly caused by user error and equipment malfunction, many falsealarms could be eliminated through education and community awareness. The out-reach officer mailed brochures to all new alarm users, along with an eight-minutevideo (Target Zero: Preventing False Alarms) detailing false alarm reductionmethods. Also made available were brochures on selecting the right system for aprospective buyer's needs. Officers were required to attach a FANS (false alarmnotification sticker) on the front door of the premises where they had responded toa false alarm. After police began to use the stickers, the number of false alarms de-creased 20 percent.
The increase in public awareness, along with stiffer penalties, drastically reduced the number of false alarms. From 1989 to 1990, false alarms decreasedfrom 34,848 to 32,572. In 1991, they decreased to 24,692, and in 1992 the numberof false alarms was 21,401. These decreases came even though the number ofpermits had increased from 32,502 in 1989 to 36,663 in 1992. Since 1988 therehas been a 26 percent increase in the number of permits but a 36 percent decreasein the number of false alarms. Portland's approach shows the remarkable effect ofa strict law combined with an active public awareness campaign.
CONTACT: Alarm Information Officer Robert F. Tilley, (503) 823-0487.
2: Uwchlan Township, Pennsylvania
In 1984, due to the increase in false alarms over the preceding few years, the
Uwchlan Township Police Department began to leave an alarm card at the site of
every false alarm to which it responded. This notification card stated the date,
time, and reason for the activation. One copy of the card was left at the site of the
alarm, and one was mailed to the alarm dealer. The card was to notify those who
were having false alarms of the problem and to show the alarm companies which
systems were the most effective and which were the least reliable. This simple no-
tification brought about a decrease in false alarms in the township. From 790 in
1983, the number decreased to 746 in 1984, to a low of 469 total alarm calls (false
and actual) in 1987. Meanwhile, it is estimated, the number of alarm users was in-
creasing at a rate of about 10 percent a year.
In 1988, the township enacted an ordinance designed to keep track of false alarms and administer fees to multiple offenders. Interestingly, 1989 and 1990 sawthe first increases in five years in the number of alarm calls. In 1989 the increasewas attributed to one alarm user with an inordinate number of alarms. In 1990, de-spite a 19 percent increase in the number of alarm users, the number of falsealarms rose only 10 percent. The township was happy with this slight increase, andthe number of false alarms began to decline again in 1991, to 598. Even with theincreases in the number of alarm users since 1984, when the notification programwas started, the number of false alarms has never returned to its peak level of 746.
Uwchlan Township's ordinance is unique in the high number of alarms al- lowed before a fine is incurred. The township allows two false activations amonth, with the third and fourth in a month incurring a $50 fine, and any over fourincurring a $100 fine. At the end of the month the user starts over again at zeroand is allowed two free false activations. This schedule is lenient compared tomost ordinances reviewed, but it has been effective. Lieutenant J. Patrick Davis ofthe Uwchlan Township Police Department says the ordinance is not intended to bea punishment; instead, it is designed to keep alarm systems updated and to makeusers aware if they are having a false alarm problem.
This focus on awareness, on letting users know about the problem, not nec- essarily punishing them, has been very effective. Uwchlan Township has decidedto work with the community to stop false alarms through cooperation and aware-ness. The township still receives false alarms, but their number has become man-ageable and is expected to continue to decline in the years ahead.
CONTACT: Lieutenant J. Patrick Davis, (215) 363-6947.
3: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
In 1981 the city of Calgary enacted a by-law (ordinance) to regulate alarm sys-
tems. The law required simply that all alarm systems adhere to standards set by the
chief of police. In 1984, the law was amended to require that persons monitoring
an alarm system call the premises of the alarm if it was set off during business
hours, so the police would not be summoned if it was false. The amended by-lawalso gave the police chief power to revoke an alarm permit if the user violated anypart of the by-law. Even so, the number of alarms increased steadily.
In 1991, the number of false alarms in Calgary reached a high of 16,653.
This reflected a continual and steady growth from 11,504 in 1983. Something hadto be done. Early in 1992, the police department notified alarm industry represen-tatives that false alarms were "out of control," and the department changed dis-patch priority so that any alarm not verified as a crime in progress was treated as anonemergency call.
In October 1992, the alarm by-law was amended, becoming much stricter— and much more effective. The chief was now allowed to revoke permits if thealarm system activated excessive false alarms, defined as three or more in a 12-month period. This revocation would last for six months after the last false alarm.
In 1992, there was a 23 percent reduction in the number of false dispatches,compared with a 27 percent increase in alarm installations.
The alarm companies worked with the police department to devise a more formal alarm verification procedure, which the police adopted as policy. Duringthe times when the risk of break-in or criminal activation of the alarm system islowest (from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm), alarm companies must perform telephoneverification before calling the police. This procedure was adopted in March 1993.
The city of Calgary has continued to see progress. The Calgary police re- port that the number of false alarms for 1993 is down considerably, with a pro-jected growth in the number of users of about 20 percent.
The public sector's by-laws and strict fines curbed some of the false alarms, and the cooperation of the alarm companies in developing verification proceduresreduced the problem even more.
Note: Calgary's by-law is based closely on CANASA's model by-law, which is reproduced in the appendix.
CONTACT: Constable Brian Adams, (403) 268-8399.
Local Ordinances
The following table of local false alarm ordinances reveals a range of ordinance
features. The cities are arranged in descending order of population so that readers
may quickly learn what has been done in cities similar in size to their own. The
number of "free" false alarms allowed per year ranges from one to six, and fines
range from zero to $200. In some cities, nonresponse begins when the chief of po-
lice decides it will, according to each case; in other cities, police stop responding
after the second to eighth false alarm. Comments received about the success of the
ordinances range from "very effective" to "not effective."
Among the notable ordinances are those of• Phoenix, which provides for fines to be waived if the user takes correc-tive action Seattle, which requires a report of cause for each false alarm Las Vegas, which provides no police response to burglar alarms untilthe need for police has been verified by an eyewitness High Point, N.C., which waives fines for false alarms that are proven tobe the result of mechanical or electronic malfunction Number of "free"
false alarms
3 in registration year 7th--revocation of Not very effective until (metro area--4.8 million) enforced heavily, then steadydrop in false alarms.
2 in calendar year * Fee can be $200 per day (metro area--3.8 million) until evidence is shown that problem has been remedied.
6th and up--$200 perday* Toronto, Ontario, Can-
2 alarms within 365 4th--response sus- Deployment cost savings: days--user receives cau- pended for 365 days 11 million man-hours and (metro area--3 million) tion notice.
$56 million. Despite 10% 3 alarms allowed within growth in alarm industry, alarm calls have been re-duced by 370,000 incidents.
Atlanta, Ga.
3 in calendar year False alarms have leveled at (metro area--2.8 million) about 3,000 per month.
Collection rate is about 41%.
Weakness identified as "lackof enforcement." Baltimore, Md. (city)
$30 each over limit (metro area--2.4 million) 3 in 365-day period 4th and above--report Have seen a 30% drop in (metro area--2.1 million) 2nd--notification by required within 20 false alarms in past year.
days regarding causeof alarm. Fine may bewaived if there is validreason for false alarmand user takes correc-tive action.
Fines:4th to 9th--$55 each10th to 14th--$100each15th and up--$200each Police chief allowed Has been effective. Alarm (metro area--2.1 million) to declare "no re- companies have seen a drop sponse" to repeat in false alarms.
false alarm offenders.
A Sample (ctd.)
Number of "free"
false alarms
$125 per alarm over 2 No response after 6 Police can order disconnec- (metro area: 2 million) A user's report of cause tion of alarm if recom- required by police for mended action not taken.
each false alarm.
Miami, Fla.
6th to 8th--$25 each Permit revoked at 9.
Have seen increase in (metro area--1.9 million) Fee for reinstatement: alarms, but reduction in repeat offenders.
11--$10013--$25016--$35020 and each thereaf-ter- $500Written notice fromalarm company say-ing alarm is workingrequired for rein-statement.
San Francisco, Calif.
Deemed effective.
(metro area--1.6 million) Police required to notify user of each false alarm.
2 in calendar year 3rd and up--$50 or 2 Has been very effective due (metro area--1.4 million) to cooperation of police andalarm companies.
Very effective. Case study (metro area--1.24 million) gives statistics.
Response stops after Highly effective.
2nd. Owner can ap-ply to sheriff forreinstatement.
After 6th, no re-sponse without ap-proval of sheriff.
4 in calendar year 5th and up--$25 each Police may revoke (metro area--900,000) permit if user doesnot report reason forfalse alarm within 15days of notification ofalarms over 4.
A Sample (ctd.)
Number of "free"
false alarms
Fairfax County, Va.
Experienced 3.98% drop in alarm calls the year after adoption of the ordinance.
6th--$1007th--$125each over 7--$150 3 in calendar year fee to be determined Ordinance currently (8/93) for alarms over 3 being modified to become stricter. Had considered a"900" number to chargealarm companies for allcalls.
Las Vegas, Nev.
No response until Have seen drop to nearly (metro area--750,000) alarm company sends zero, due to private response employees and calls with valid reason.
Tulsa, Okla.
inspection required for deemed "not effective" due to each false alarm over lack of enforcement--seen as those allowed; false a low priority in court alarms without in-spection--$100 Calgary, Alberta, Can-
Have seen about a 30% drop in alarms in past year. Fig- ures for 1993 are "even morepromising." Pierce County, Wash.
3 to 5 false alarms-- Revocation of permit New ordinance, based on after 6 false alarms in Tacoma's ordinance, which a 12 months.
has been highly effective.
Contact says ordinance "not after 3 false alarms.
followed up on." City stopsresponse only for chronicoffenders. "I don't see howyou can stop a public serv-ice." 2 in 180 days--warnings Enacted May 10, 1993. Have already sensed increasedawareness in community.
4 in 12 months; police Ticket for each over 4; notice regarding each $50 citation.
High Point, N.C.
2 in 12 months with Effective according to con- warning after each. Any Waivable if proved to alarm within 7 days of be mechanical or elec- installation is not consid- tronic malfunction.
A Sample (ctd.)
Number of "free"
false alarms
West Hartford, Conn.
6 in calendar year; 7th and above--$40 Highly effective due to en- notices sent after 3rd and order disconnection of system if ordi-nance is disobeyed.
Pinellas Park, Fla.
5th--$1006th--$1507th--$2008th and up--$250 3 in calendar yr.
Have seen steady decline in false alarms and fines since implementing fee structure.
10th and up--$100 1 in calendar year with a Permit may be re- Very effective.
voked after 4.
5 in calendar year Over 6 alarms, chief Seems to be effective. Have may revoke license.
seen decline in businessalarms.
Uwchlan Township, Pa.
1st and 2nd in a month; 4th--permit may be Successful--statistics in case Ordinance Numbers
Addresses for Copies of and More Information on Alarm Ordinances

Atlanta, Ga.
Fairfax County, Va.
Atlanta Code of Ordinances, Chapter 2, Fairfax County Code: Chapter 8. Secu- Part 11, Section 11-2007 Burglar rity Alarm Systems, Article 3 Lt. William Brown Fairfax County Police Department Atlanta Police Department 10600 Page Avenue 175 Decatur Sreet Fairfax, VA 22030 Atlanta, GA 30335 Greensboro Code, Article II, Sec. 18-26 Department enforces state law: Anno- tated Code of Maryland, Article 27,Section 156 (A)-(D) Phyllis DurhamGreensboro Police Department Baltimore Police Department 300 W. Washington Street Public Affairs Division Greensboro, NC 27402 Baltimore, MD 21202 High Point, N.C.
High Point Code of Ordinances, Title 5, Ordinance Number 86-266 Chapter 1, Article F: Burglary andRobbery Alarms Birmingham Police/False Alarms Capt. David Mikesell 710 20th Street N.
City of High Point Police Department Birmingham, AL 35203 P.O. Box 230High Point, NC 27261 Boston, Mass.
City of Boston Code Ordinances, Chap-
Las Vegas, Nev.
ter XI, Section 11-2 Las Vegas Code Chapter 6.18, BurglarAlarm Services, and Chapter 6.76, Boston Police Department Burglar Alarm Systems Room 309154 Berkeley Street Las Vegas Metropolitan Police De- partment400 E. Stewart Avenue Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Las Vegas, NV 89101-2984 By-Law Number 40M81, with amend-ments 50M84 and 49M92 Lexington, Ky.
Lexington-Fayette County Code, Chap-
Calgary Police Service 133 6th Avenue S.E.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 4Z1 Lexington-Fayette Urban CountyDivision of Police Dover, N.H.
150 East Main St.
Dover Code, 58-11 Lexington, KY 40507 Dover Police Department Memphis Code, Police, Article VI, Po- Dover, NH 03829-3783 lice Emergency Alarm System Alarm Coordinator City of Philadelphia Police Department Memphis Police Department Franklin Square, Room 212, P.A.B.
201 Poplar, Room 1-11 Information Systems Division Memphis, TN 38103 Philadelphia, PA 19106 Miami, Fla.
Miami City Code, Chapter 3.5, Alarm City Code: Article IX. Alarm Systems Systems, Article II Patricia Rohrbacher Alarm Unit Supervisor Alarm Section Coordinator Miami Police Department 620 W. Washington 142 Alarm Ordinance Unit Phoenix, AZ 85053 400 N.W. 2nd AvenueP.O. Box 016777 Pierce County, Wash.
Pierce County Code: Chapter 8.64.
Alarm Systems Milwaukee, Wisc.
Milwaukee City Code, Sections 105-73
Pierce County Sheriff's Department5504 112th Street S.W.
Police Alarm Officer Milwaukee Police Department749 W. State Street Pinellas Park, Fla.
Milwaukee, WI 53201 City of Pinellas Park Code, Section 16-113, Alarm Systems - False Alarms Montgomery County, Md.
Bill 2-92 Concerning Alarms, amend-
Pinellas Park Police Department ing Montgomery County Code, Chapter 3A, Alarms, and Executive Regulation Pinellas Park, FL 34665 regarding alarm businesses and users Montgomery County Police Portland City Code, Title 14, Chapter Officer Tom Koffman Management and Budget Division2350 Research Boulevard Portland Police Bureau Rockville, MD 20850 Alarm Information Officer1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue Portland, OR 97204 Oakland Municipal Code, Chapter 5,Article 21, Burglar Alarm Systems Richmond, Va.
Richmond City Code, Chapter 11, Ar-
Officer Ed Engberg ticle II-A, Fire and Burglar Alarm Sys- Oakland Police Department 455 7th StreetOakland, CA 94607 Department of Emergency Communi-cations 501 North 9th Street, B-21 Philadelphia Code, Section 9-305, Richmond, VA 23219 Burglary, Theft, and Robbery AlarmSystems San Francisco, Calif.
San Francisco Police Code, Article 37,
Police Emergency Alarm Ordinance
Alarm Ordinance Unit Tulsa, Okla.
San Francisco Police Department Tulsa Code, Title 27, Chapter 26, False 850 Bryant Street San Francisco, CA 94103 Tulsa Police Department Seattle Municipal Code 10.08.170 and Uwchlan Township, Pa.
Seattle Police Department Uwchlan Township Ordinance Number 610 Third AvenueSeattle WA 98104-1886 Uwchlan Township Police Department717 N. Ship Road Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Police Alarm Response ProgramBy-Law 04-07, Alarms, under "General West Hartford, Conn.
West Hartford Code, Sections 44-1 to44-13 Metropolitan Toronto Police40 College Street West Hartford Police Department Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 2J3 103 Raymond RoadWest Hartford, CT 06107 Tredyffrin Township, Pa.
Tredyffrin Township Ordinance HR-99,
Burglar and Fire Alarm Ordinance Windsor Code, Article II Tredyffrin Township Police Windsor Police Department 973 Old Lancaster Road 340 Bloomfield Avenue Windsor, CT 06095 A examination of appeals cases in all state courts plus the federal court systemhighlighted several false alarm issues that recur in lawsuits but that have appar-ently not been decided definitively. Some of the issues are directly on point forpersons involved in the details of solving the false alarm problem. Other issues arerelevant in that they illustrate the importance of finding a solution to that problem.
The issues are as follows:• false alarm ordinances—clearly written?—fair?—who pays fines? false alarm as proximate cause of injury general consequences of false alarms Although a few of the following lawsuits involve fire and holdup alarms, the issues raised may nevertheless prove instructive to persons attempting to re-duce false burglar alarms.
False alarm ordinances
Ordinances that require alarm permits and set fines for excessive false alarms are a
common means of controlling the incidence of false alarms. However, such ordi-
nances do not always go unchallenged. Two cases, one in New York and one in
Illinois, adjudicated the question of whether particular false alarm ordinances were
legal. In both cases, the ordinances were held to be illegal.
In New York v. Cortlandt Medical Building Associates, 582 N.Y.S.2d 640 (1992), a commercial alarm user refused to pay $300 worth of fines it had accruedfor false alarms. The user's objection was that the law imposing the fines violatedthe user's right to due process by making no provision for the user to have a hear-ing to determine whether the alarms were in fact false. The user also claimed thelaw's higher fines for commercial alarm users than for residential users violated theequal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions. The court agreed onboth points and effectively threw out the law.
Queenwood East Sheltered Care Home, Ltd. v. Village of Morton, 418 N.E.2d 472 (Ill. App. Ct. 1981), examined the validity of an ordinance adopted bythe board of trustees of Morton, Illinois. The commercial alarm user claimed thatthe ordinance itself was beyond the powers of the village and that the ordinance violated constitutional due process rights. The court held that the ordinance wasbeyond the powers of the village on the grounds that: ".the power to regulate canexist only when the object of regulation is mandated by a specific ordinance." Thatis, since alarms were not required by any ordinance, no ordinance could regulatethem.
The court also found the ordinance too vague to pass constitutional muster: "In the instant case the experts for each side could not agree when the ionizationdetector was 'in proper working condition.' One said that the presence of an insectwhich triggered the device indicated proper working order. The other maintainedthat anything which triggered it other than smoke or fire indicated improperworking order. If the experts cannot agree, it is beyond comprehension that theordinary citizen, who may understand the working of an ordinary householdtoaster, could be placed under quasicriminal penalties for failing to understand theworking of an ionization fire detector." Therefore, the court held that the provisionin the ordinance that required systems to be in proper working condition was toovague to enforce.
Three other cases examine the question of who must pay false alarm fines under specific ordinances. Plainview Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. AFA ProtectiveSystems, Inc., 489 N.Y.S.2d 587 (N.Y. App. Div. 1985), acknowledged the diffi-culty of determining who must pay false alarm fines (the alarm user or the centralstation) because of the way the governing ordinance was written and held that thequestion was so unclear that it must be left to the jury.
Armored Services, Inc. v. City of Wichita, 804 P.2d 987 (Kan. 1991), exam- ined several provisions of the local alarm ordinance. Among other provisions, theordinance fines the central station for false alarms unless the central station canprove that the alarms were caused by users; that is, the central station is presumedto be liable for the fine unless it can prove otherwise. The court upheld that provi-sion.
City of Medford v. Herbison, 645 P.2d 563 (Ore. Ct. App. 1982), shows how complicated the assignment of responsibility for false alarm fines can be-come. An alarm company had installed a burglar alarm panel in the local policestation's dispatch center. The panel displayed 150 lights, which were connectedthrough leased telephone lines to private burglar alarms throughout the city. Whenone of those alarms was activated, a light on the panel would blink, and the policewould investigate the scene. The fact that other alarm companies had purchasedthe use of many of the 150 lights raised the question of who was liable for falsealarm fines: the company that installed the display board or the users of the indi-vidual lights. As in Plainview Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc., the issue was deemedcomplex enough that it was referred to a jury.
False alarm as proximate cause of injury
The cases above are complicated enough, but the next set of cases shows how false
alarms can cause serious trouble and exact high human and financial costs. When
an alarm is activated, one result is that people on-site may have to evacuate a
building; another result is that police or fire fighters may race across town. Both
results can lead to personal injury. When the alarm in question turns out to be
false, injured parties often feel they were unnecessarily placed in jeopardy. Five
cases discovered in this research show a range of decisions as to who, if anyone,
must pay damages.
In Vicknair v. Hibernia Building Corp., 468 So.2d 695 (La. Ct. app. 1985), a woman seven to eight months pregnant was forced to descend 21 flights of stairsin response to a false fire alarm. The false alarm was caused during some renova-tion work being done in the building. As a result, the mother went into prematurelabor and delivered a son who was cyanotic (lacking sufficient oxygen in theblood) and required resuscitation. The child has since contracted an abnormallyhigh number of respiratory illnesses related to the premature birth and resultantlung immaturity. Although a legal technicality later raised the question of exactlywho—the building owner or the company performing the renovations—was liable,at trial the jury awarded the family damages of $60,980.
In two other cases regarding injuries that followed false alarm activations, the alarm was held not to have been the proximate cause of the accident. In Fordv. Peaches Entertainment Corp., 349 S.E.2d 82 (N.C. Ct. App. 1986), an em-ployee of the alarm user caused an alarm to sound at the fire department when hetested a sprinkler system. On the way to the user's place of business, a fire truckcollided with a car, injuring the car's driver. That driver's lawsuit was dismissed onthe grounds that the defendants' negligence in activating the alarm was not aproximate cause of his injury: "[i]t is not reasonably foreseeable that in the eventof a false alarm a fire truck will cause an accident in responding to the alarm." Another case, Western Stone & Metal Corp. v. Jones, 348 S.E.2d 478 (Ga.
Ct. App. 1986), reaches a similar finding. A false silent alarm sounded; the secur-ity agency notified police; and two vehicles were dispatched. As the police vehi-cles were traveling to the scene, a 73-year-old woman was crossing the street. Thepolice cars approached, the pedestrian was startled, and in stepping backward toavoid being hit, she injured her right hip. The injured woman contended that thealarm user was negligent in one of several ways: negligently setting off the alarm;negligently maintaining the alarm system; failing to discover that the alarm hadbeen activated; or failing to notify authorities not to respond to the alarm.
At trial, the pedestrian was awarded $100,000, to be paid by the alarm user and the city government. The city government's liability was limited by statute to$1,000, and it therefore did not bother to appeal the decision. The alarm user,however, did appeal. The appellate judge quoted another case, Southern Bell Tel.
&c. Co. v. Dolce
, 342 S.E.2d 497 (Ga. 1986): "A prior and remote cause cannot be made the basis of an action if such remote cause did nothing more than furnish thecondition or give rise to the occasion by which the injury was made possible, ifthere intervened between such prior or remote causes and the injury a distinct,successive, unrelated, efficient cause of the injury. If no danger existed in thecondition except because of the independent cause, such condition was not theproximate cause." The judge in Western Stone & Metal Corp. held that that wasthe situation in the present case and reversed the trial court's judgment.
In Horn v. Urban Inv. and Dev. Co., 519 N.E.2d 489 (Ill. App. Ct. 1988), a fireman slipped and fell while investigating an apparent false alarm at a retailclothing store. Both at the trial court level and on appeal his suit to recover dam-ages from the building owner was summarily dismissed. The court noted that"while the possessor of land has a duty of reasonable care to a business invitee,that duty does not extend to obvious dangers the invitee would be expected to dis-cover and to avoid by his own efforts." A different sort of case is Duncan v. Rzonca, 478 N.E.2d 603 (Ill. App. Ct.
1985). In that complex and rather painful case, a police officer responding to abank's robbery alarm was forced to swerve his squad car to avoid a collision withanother vehicle. The officer's car struck a telephone pole, and the officer was in-jured. The alarm, a false one, allegedly was activated by the three-year-old son ofa patron at the bank. Moreover, in the preceding four months, six false alarms hadoriginated from the bank, at least one of which was alleged to have been activatedby the same child.
On the day in question, the child's mother had been advised to keep her son away from the back of an employee desk where an alarm button, exposed andfacing outward, was located in the corner of the desk's knee-space. The childnevertheless walked to the back of the desk, but was requested to leave that areaby a bank employee. The child did so but then allegedly returned and pushed thealarm button.
The injured police officer sued for damages; the case was dismissed by a trial court, but he appealed. The appeals court wrestled with the question of whomight be at fault—the bank, the mother, the child, or the civilian driver involved inthe crash. The judge wrote, "Admittedly, it is quite foreseeable that a police officerresponding to an emergency situation of any type presents an inherent risk ofharm. However, the societal and policy considerations which require that that riskof harm be borne, albeit regretfully, in order to advance the protection of societyand its property as a whole cannot similarly require that the burden of that risk beborne when no purpose is served thereby, and when the need to undertake the riskcould have been avoided by the exercise of due care." He added, "The risk be-comes socially intolerable and unreasonable when no social need for it exists, par-ticularly when the means of guarding against the risk are eminently available andeasily accomplished." The trial court's decision to throw out the police officer's claim was over- turned. The appeals judge held that the bank's negligence in allowing the falsealarm could properly be viewed as a proximate cause of the officer's injury; hence,the decision had to be made by a jury.
General consequences of high incidence of false alarms
A particular false alarm may have particular consequences, but the entire wave of
false alarms has its own consequences. One consequence is its effect on alarm
companies. In Douglas W. Randall, Inc. v. AFA Protective Sys., Inc., 516 F. Supp.
1122 (E.D. Pa. 1981), a jury awarded $14,330 in damages to a jeweler whose
leased alarm system, which used ultrasonic sensors, did not signal an alarm even
when the entire front window of the jewelry store was smashed. Why did the sys-
tem not work? And why did the jeweler prevail against the alarm company despite
the exculpatory clause in the service contract, which limited the alarm company's
liability to 10 percent of the service charge or $250?
The answer flows from "evidence in the record from which the jury could conclude that the defendant's employees had turned down the sensitivity of theburglar alarm to a point where it would not detect the entry of a person into theplaintiff's store." Why did the alarm company turn down the sensitivity of the sys-tem so drastically? The judge's opinion states that "the alarm system triggeredmany false alarms during the hours that the plaintiff's store was closed. [Therefore,an] employee of the defendant came to the plaintiff's store.and adjusted the alarmsystem in such a manner that the false alarms ceased." In other words, false alarmswere such a nuisance, even to the alarm company, that the alarm company effec-tively killed the system to stop false alarms. The contract's exculpatory clause wasdeemed invalid because of the alarm company's "gross negligence" (which is le-gally distinct from and beyond mere negligence).
A second consequence of the wave of false alarms affects the police. As police chiefs have often pointed out, false alarms raise the danger of complacencyin police officers. In re Checkmate Stereo and Elec., Inc., 9 Bankr. 585 (1981), isa bankruptcy proceeding, part of which revolves around a store burglary: "The po-lice surmise that the thieves, after gaining entry to the store through breaking theplate glass door which set off the alarm, closed the steel gate behind them, leadingthe police to believe the alarm to have been a false one. When the police returnedabout 20 to 25 minutes later, the gate was up and the burglars gone. The intruderscould not have removed anything while the steel door was down; they had to act inthe 20 minutes." The question arises, would the police have assumed the alarmwas false if false alarms were rare? Interestingly, that case also points to the potential benefit of private re- sponse, as discussed in Section 5. A private responder with keys could have inves-tigated the interior of the store. However, would private responders have been toomuch endangered by surprising burglars in the act? Conclusion
Because ordinances, injuries, burglaries, and police response are primarily local
phenomena, the cases discussed in this section cannot serve as a road map for any
particular reader. Some ordinances withstand lawsuits; others do not. Likewise,
judges and juries reach different conclusions in different courts across the country.
Nevertheless, the cases point out several matters to consider—in particular, several
areas of possible challenge—in any false alarm reduction plan:
Regarding false alarm ordinances• Is the false alarm ordinance suitably specific? Is the ordinance within the powers of the government body that draftsit? Does the ordinance give offenders adequate opportunity for hearing? Is it fair, desirable, and legal to charge business users higher fines forfalse alarms than residential users? Who exactly must pay the fines? Regarding the importance of reducing false alarms• Is the alarm user, alarm company, police department, or other partylikely to be sued after a person is injured—one way or another—follow-ing a false alarm? Is the desire to avoid false alarms causing alarm companies occasionallyto reduce the sensitivity of alarms too much? How does that, or the per-ception that that might occur, affect users' desire for alarm systems? What are the consequences of excessive false alarms on the thorough-ness of police response? What benefits and risks are raised by private response to alarm calls? Private response to alarm signals has been proposed as a way to reduce the numberof times police must respond to false alarm calls. The use of private security offi-cers to respond to burglar alarms provides a different, and in some ways superior,quality of response as well. But like every other proposed solution to the falsealarm question, private response has costs and benefits, detractors and supporters.
Private response is as old as the alarm industry. Some police ask why they must respond to alarms at all; they view alarm security as a contractual arrange-ment between alarm companies and their subscribers—something distinct from acitizen request for police assistance. Also, because of fiscal restraints, many lawenforcement executives are looking for tasks to shed. Alarm response may becomea service the police can no longer provide, especially in major cities.
This section looks at the issues involved in private alarm response and pre- sents case studies of communities that have used it with varying degrees of suc-cess.
Seven issues central to private alarm response are as follows: the underlying reason that drives a community's use of private responders instead of the police,speed of response, quality of response, cost of response, effectiveness at reducingfalse alarm dispatches for police, effects on alarm users, and the police perspec-tive.
Reason for private response. Businesses at high risk for burglary are
often required by their insurers to subscribe to a UL-listed central station, which isrequired by UL to provide private response to alarms it receives.
Another reason for private response is a desire for a more visible burglary deterrent. A neighborhood association that wishes to increase the security of itsneighborhood can contract with a security company to provide as many roving pa-trols as the association can afford. Those patrols—already in the neighborhood—can be dispatched by a radio message from a central station and reach the alarmsite in seconds.
A third reason for using private response is to avoid false alarm fines. In cities where false alarm fines or penalties are harsh, users may contract with pri-vate responders in order to avoid those fines or penalties—and to make sure theirnumber of false alarm calls to the police does not reach the point where police de-cide not to respond.
A fourth reason for private response is absolute necessity. In some cities, police simply will not respond to an alarm call unless it has been verified with avisit to the site. In that case, unless alarm users want to respond to alarms them-selves, the only alternative is to have a private responder come to the scene. If agenuine need for the police is found, the police are called then.
Speed of response. In a small, dense neighborhood with roving security
patrols, private responders are almost certain to respond faster than the police. In alarge, spread-out city, private responders may take longer than police because asecurity company may not have as many cars on the road as the police do. Ensur-ing a reasonable response time costs money, so speed of response also depends onthe quality of security company being used.
Quality of response. Users of private response services cite a wide range
in the quality of response. A first-class security company may screen applicantscarefully, train its officers for hundreds of hours, pay them well, and provide top-notch equipment. Other companies may not. One alarm company owner who con-tracts with a private response company for his alarm customers complains, "These[security officers] get about $6 an hour. Do you want these guys—armed—comingto your door?" The quality of response from private responders may be higher than that from the police when private responders have keys to the premises, as they can in-vestigate the premises inside and out. Also, they may have more time to spendlooking for less obvious signs of attempted entry.
Cost of response. Fees for private response vary, but they run in the vi-
cinity of a dollar a day per site. Proponents of private response note that the exper-tise required to respond to burglar alarms is much cheaper to provide than the ex-pertise of a full-fledged police officer. Therefore, using security officers instead ofpolice officers for a first line of response is cost-effective. Of course, for the user,private response is always more expensive than free police service, at least untilfalse alarm fines mount up.
Effectiveness at reducing false alarm dispatches for police. Does private
response reduce false alarm dispatches for police? The answer is: That depends.
Most private response companies contacted call the police at the same time as theydispatch their security officers.
In some cases, there may be no compelling reason to have called the police.
In other cases, private responders are simply complying with various standards.
For example, UL-listed central stations must send either two security officers orone security officer and the police—and to keep their costs down, they oftenchoose the second option. In that case, clearly no false alarm dispatch for the po-lice is avoided. But some security company owners point out that an ordinance re-quiring that all alarms be verified in person before police are called would forceUL-listed response companies to send two security officers to an alarm site (and force others to send at least one security officer), thereby greatly reducing falsealarm dispatches.
Logically, if police are called every time private responders head out to an alarm site, no false alarm calls are being avoided—unless, as is sometimes thecase, the private responders arrive first, see there is no need for the police, and tellthe police it was a false alarm.
However, even if the police do arrive at the scene, if they have a good rela- tionship with the private responder, they may be able to rely on the responder'sfindings and spend much less time on-site. One police officer observes, "We oftenstill go [after being told by a private responder that there's no burglar] but justcheck in and see that the security officers have secured the situation." Therefore,even when private response does not eliminate false police calls, it may reduce thetime police spend on their response.
Of course, in situations where private responders first visit an alarm site, then call the police only if necessary, the effect on false alarm dispatches for po-lice is significant: there are no false dispatches. Sometimes private responders re-frain from calling the police because of police policy or local ordinance; othertimes they leave the police alone because they can tell from the type of alarm sig-nal received (trouble with the system rather than intrusion) that the police are notneeded.
Effects on alarm users. When private response is done well, alarm users
benefit. When it's done poorly, users suffer. Therefore, the effect of private re-sponse on alarm users is primarily a question of the quality of service that usersare willing or able to pay for.
A side effect of poor-quality, slow private response, however, especially in areas where police do not respond to alarm calls, is that alarm users begin to won-der why they should bother having alarms at all. And certainly, slow response—whether from private responders or the police—undermines the deterrent andapprehension value of alarms.
Police perspective. Some police are uncomfortable with having someone
else—private responders, possibly armed—roaming around an alarm site they aretrying to investigate. Others are pleased to have someone else take on the chore ofresponding to alarms. Given that 95 percent to 98 percent of all alarm calls may befalse, one police department alarm specialist asks, what's the actual amount of riskin sending security officers simply to check out a site to see whether police areneeded? Case Studies
1: Santa Monica, California
According to the president of the Santa Monica Protective Association, the Santa
Monica Police Department does excellent work. However, the department is busy,
and after a burglar murdered two neighborhood schoolchildren who accidentally
walked in on him, the association decided to establish an especially high securityvisibility in its upscale neighborhood.
The 12-year-old association collects dues from its members and currently contracts with Westec Security to provide armed patrol services. Because the 890members do not comprise all the homeowners in the neighborhood, and becausenot all homeowners have alarm systems, the protection level at each home variesfrom having only the general deterrent value of the patrol cars, to having also analarm system plus police response, to having also response from a Westec "pool"car (not assigned to that neighborhood specifically), to having response directlyfrom the security patrol cars in the neighborhood.
The association president reports that alarm response time from a Westec car patrolling the neighborhood is 90 seconds or less. (He says he tests the re-sponse time regularly.) He reports that alarm response time from a Westec "pool"car is about five minutes. For comparison, the police department reports its alarmresponse time as ranging from a couple of minutes if a car is nearby to as much asan hour, for an average of about 15 minutes.
The association contracts for three patrol cars from 8:00 am to midnight and two cars from midnight to 8:00 am. It is considering adding more cars.
When an alarm rings at Westec, the company first calls the police, then dis- patches its security officers. The security officers, who usually arrive first, investi-gate the alarm. If the police are not needed, the security officers pass that messageto the police, who can then decide whether to come or not.
According to the police, if there is trouble, the security company does a good job of containing the situation and waiting for the police to arrive and makethe arrest. "That's an asset to the city," a police spokesman says.
The police department is generally comfortable with accepting dispatch cancellations from Westec dispatchers: "They do save us some runs. To cancel adispatch, they give us the alarm number. If we have any concerns, we call themback." The association president reports being very pleased with the situation overall.
CONTACTS: Santa Monica Protective Association, phone (310) 395-7633. SantaMonica Police Department, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; phone(310) 458-8418. Westec Security, Inc., 100 Bayview Circle, Suite 1000, NewportBeach, CA 92660; phone (714) 951-1806.
2: Las Vegas, Nevada
It is the policy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department not to respond to
unverified commercial or residential burglar alarms. Therefore, alarm users must
use private alarm response, and the false alarm problem for the police is insignifi-
cant. However, an alarm company owner whose company monitors 4,000 alarms
in Las Vegas apartment complexes reports that his customers receive basically noresponse to their alarms—he says the quality of private response service he hasbeen able to obtain for his customers is that poor. He adds that some high-incomeareas of the city have obtained better private response at a higher cost.
The manager of Cypress Springs Apartments in Las Vegas complains it often takes an hour or two for the private response company to send security offi-cers to investigate an alarm at her 144-unit garden apartment complex. The proce-dure is that when an alarm is activated (every apartment is alarmed), the signal istransmitted to the central station (Network Multifamily Security), which calls theprivate security company with which it contracts. Security officers travel to andinvestigate the alarm site and then call the police only if they are needed. Theapartment manager and the alarm company president, like others who receive slowalarm response, find the situation frustrating. However, the apartment manager re-ports that in three years the security officers have never actually had to call thepolice. Therefore, while having to rely on private response seems a hardship tosome, it is hard to pinpoint the harm if no police response has actually beenneeded anyway.
CONTACTS: Cypress Springs Apartments, 4001 E. Bonanza, Las Vegas, NV89110; phone (702) 459-3193. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, 400 E.
Stewart Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89101; phone (702) 795-3111. Network Multi-family Security, 14275 Midway Road, Suite 350, Dallas, TX 75244; phone (214)490-9902.
A few other companies that provide private alarm response are Commonwealth Security Systems, Inc., 3040 Industry Drive, Lancaster,PA 17604; phone (717) 394-3781 Mutual Central Alarm Services, 10 W. 46th Street, New York, NY10036; phone (212) 768-0808.
Vector Security, 3400 McKnight East Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15237;phone (412) 931-5160.
Listed below are organizations, publications, articles, and other resources relevantto persons seeking to reduce false alarms.
Daughtry, Sylvester, Jr. "False Alarm Reduction: A Priority for Law Enforce- ment," The Police Chief, January 1993, p. 14.
Dysart, Joseph. "Getting a Handle on the False Alarm Problem," Security Dealer, August 1991, p. 64.
Fague, Anthony. "False Alarms: What Can Be Done?" Security News, August Kirschenbaum, Kenneth. "False Alarms," Security Dealer, February 1990.
Kleinknecht, G. H., and D. A. George. "False Alarms: A Drain on Police Re- sources," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January 1988, p. 12.
Sweeney, Paul. "The True Cost of False Alarms," Police Magazine, May 1983, p.
Stepanek, Laura. "Today's Clues to Tomorrow's Security," Security Distributing and Marketing, January 1991, p. 78.
Strandberg, Keith W. "What Do 900-Numbers and Security Dealers Have in Common?" Security Dealer, November 1991.
Strandberg, Keith W. "Zeroing In on the False Alarm Problem," Security Dealer, February 1993, p. 56.
Books, Manuals, Reports
Alarm Industry Quality Control Manual: A Comprehensive False Alarm Reduction Program. Bethesda, Md.: National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, 1980.
CSAA False Alarm Study. Bethesda, Md.: Central Station Alarm Association, Cunningham, William C., and Todd Taylor. Private Security and Police in Amer- ica: The Hallcrest Report I. Stoneham, Mass.: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1985.
Cunningham, William C., John J. Strauchs, and Clifford W. Van Meter. Private Security Trends: 1970 to 2000— The Hallcrest Report II. Stoneham, Mass.:Butterworth-Heinemann, 1990.
Collins, P. Evaluation of False Alarm Rates with Emphasis on Reduction and Im- proved Efficiency for Police Departments. From 1989 Carnahan Conference onSecurity Technology. University of Kentucky, Office of Engineering ServicesPublications, 226 Anderson Hall, Lexington, KY 40506.
False Alarm Committee Report: Recommendations to Reduce False Alarms. A 1993 report to the Ministry of Attorney General of British Columbia, PoliceServices, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C. V8V 1X4 CANADA.
Hakim, Simon, and Andrew J. Buck. The Hakim-Buck Study: Deterrence of Sub- urban Burglaries. Cheltenham, Pa.: Metrica, Inc., 1991.
O'Brien, W. E. Report from the Alarm Efficiency Task Force. 1984. Obtainable from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. See "Organizations"below.
Private Security: Report of the Task Force on Private Security. Washington: Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, 1976.
Target Zero: Preventing False Alarms. Achieve! Incorporated, 9317 S.W. Umiat Court, Tualatin, OR 97062. Phone (800) 477-1284.
Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation, 3220 N Street, N.W., Suite 1860, Washington, DC 20007.
Canadian Alarm and Security Association, 610 Alden Road, Suite 201, Markham, Ontario L3R 9Z1 CANADA. Phone (416) 513-0622.
Central Station Alarm Association, 7101 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1390, Bethesda, MD 20814. Phone (301) 907-0045. Ask for the False Alarm Committee.
International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alex- andria, VA 22314-2357. Phone (703) 836-6767. Ask for the False Alarm Re-duction Subcommittee of the Private Sector Liaison Committee.
National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, 7101 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 1390, Bethesda, MD 20814-4805. Phone (301) 907-3202. Ask for the FalseAlarm Prevention Committee.
National Crime Prevention Institute, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292. Phone (502) 588-6987.
National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 1600 Research Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850. Phone (301) 251-5217.
Professional Alarm Services Organizations of North America, P.O. Box 793, Bloomfield, CT 06002. Phone (203) 242-4337.
Security Industry Association, 1801 K Street, N.W., Suite 1203L, Washington, DC 20006. Phone (202) 466-7420.
Underwriters Laboratories. For information on the UL Certificate Verification Service, contact the closest of the following:• Dick Marshall, UL-Northbrook, 333 Pfingsten Road, Northbrook, IL 60062-2096. (708) 272-8800, ext. 42544 Bahman Mostafazadeh, UL-Santa Clara, 1655 Scott Boulevard, Santa Clara, CA 95050. (408)985-2400, ext. 2544 Peter Tallman, UL-Melville, 1285 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747. (516) 271-6200,ext. 415 Dan Ryan, UL-RTP, 12 Laboratory Drive, P.O. Box 13995, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.
(919) 549-1400, ext. 1658 The following pages contain the NBFAA Fast Start Program; the false alarm ordi-nances of Multnomah County (Portland) and Uwchlan Township; and theCANASA model ordinance.
National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association
Cooperative efforts, including alarm users, the police, government, and the alarm industry,must begin immediately to reduce false or unnecessary police dispatches. By addressingthe major causes of these unnecessary dispatches, including user error, environment,equipment malfunction and improper application of particular devices, we can both reducedemand on limited police resources and enhance the effectiveness of all alarm systems.
The NBFAA recognizes the urgency of the problem and encourages you to select from
these action items "To help reduce false and unnecessary police alarm dispatches by
50% nationwide in one year."

Use alarm verification prior to police notification whenever possible.
Urge manufacturers to ship their products with options pre-selected to reduce falsealarms.
Urge police to accept verified cancellation of dispatches.
Urge UL and manufacturers to adopt false alarm resistance standards and testingprocedures.
Adopt these 6 procedures at once:1. Call premises before police on all burglar alarms.
2. Install burglar alarms with an audible alert that can be heard by the user throughout the protected premise.
3. In case of a false alarm from a motion sensor, add a second sensor in the same circuit to verify the first.
4. Program panels to send cancel codes to abort dispatches.
5. Stop using single action holdup devices and extra digit "1+" duress keypad 6. Develop and implement a program designed to educate end users about their role in false alarm prevention.
Create a False Alarm Control Team (F.A.C.T.) within your alarm company,chapter, and/or association.
Become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Call now for additional information on reducing false and unnecessary alarms orfor help with creating your own False Alarm Control Team. Contact: National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association False Alarm Prevention Committee 7101 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 1390 Bethesda, MD 20814-4805 Multnomah County (Portland), Oregon violations and establishes a system of admini- BURGLARY AND ALARM SYSTEMS
(a) "Alarm Business" means the business by (New Chapter substituted by any individual, partnership, corporation, or Ord. No. 164287, June 13, 1991.) other entity of selling, leasing, maintaining,servicing, repairing, altering, replacing, moving or installing any alarm system or causing to be Purpose and Scope.
sold, leased, maintained, serviced, repaired, al- tered, replaced, moved or installed any alarm Alarm Users Permits system in or on any building, structure or facil- Fines for Excessive False Alarms.
(b) "Alarm System" means any assembly of No Response to Excessive Alarms.
equipment, mechanical or electrical, arranged to Special Permits.
signal the occurrence of an illegal entry or other User's Instruction.
activity requiring urgent attention and to which Automatic Dialing Device— police are expected to respond.
Certain Interconnections (c) "Alarm User" means the person, firm, partnership, association, corporation, company or organization of any kind which owns, con- Sound Emission Cutoff Feature.
trols or occupies any building, structure or facil- ity wherein an alarm system is maintained.
Allocation of Revenue and (d) "Automatic Dialing Device" means a device which is interconnected to a telephone line and is programmed to select a predeter- Enforcement and Penalties.
mined telephone number and transmit by voice Savings Clause.
message or code signal an emergency messageindicating a need for emergency response. Such 14.74 Title. This Chapter shall be known as
a device is an alarm system.
the "Burglary and Robbery Alarm Systems" (e) "Bureau of Emergency Communica- tions" is the City/County facility used to receive 14.74.010 Purpose and Scope.
emergency and general information from the (a) The purpose of this chapter is to encour- public to be dispatched to the respective police age alarm users and alarm businesses to assume departments utilizing the Bureau.
increased responsibility for maintaining the me- (f) "Burglary Alarm System" means an chanical reliability and the proper use of alarm alarm system signaling an entry or attempted systems, to prevent unnecessary police emer- entry into the area protected by the system gency response to false alarms, and thereby to (g) "Sheriff" means Sheriff of Multnomah protect the emergency response capability of the County or his designated representative.
City from misuse.
(h) "Coordinator" means the individual (b) This chapter governs burglary and rob- designated by the Sheriff to issue permits and bery alarm systems, requires permits, establishes enforce the provisions of this chapter.
fees, provides for allocation of revenues and (i) "False Alarm" means an alarm signal, deficits, provides for fines for excessive false eliciting a response by police when a situation alarms, provides for discontinuation of police requiring a response by police does not in fact response to alarms, provides for punishment of exist, but does not include an alarm signalcaused by violent conditions of nature or other extraordinary circumstances not reasonably (c) If a residential alarm user is over the age subject to control by the alarm business operator of 62 and/or is an economically disadvantaged or alarm user.
person and resides where the permitted alarm is (j) "Interconnect" means to connect an located and if no business is conducted in the alarm system including an automatic dialing residence, a user's permit may be obtained from device to a telephone line, either directly or the Coordinator's Office according to Section through a mechanical device that utilizes a tele- 14.74.050 (a) without the payment of a fee.
phone, for the purpose of using the telephone (d) A surcharge will be charged in addition line to transmit a message upon the activation of to the fee provided in Section 14.74.050 (a) to a the alarm system.
user who fails to obtain a permit within 30 days (k) "Primary Trunk Line" means a tele- after the system becomes operative or who is phone line serving the Bureau of Emergency more than 30 days delinquent in renewing a Communications that is designated to receive emergency calls.
(e) If an alarm user fails to renew a permit (l) "Robbery Alarm System" means an within 30 days after the permit expires, the co- alarm system signalling a robbery or attempted ordinator will notify the alarm user, by certified mail that, unless the permit is renewed and all (m) "No Response" means police officers fees and fines are paid within 30 days from the will not be dispatched to investigate a report of date of mailing of the certified letter, Police re- an alarm signal.
sponse to the alarm will thereafter be suspended.
(n) "Chief of Police" or "Chief'" means the Chief of Police of the City of Portland Bureau of 14.74.070 Fines for Excessive False Alarms.
Police or a designated representative.
(a) Fines will be assessed by the Coordina- (o) "Sound Emission Cutoff Feature" means tor for excessive false alarms during a permit a feature of an alarm system which will cause an audible alarm to stop emitting sound.
Second though Third False Alarms—$50 each (p) "System Becomes Operative" means Fourth and any additional False Alarms—$100 when the alarm system is capable of eliciting a response by police.
(b) The Coordinator will send a Notification (q) "Economically Disadvantaged Person" of Alarm by regular mail to notify the alarm means a person receiving public assistance user and the alarm business of a false alarm and and/or food stamps.
the fine and the consequences of the failure topay the fine. The Coordinator will also inform 14.74.050 Alarm User Permits Required.
the alarm users of their right to appeal the valid- (a) Every alarm user shall obtain an alarm ity of the false alarm to the Sheriff, as provided user's permit for each system from the Coordina- in Section 14.74.190. If the fine has not been re- tor's Office within 30 days of the time when the ceived in the Coordinator's Office within 30 system becomes operative. Users of systems with days of the day Notice of fine was mailed by the both robbery and burglar alarm capabilities shall Coordinator and there is no appeal pending on obtain separate permits for each function. Ap- the validity of the false alarm, the Coordinator plication for a burglary or robbery alarm user's will send the Notice of fine by certified mail permit and the fee for each shall be filed with along with a notice of late fee of $25. If payment the Coordinator's office each year. Each permit is not received within 10 days of the day the shall bear the signature of the Sheriff and be for Notice of late fee was mailed, the Coordinator a 1 (one) year period immediately following is- will initiate the no response process according to suance of the permit. The permit shall be physi- Section 14.74.110 and may initiate the enforce- cally upon the premises using the alarm system ment of penalties according to Section and shall be available for inspection by the Chief (c) The payment of any fine provided for in (b) A yearly fee, permit surcharge, and re- Section 14.74.070 shall not be deemed to extend newal fee shall be established by the Bureau of the term of the permit.
Police. The fees established under this Sectionshall not become effective until approved by the 14.74.110 No Response to Excessive Alarms.
Commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Police.
(a) After the second false alarm the Coordi- nator shall send a notification to the alarm user (3) The payment of any fine provided for in by regular mail which will contain the following paragraph (2) of this subsection shall not be deemed to extend the term of the permit.
(1) That the second false alarm has oc- (b) An alarm user which is a governmental political unit shall be subject to Chapter 14.74; (2) That if two more false alarms occur but a permit shall not be subject to fine, payment within the permit year police officers will not re- of additional fees or the imposition of any pen- spond to any subsequent alarms without the ap- alty provided under Chapter 14.74.
proval of the Sheriff; (3) That the approval of the Sheriff can only 14.74.150 User instruction.
be obtained by applying in writing for rein- (a) Every alarm business selling, leasing or statement. The Sheriff may reinstate the alarm furnishing to any user an alarm system which is user upon finding that reasonable effort has been installed on the premises located in the area made to correct the false alarms; subject to Chapter 14.74 shall furnish the user (4) That the alarm user has the right to con- with instruction that provides information to en- test the validity of a false alarm determination able the user to operate the alarm system at any through a False Alarm Validity Hearing, accord- time. The alarm business shall also inform each ing to Section 14.74.190. The request for such a alarm user of the requirement to obtain a permit hearing must be in writing and filed within ten and where it can be obtained.
days of the receipt of the Notice of Alarm.
(b) Standard form instruction shall be sub- (b) After the fourth false alarm within the mitted by every alarm business to the Sheriff. If permit year there will be no police response to the Sheriff reasonably finds such instructions to subsequent alarms without approval of the be incomplete, unclear or inadequate, the Sheriff Sheriff. The Coordinator shall send a Notice of may require the alarm business to revise the in- Suspension of Police Response to: struction to comply with Chapter 14.74 and then (1) The Director of the Bureau of Emer- to distribute the revised instruction to its alarm gency Communication; (2) The Chief of Police;(3) The alarm user by certified mail; and 14.74.170 Automatic Dialing Device—Certain
(4) The persons listed on the alarm user's permit who are to be contacted in case of emer- (a) It is unlawful for any person to program gency, by certified mail.
an automatic dialing device to select a primary (c) The suspension of police response to an trunk line and it is unlawful for an alarm user to alarm shall begin ten days after the date of de- fail to disconnect or reprogram an automatic livery of the Notice of Suspension of Police Re- dialing device which is programmed to select a sponse to the alarm user unless a written request primary trunk line within 12 hours of receipt of for a False Alarm Validity Hearing has been written notice from the Coordinator that it is so made as required in Section 14.74.190.
(b) It is unlawful for any person to program 14.74.130 Special Permits.
an automatic dialing device to select any tele- (a) An alarm user required by federal, state, phone line assigned to the City and it is unlaw- county or municipal statute, regulation, rule or ful for an alarm user to fail to disconnect or re- ordinance to install, maintain and operate an program such device within 12 hours of receipt alarm system shall be subject to Chapter 14.74, of written notice from the Coordinator that an automatic dialing is so programmed.
(1) A permit shall be designated a special alarm user's permit (2) A special alarm user's permit for a sys- (a) An alarm user who wants to appeal va- tem which has four false alarms in a permit year lidity of a false alarm determination by the Co- shall not be subject to the no response procedure ordinator may appeal to the Sheriff for a hear- specified in Section 14.74.110 but shall pay the ing. The appeal must be in writing and must be regular fine schedule according to Section 14.
requested within ten days of the alarm user having received Notice of Alarm. Failure to co-ntest the determination in the required time pe- riod results in a conclusive presumption that the provided, however, that Multnomah County alarm was false.
shall maintain records sufficient to identify the (b) If a hearing is requested, written notice municipal jurisdiction from which the revenue is of the time and place of the hearing shall be derived, and the types and amounts of that reve- served on the user by the Sheriff by certified mail at least 10 days prior to the date set for the (b) Multnomah County shall maintain re- hearing, which date shall not be more than 21 cords in accordance with sound accounting nor less than 10 days after the filing of the re- principles sufficient to determine on a fiscal year quest for hearing.
basis the direct costs of administering Chapter (c) The hearing shall be before the Sheriff.
14.74, including salaries and wages (excluding The Coordinator and the alarm user shall have the Sheriff individually), travel, office supplies, the right to present written and oral evidence, postage, printing, facilities, office equipment subject to the right of cross examination. If the and other properly chargeable costs.
Sheriff determines that the false alarms alleged (c) Not later than July 31 of each year, have or have not occurred in a permit year, the Multnomah County shall render an account to Sheriff shall issue written findings waiving, ex- the Chief which establishes the net excess reve- punging or entering a false alarm designation on nue or cost deficit for the preceding fiscal year alarm user's record as appropriate. If false alarm and shall allocate that excess revenue, if any, or designations are entered on the alarm user's re- deficit, if any, to the City of Portland, Bureau of cord, the Coordinator shall pursue fine collec- Police, proportionately as the number of permits tion as set out in Section 14.74.070.
issued for alarm systems within the corporate (d) The Sheriff may appoint another person limits of the City of Portland bears to the whole to hear the Appeals and to render judgement.
number of permits issued in Multnomah County;provided that no allocation shall be made if the 14.74.210 Sound Emission Cutoff Feature.
net excess revenue or deficit is less than Alarm systems which can be heard outside the building, structure or facility of the alarm user (d) Distribution by the County of any excess shall be equipped with a sound emission cutoff revenue or payment of allocated deficit amounts feature which will stop the emission of sound 15 by a municipal corporation shall be made not minutes or less after the alarm is activated.
later than September 1 of each fiscal year.
(e) "Sound accounting principles " as used 14.74.230 Confidentiality and Statistics.
in this Section, shall include, but not be limited (a) All information submitted in compliance to, practices required by the terms of any state or with Chapter 14.74 shall be held in the strictest federal grant or regulations applicable thereto confidence and shall be deemed a public record which relate to the purpose of this ordinance.
exempt from disclosure pursuant to ORS192.502. The Coordinator shall be charged with the sole responsibility for the maintenance of all This ordinance shall be liberally construed to ef- records of any kind whatsoever under Chapter fect the purpose of this ordinance and to achieve uniform interpretation and application of this (b) Subject to the requirements of confiden- ordinance, the Multnomah County Alarm ordi- tiality, the Coordinator shall develop and main- nance and ordinances of other municipal corpo- tain statistics having the purpose of assisting rations within Multnomah County with the same alarm system evaluation for use by members of 14.74.290 Enforcement and Penalties.
14.74.250 Allocation of Revenues and Ex-
(a) Enforcement of this ordinance may be by civil action as provided in ORS 30.315, or by (a) With the exception of the $4.00 per year criminal prosecution, as provided in ORS increase in the yearly fee adopted pursuant to 203.810 for offenses under County law.
Code Section 14.74.050 b., which shall be paid (b) Violation of this ordinance shall be directly to the City, all fees, fines and surcharges punishable upon conviction by a fine of not collected pursuant to Chapter 14.74 shall be more than $500.
general fund revenue of Multnomah County; (c) The failure or omission to comply with If any article, section, subsection, phrase, clause, any section of this ordinance shall be deemed a sentence or word in this Chapter shall for any violation and may be so prosecuted, subject to reason be held invalid or unconstitutional by a the penalty provided in paragraph (b) of this court of competent jurisdiction, it shall not nul- lify the remainder of this Chapter, but shall beconfined to the article, section, subsection, sub- 14.74.310 Savings Clause.
division, clause, sentence or word so held inva-lid or unconstitutional.
WHEREAS, the Uwchlan Township Police Department has for some time been burdened with respondingto numerous false alarms at area residences, businesses, and industries, an action that not only costs theTownship unnecessarily, but also poses safety problems; andWHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors, citing the rising costs of police services as well as the problemscited herein, has deemed it necessary to establish certain regulations and fees to compensate for the costsincurred; andWHEREAS, Section 702 of the Second Class Township Code of Pennsylvania allows Townships to estab-lish various rules and regulations related to Police protection,NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ENACTED AND ORDAINED, that the Board of Supervisors hereby re-scinds Resolutions 84-24, 85-27 and 88-3 enacts the following: A. DEFINITIONS
The following definitions shall apply in the interpretation and enforcement of this ordinance:
ALARM SUPPLIER: The business by an individual, partnership corporation or other entity of selling,leasing, maintaining, servicing, repairing, altering, replacing, moving, monitoring, or installing anyalarm system or causing any alarm system to be sold, leased, maintained, serviced, repaired, altered,replaced, moved, installed or monitored in or on any building, structure, or other facility.
ALARM SYSTEM: Any assembly of equipment, mechanical, electrical, or battery operated, arrangedto signal the occurrence of a police, fire, hazard, or medical emergency requiring immediate attentionand to which police or fire units are expected to respond.
ANSWERING SERVICE: A service whereby trained employees, in attendance at all times, receiveprerecorded voice messages from automatic dialing devices reporting an emergency at a stated loca-tion, where such employees have the duty to relay immediately by live voice any such emergencymessage over a trunk line to the communications center of the Police or Fire Department.
AUDIBLE ALARM: Any device, bell, horn, or siren which is attached to the interior and/or exteriorof a building, structure, or facility and emits a warning signal which is audible outside the building,structure, or facility and is designed to attract attention when activated by a criminal act or otheremergency requiring police or fire department response.
AUTOMATIC DIALING DEVICE: A device which is interconnected to a telephone line and is pro-grammed to transmit a signal by a voice coded message that indicates that an emergency conditionexists and the need for an emergency response is required.
CENTRAL STATION: A protective system or group of such systems operated privately for customersby a person, firm, or corporation which accepts recorded messages from automatic dialing devices ata central station having operators and guards in attendance at all times who have the duty to take ap-propriate action upon receipt of a signal or message, including the relaying of messages to the com-munications center of the Police or Fire Department.
COORDINATOR: An individual/designee named by and accountable directly and solely to the Chiefof Police.
EMERGENCY: A police, fire, hazard, or medical emergency.
FALSE ALARM:(1) An alarm(s) activated in the absence of an emergency, whether willfully or by inadvertence, neg- ligence, or an unintentional act, including the malfunction of the alarm system, to which the Uw-chlan Township Police Department responds. The definition excludes alarm(s) caused by mal-functions of the Chester County Department of Emergency Services receiving equipment if suchalarm is directly connected to the alarm board; testing or repairing of telephone or electrical linesor equipment outside the premises; acts of God, such as earthquake, flood, windstorm, thunder,or lightning; an attempted illegal entry of which there is visible evidence; a crime in progress; or,in the case of an emergency medical alarm, an actual medical emergency requiring police, fireand/or medical personnel. If doubt exists as to the cause of the false alarm, the Chief of Police orhis designee shall have and make the final decision regarding the circumstances of the activation.
(2) Multiple alarms received by the Police Department before the system can be deactivated within a reasonable period of time shall be considered a single alarm.
(3) The definition of a false alarm(s) also includes the intentional activation of a holdup alarm for other than a holdup in progress, the intentional activation of a burglary alarm for other than aburglary, the activation of a medical alarm for other than a medical emergency, or the intentionalactivation of a fire alarm for other than a fire or hazard.
FIRE DEPARTMENT: Any Fire Department, Ambulance or Rescue Unit providing services withinUwchlan Township.
HAZARD EMERGENCY: An explosion, leak of toxic gas, liquid, or solid, or a potential explosion orleak.
INTERMEDIARY: A central station protective system or answering service as herein defined.
KEY: To use a telephone line and equipment for transmitting a message either directly or indirectlyby an automatic dialing device.
MEDICAL EMERGENCY: An emergency involving the health of a person.
PERMIT: Written permission duly granted to an applicant by the Township upon payment of the re-quired fee.
POLICE DEPARTMENT: The Uwchlan Township Police Department.
POLICE EMERGENCY: An incident requiring prompt response by the Police Department.
POLICE AND FIRE COMMUNICATIONS CENTER: The Police and Fire communications area andother facilities which house communications equipment and the Police radio dispatcher.
CHIEF OF POLICE: The administrative head of the Uwchlan Township Police Department.
TOWNSHIP: The Township of Uwchlan, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
TRUNK LINES: A telephone line leading into the communications centers of the Police and Fire De-partments that is for the purpose of handling calls on a person to person basis and which is identifiedby a specific listing among the white pages in the telephone directory issued by the telephone com-pany.
On and after the effective date of this chapter, owners or users of audible alarms must equip such audible
alarms with a timing mechanism that will disengage the audible alarm after a maximum of fifteen (15)
minutes. Audible alarms without such a timing mechanism shall be unlawful in the Township and must
be disconnected by the owner or user within sixty (60) days from the effective date of this ordinance.
On and after the effective date of this ordinance all automatic dialing devices that transmit recorded mes-
sages directly to the Police Department or Fire Department shall be keyed to the Chester County Depart-
ment of Emergency Services Radio Room, only with their prior approval.
Within ninety (90) days from the effective date of this ordinance, every Alarm Supplier who hasinstalled an alarm system in the Township, Fire, Burglar or other, shall furnish to the Police De-partment the following information:a.
The name, residence, and telephone number of the owner or user.
The address where the device is installed and the telephone number at that address.
The name, address, and telephone number(s) of any other person or firm who is authorizedto respond to an emergency and gain access to the address where the device is installed.
The name and telephone number of any other person, supplier, who is responsible for main-tenance and repair of the system.
The type of system, i.e., holdup, burglary, fire, or medical emergency.
Users of alarm system devices whose devices were installed prior to the effective date of this or-dinance shall within sixty (60) days after such enactment, supply the Uwchlan Police Departmentwith the information specified in Section 1, Subsection d.
All information furnished pursuant to this section shall be kept confidential and shall be for theauthorized use of the Department of Emergency Services, and of the Police Department or itsauthorized agent.
On and after the effective date of this ordinance, no one except an Alarm Supplier holding avalid license from the Township shall sell, install, service or monitor any alarm within the Town-ship.
The Coordinator shall issue an Alarm Supplier's license to an Alarm Supplier meeting the re-quirements of this Section "E" upon the filing of the required application and payment of a fee.
The fee structure is as follows: Any alarm supplier who applies for a first time license, prior to 30June of that calendar year, shall be required to pay full fee. However, any first time applicationsbeing submitted after 30 June shall be required to pay one-half (1/2) of the fee. Each license shallbear the signature of the Coordinator and be renewed annually. A copy of the license shall bedisplayed at each location and shall be made available for inspection upon request by the Chief ofPolice or by the Coordinator.
Each Alarm Supplier that installs one or more alarm system(s) in the Township shall make serv-ice available directly or through an agent on a twenty-four (24) hour per day basis, seven (7) daysa week, to repair such devices and to correct malfunctions as they occur. Any person using analarm system shall make arrangements for service to be available for such device on a twenty-four (24) hour per day, seven (7) day per week basis.
No corporation, sole proprietor, partner, joint venture, trustee, executor, administrator, employee,fiduciary, or stockholder with a five (5%) percent or greater interest in a corporation (except acorporation whose stock is publicly traded and registered with the Securities and ExchangeCommission or with a state Securities Commission) applying for a license shall have been con-victed of a felony or pleaded Nolo Contendere to a felony charge or indictment. Applicant mustfurnish a criminal history from the State of Pennsylvania, with their application.
The applicant shall furnish an insurance certificate annually confirming that the applicant has inforce general liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than three hundred thousand($300,000.00) dollars each occurrence. An applicant who self insures such coverage shall furnishevidence of financial ability, by showing that they are bonded for at least three hundred thousand($300,000.00) dollars or by a suitable letter of financial responsibility, providing that the letter isacceptable to the Township.
Licensee shall pay an annual license fee of thirty ($30.00) dollars except as specified in "E,2."a.
No Alarm Supplier's license shall be required:1.
Where no alarm permit is required, or When the installation of such alarm system shall be made in total personally by theowner or occupant of the premises, except if same is monitored off premises or by acompany providing (monitoring) service.
A License may be revoked or renewal denied if:1.
The licensee fails to meet the requirement necessary to obtain a license, or The license fee is not paid, or The Chief of Police or his designee has reason to believe the licensee's installations arethe cause of false alarms, or Licensee fails to provide emergency service as required by this chapter.
The user's fee for an alarm system permit shall be fifty ($50.00) dollars and said permit shall beobtained from the Uwchlan Police Department prior to the installation of the alarm system.
The permit shall bear the signature of the Chief of Police or the coordinator and be valid for thesame period that the applicant shall reside/locate the business upon the premises at which thesystem is installed, or until revoked by the Chief of Police or the Coordinator, The permit shall bephysically present upon the premises using the alarm system and shall be available for inspectionby Uwchlan Police Department personnel.
The permit application shall contain the address of the property, the name of the resi-dence/business (if applicable), the name of the owner, tenant, or agent responsible for the prop-erty, the Alarm Supplier or other entity responsible for maintaining the system (if applicable), thetype of alarm (burglary, holdup, fire, medical), how the alarm signal will be received by thecommunications center (tape, central station, etc.), at least three alternate emergency telephonenumbers of persons to be contacted to secure the property and any additional information as de-termined necessary. In the case of fire alarm permits for other than a single family residence, theapplicant must submit with permit application detailed plans for fire alarm and suppression sys-tem that is to be permitted/installed. These plans to be reviewed and approved by the TownshipFire Marshal prior to the issuance of any permit. Construction/Installation may not begin withoutpermit. The issuance of the permit is not a final approval by the Township Fire Marshal for theproposed system. Final approval may be given only at the completion, inspection and confor-mance to all codes and requirements. It shall be the owner's responsibility to amend the foregoinginformation whenever the information changes.
An alarm user who is over the age of sixty-five (65) and is the primary occupant of a resi-dence, and if no business is conducted at the residence, may obtain a user's permit from theTownship without paying the above stated fee.
Users who fail to obtain a permit within sixty (60) days after the effective date of this resolution,if later, shall be liable to pay a twenty ($20.00) dollar late charge penalty for each calendar yearthat the permit is not obtained.
All locations in the Township of Uwchlan equipped with alarm systems, except as stated in thischapter, must apply for and be issued valid permit for same.
A battery powered (9 volt, 11.2 volt, or similar voltage) audible alarm system whose sole purposeis to notify the occupants at that location of an emergency situation shall be exempt from thepermit requirements of this chapter if ALL of the following conditions exist:a.
The alarm is not connected to any mechanical or electrical device that automatically notifiesa person or agency outside of that location that the alarm is activated.
The audible alarm does not sound outside of the location (no external speakers or annuncia-tors).
The internal signal emitted by the audible alarm does not exceed ninety (90) decibels.
The internal alarm does not cause undue annoyance or alarm to occupants of adjoiningpremises.
Alarm users who are not required to pay a fee or who are exempt from obtaining an alarm user'spermit as above shall, nevertheless, be subject to the penalty provisions prescribed in this chapter.
After the effective date of this ordinance, no one except an Alarm Supplier holding a valid li-cense from the Township shall install any alarm system within the confines of the Township.
Each Alarm Supplier who, after the effective date of this ordinance, sells or leases in the Township an
alarm system shall furnish operating instructions and a manual of operations to the buyer or lessee.
The public safety requires that the incidence of false alarms and malfunctioning automatic dial-ing devices be minimal so as to reduce unnecessary calls to the Police Department, and to in-crease the effectiveness of properly functioning alarm systems it is necessary that appropriateTownship officials have the right to inspect the installation and operation of any alarm system in-stalled within the Township.
Application for permit for the installation of an alarm system and subsequent installation of sucha system pursuant to a permit issued or the continuance of the use of any alarm system alreadyinstalled at the effective date of this chapter shall constitute consent by the owner or lesseethereof and authorization for the inspection of any such installation and/or operation by the Chiefof Police or the Coordinator.
All such entries upon the premises where an alarm system is installed and all such inspections ofthe installation and operation of alarm systems shall be at reasonable notice, except in emergencysituations.
Every Alarm Supplier selling, leasing or furnishing to any user, or a user who privately installs an alarm
system which is located on premises within the Township shall:
Be permitted to install only equipment that is listed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. asbeing electrically safe and meeting the Township requirements for the alarm system. Wiringfor the alarm system must conform with all applicable National, BOCA, Electrical andTownship codes.
Be required to cause each alarm system installed to be provided with standby battery powerwhich shall automatically and immediately take over in the event of a power failure.
Be required to install equipment in such a way as to neutralize electrical surges.
Be required to deactivate any alarm system within a reasonable period of time.
No person shall conduct any test or demonstration of any alarm system without first notifying the shift su-
pervisor of the Uwchlan Township Police and/or Fire Radio network, whichever is appropriate, via the Po-
lice or Fire Department designated dispatch center.
Alarm Suppliers and installers shall furnish at their own expense, at or prior to the time of contracting, a
copy of this chapter to owners, lessees, or users of the equipment or services to be supplied.
Consent to pay costs; schedule of costs:a.
For the purposes of defraying the costs to the Police Department for responding to falsealarms, the owner, lessee or user of any alarm system or persons using the services of an In-termediary, users of audible alarms and users of any other kind of direct or indirect connec-tion with the Police or Fire communications center, except persons using the two-way livevoice communication by telephone, shall, as a condition to installation and continued opera-tion of such equipment or service, execute a consent in such forms as may be prescribed bythe Township that such owner, lessee, or user shall pay the Township for false alarms uponthe following schedule for each false alarm originating from the owner's, lessee's, or user'spremises: First and second false alarm/activation per calendar month: WARNING.
Third and fourth false alarm/activation per calendar month: fifty ($50.00) dollars per alarm.
Fifth and subsequent false alarm/activation per calendar month: one-hundred ($100.00) dol-lars per alarm.
Failure to comply. Any such owner, lessee, or user who fails to execute the consent described inSubsection a, within ninety (90) days from the effective date of this chapter, shall within theninety (90) day period, disconnect the alarm system.
Any owner, lessee, or user of an alarm system may revoke or refuse to consent as set forth inSubsection a above only by disconnecting the alarm system. With respect to such systems in-stalled at the effective date of this chapter, the owner, lessee or user can refuse to revoke theaforesaid consent by disconnecting such alarm within ninety (90) days from the effective date ofthis chapter and providing written notification of such disconnection.
Penalties provided for false alarms that are relayed or transmitted by an Intermediary shall be theresponsibility of the owner or user of the alarm system.
Any police officer responding to an alarm which is determined to be false shall promptly notifythe Chief of Police or his designee of such alarm in writing, and shall (if practical) leave notifi-cation of such false alarm at the scene of the alarm.
By submitting an application for permit for the installation of a burglary, fire, medical or otheremergency alarm system and the subsequent installation of such a system or by the continuationof the use of an alarm system already installed at the effective date of this chapter, the owner, les-see or user thereof shall agree that such permit application constitutes a waiver by such person ofthe right to bring or file any action, claim or complaint whatsoever against any police officer oremergency personnel who makes a forced entry in response to such an alarm into the premises onwhich such an alarm is installed, as result of entry into the subject premises. In the event theowner of such premises is a person other than the permit applicant, as in the instance of a lesseeor other user not the owner of the premises on which the alarm is installed, such permit applica-tion shall constitute an indemnification agreement by the applicant to hold harmless any suchpolice officer or emergency personnel, the Township, the Police Department and the Fire De-partment, as appropriate, from any and all damages whatsoever claimed by the lessor or owner ofthe premises on which the alarm is installed.
Any alarm system which has four (4) or more false alarms within a calendar month shall be sub-ject to permit revocation.
The Chief of Police or his designee shall notify the alarm user and the alarm supplier provid-ing the service to the user by first class, postage prepaid, certified mail, of such fact and di-rect that the user submit a report to the Chief of Police within five (5) days of receipt of thenotice describing actions taken or to be taken to determine and eliminate the cause of thefalse alarms.
If the alarm user submits a report as directed, the Chief of Police shall determine if the ac-tion taken or to be taken will substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms. He shall no-tify the alarm user in writing that his permit will not be revoked at this time and that if onemore false alarm occurs within the month, the user's permit may be revoked.
If no report is submitted, or if the Chief of Police determines that the action taken or to betaken will not substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms, the Chief of Police shallgive notice to the user that the permit will be revoked without further notice.
Violation of any provision of this ordinance shall constitute a summary offense. The user will beinvoiced by the Chief of Police or his designee and shall within thirty (30) days pay the fee asstated in Section M. Failure to make required payment within the allotted time period will causea citation to be filed with the District Justice. Such fine and costs shall be collectible before anyDistrict Justice as like fines and penalties are now by law collectible. Each ten (10) day periodduring which failure to comply continues shall constitute a separate offense.
Any person found guilty of willful false activation of an alarm system shall be liable for a fine upto one thousand ($1000.00) dollars plus the cost of prosecution or to imprisonment in the countyprison for a term not to exceed thirty (30) days, or both, for each and every such activation. Suchfine and costs shall be collectible before any District Justice as like fines and penalties are now bylaw collectible. The same shall constitute a summary offense.
Should any section or provision of this chapter be declared by a Court of competent jurisdiction to be in-valid, such decision shall not effect the validity of this chapter as a whole or of any other part.
This amended Ordinance will become effective five (5) days after adoption as prescribed by law.
Ordained and enacted this 11th day of May, 1992.
Canadian Alarm and Security Association
By-Law No. 1000/90
A by-law to establish regulatory controls and a permit program for intrusion alarm systems. WHEREAS the Police Department has carried out a study of alarm responses in the Municipal-
AND WHEREAS in addition to posing a threat to the safety of police officers and the public by
creating unnecessary hazards, false alarms result in considerable unnecessary expense and are a nuisance; Now therefore the Council assembled enacts as follows:
1. This By-law may be cited as The Alarm By-law.
2. In this By-law, unless context otherwise requires:
(1) Alarm system—any mechanical, electrical, or electronic device which is designed or used for the detection of an unlawful act in, or authorized entry into, a building, a struc-
ture or facility and which emits a sound or transmits a signal or message when actuated
but does not include:
a device which registers an alarm that is not audible, visible or perceptible out-side of the protected building, structure or facility; or a device that is installed in a motor vehicle or motor home as those terms aredefined in The Highway Traffic Act, (reference Provincial Statutes, chapterXXX).
(2) Audible alarm— an alarm system which generates an audible sound only in, on or about the premises where it is located when it is actuated; (3) Automatic calling device—any device, or combination of devices, that will upon activa- tion, either mechanically, electronically or by any other automatic means, initiate a tele-phonic or recorded message which is designed to be transmitted over regular telephonelines; (4) Chief of Police—the Chief of Police of the Municipality or his/her designate;(5) False dispatch—the actuation of an alarm system resulting in a response by the Police Department where there has been no unauthorized entry or commission of an unlawfulact on the premises; (6) Monitored alarm system—an alarm system, excluding an audible alarm, which when actuated transmits a sound, signal or message to a location where personnel are in at-tendance at all times and one of whose functions it is to notify the Police Department ofthe alarm system being actuated; (7) Hold-up alarm signal—a signal received from a monitored alarm system that is manu- ally activated from the monitored premises; (8) Permittee—the holder of an alarm system permit.
3. All alarm equipment must conform to established standards. In addition, all alarm installa-
tions are to be subject to inspection to guarantee conformance to the National Standards by the localauthority having jurisdiction.
4. (1) All alarm systems must be installed by qualified personnel who are employed by a li-
censed alarm company within the jurisdiction.
(2) Every person maintaining an audible alarm shall keep the Chief of Police informed, by notice in writing, of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of at least two personsat different locations to be contacted in the event that the audible alarm is actuated.
(3) At least one of the persons to be contacted pursuant to Subsection 1 shall always: be available to receive telephone calls from the Police Department made in respectof the audible alarm; and be capable of affording access to the premises where the audible alarm is located;and attend at the premises where the audible alarm is located within forty-five (45) min-utes of being requested to do so by a member of the Police Department.
(1) When a person attending a monitored alarm system receives an alarm from such system during those hours when the premises in which the system is located is normally occu-
pied, such person shall before advising any members of the Police Department of the
alarm attempt to verify that the alarm is not a false alarm.
a. verification shall be defined as:
In the absence of confirmed criminal activity, the monitoring station shall imple-ment a verification process that involves establishing communication with a quali-fied person at the premise who can confirm that no emergency exists.
(2) A person who attends a monitored alarm system and who informs any member of the Police Department that the monitored alarm system has been actuated shall:
at the same time advise such member of the Police Department of the alarm systempermit number for such system; and notify a person capable of affording access to the premises where the monitoredalarm system is located to attend at such premises within forty-five (45) minutesfrom the time a member of the Police Department is informed of the actuation of themonitored alarm system.
(3) In the event the person attending a monitored alarm system is unable to notify a person pursuant to Clause b of Subsection 3 within 10 minutes, the police shall not, upon in-specting the exterior of said premises and finding nothing amiss, remain at said prem-ises.
(1) No person shall install, keep or use or permit the installation, keeping or use of an alarm system unless there is a valid and subsisting alarm system permit therefor.
(2) An applicant for an alarm system permit shall make application and provide the infor- mation requested to the Chief of Police on the form attached as Schedule A to this By-law, and the applicant shall ensure that all such information is kept current and correctand that the Police Department is forthwith informed in writing of any and all changesor corrections to such information during the term of the alarm system permit.
(3) Alarm system permits shall be issued under the personal signature of the Chief of Police; or his mechanically reproduced signature.
(4) An alarm system permit shall be issued in the name of the person in actual occupation of the premise which the alarm system is designed to protect.
(5) An alarm system permit shall not be assigned or transferred.
(6) Any label or decal issued with the alarm system permit shall be affixed to the protected premises so as to be legible from the exterior of the said premises.
(7) The Chief of Police may revoke or suspend any alarm system permit if the permittee has contravened any of the provisions of this By-law; the persons to be contacted pursuant to Subsection 4.2 are not available to receivetelephone calls as required by Subsection 4.3.a; a person contacted pursuant to Section 4.2
is not capable of affording access to the premises where the audible alarm is lo-cated in accordance with Subsection 4.3.b; or ii.) fails to attend at the premises where the audible alarm is located in accordance
with Subsection 4.3.c; the person attending the alarm system, in the case of a monitored alarm system,fails to comply with Section 5; or the alarm system actuates excessive false alarms.
(8) For the purpose of this section excessive false alarms means three (3) or more false alarms in any twelve calendar months.
(9) The following shall not be included when computing the number of false alarms which have occurred for the purposes of Subsection 8: any false alarm which the permittee can demonstrate was caused by a storm, light-ning, fire, earthquake or other act of God; or any false alarm which the permittee can demonstrate was actually caused by the act
of some person other than
the permittee including the permittee's officers, agents, employees, independentcontractors or any other person subject to the direct or indirect control of thepermittee; ii.) the person who installed, connected, operated, maintained or serviced the alarm
iii.) the manufacturer of the alarm system, including the manufacturer's officers,
agents, employees, independent contractors or any person subject to the director indirect control of the manufacturer; or any false alarm caused by communications network disruptions beyond the controlof the permittee.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection 8 in the event that an alarm systempermit is suspended or revoked, any false alarm which occurred prior to the sus-pension or revocation shall not be included when determining whether the alarmsystem actuates excessive false alarms in a subsequent proceeding taken pursuant toSubsection 6.7.3; Where an alarm system actuates excessive false alarms, the Chief of Police shall re-quire the permittee to have the alarm system inspected prior to reinstatement; Within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the notice referred to in Clause b, a permitteeshall provide the Chief of Police with a report in writing verifying that the inspec-tion has been carried out and indicating the results of the inspection; If the report referred to in Clause c indicates in any way that the alarm system ismalfunctioning due to a fault or deficiency in the alarm system, the permittee shallforthwith remedy such fault or deficiency; Where an alarm system permit has been revoked the Chief of police may, during thesix (6) months following such revocation, refuse to issue a further alarm systempermit for such alarm system.
complexity of alarm systems, 8 computer hookups, 16 alarm benefits, 10 computer software, 6 alarm cancellation, 16 alarm equipment, 16 contact persons, 25 alarm installers, 17 contacts for police, 25 alarm manufacturers, 17 alarm outreach officers, 28 cost, 9, 11, 15, 21, 22, 32 alarm registration, 13 court decisions, 39 alarm sensitivity, 43, 44 alarm technicians, 12 alarm user contacts, 13 declining prices, 7 alarm users, 17, 40 defective systems, 18, 20 deliberate false alarms, 18 deterrent value of alarms, 47 discouraging alarm use, 13 dispatch, 16, 17, 30 benefits of alarms, 11 District of Columbia, 18, 24, 25 due process, 39, 40 duress alarms, 11, 16 California, 32, 33 environmental causes, 8 equal protection, 39 Canada, 29, 32, 34 equipment malfunction, 28 exculpatory clauses, 43 canceled alarms, 6 external standards, 14 Fairfax County, 34 causes of false alarms, 7, 17, 18 causes of false alarms, 8 Fast Start Program, 17 central station, 16, 40 federal courts, 39 fines, 12, 13, 18, 45 fines, 18, 27, 30, 39 fines, who pays, 40, 44, 65 foreseeability, 41, 42 model ordinances, 27 free false alarms, 12, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30 Montgomery County, 34 Multnomah County, 27 municipalities, 21 national regulation, 13 growth in industry, 7 national standards, 15 growth in systems, 17 National Training School, 12 hearings: is alarm false?, 13, 39, 44 High Point, 31, 34 holdup alarms, 11 homeowners' associations, 14 New Hampshire, 35 New York v. Cortlandt Medical Building Assoc., 39 nonresponse, 12, 14, 22, 27, 28, 46, 48 increase in systems, 7, 17 increased fear of crime, 7 North Carolina, 34 installation errors, 7 notification cards, 29 installer licensing, 8 installer licensing, 18 officer caution, 9 installer training, 12, 13 installer training, 11 intentional false alarms, 22 jeweler alarm, 43 ordinances, 9, 11, 12, 27, 32, 39, 40, 44 ordinances, 13, 30 Las Vegas, 31, 34, 48 Las Vegas Police Department, 48 panic signals, 14 laws: state or local level?, 13 Pennsylvania, 32, 35 permits, alarm, 12, 13, 21, 28, 30, 39 loss of police time, 9 maintenance, 13, 25, 41 Maryland, 18, 32, 34 Pierce County, 34 Pinellas Park, 35 Massachusetts, 32 mechanical malfunction, 31 police alarm response policies, 11 technological errors, 7 technological problems, 16 premature birth, 41 private response, 14, 16, 43, 44, 45 proximate cause, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44 public awareness, 12, 28 Queenwood East Sheltered Care Home, time-of-day differentiation, 14, 30 Ltd. v. Village of Morton, 39 repairs, 13, 14, 15, 18 training of private responders, 14 Tredyffrin Township, 35 response priority, 14 response, cost of, 46 response, quality of, 46, 49 response, speed of, 46 UL certificate program, 15 ultrasonic sensors, 43 revenue from fines, 13 upgrading, 13, 15 upgrading, 15 risk management, 14 user education, 11 user errors, 7, 8, 28 San Francisco, 33 user training, 8, 11, 14 Uwchlan Township, 29, 35 Santa Monica Police Department, 47 verification, 11, 13, 14, 29 Santa Monica Protective Association, 47 secure fax machines, 16 sensitivity, 8, 16 Washington State, 33, 34 sensor duplication, 16 sensor identification, 15 West Hartford, 35 service charges, 13 Westec Security, 48 sheriff's offices, 21 Western Stone & Metal Corp. v. Jones, silent alarms, 16 sophisticated features, 16Southern Bell Tel. &c. Co. v. Dolce, 42standards, 14, 20standards, 17, 20state certification, 12state courts, 39state laws, 12, 18success of ordinances, 30success, general, 16technicians, 15


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