BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Communities in southern Indiana are
searching for ways to curb the number of false fire alarms,
including creating stiff fines for homes and businesses where
alarms sound too often.
Beginning next month, false alarms in Bloomington will come at a
price. A new ordinance that takes effect Jan. 1 will assess a
penalty to any business or individual who has more than three false
fire alarms a year.
As required by law, emergency crews must respond immediately
when a fire or burglar alarm is activated. But when they are forced
to respond to the same alarm repeatedly without a legitimate
reason, it drains resources and costs money.
Bloomington firefighters have responded to 2,646 total reported
emergencies this year and nearly a third - at least 825 - have been
"Some false alarms are just a reality we have to accept ... but
the problem is when we are going to the same place over and over
for no reason," said Bloomington Fire Chief Jeff Barlow.
Under Bloomington's new ordinance, a $50 fine will be issued to
the alarm system holder after the fourth false alarm of the year.
Each false alarm after that will bring a $100 penalty - something
that could prove costly for several Bloomington locations.
Meadows Hospital has had 18 false alarms so far this year, and
the Willow Manor retirement community has had 17. The new
regulations would have cost the hospital $1,450 and the retirement
home $1,350 if they had been in place this year.
Workers say each residency at Willow Manor is equipped with
pull-cord alarms that make tempting targets for visiting
But Willow Manor is an example of why the fire department
responds to every alarm as if it were the real thing. The center
had already had more than a dozen false alarms this year when a
legitimate fire broke out in November.
The blaze was controlled quickly, but it could have become
serious and even deadly if the response hadn't been swift.
"There is a high occupancy rate and a lot of elderly people. We
can't assume it will be a false alarm," Barlow said.
Indiana University also could be hit by the new ordinance.
Prank-pulling students have contributed to 167 false fire alarms at
the school so far this year.
However, Barlow said the new penalty will be issued by alarm
system - not by institution - giving the school some leeway.
In Bedford, Martinsville and other communities, the false alarm
situation is less severe, but still a concern.
Martinsville Fire Chief Tim Fraker said most of Martinsville's
false alarms are due to system malfunctions. The city does not have
a similar ordinance in place.
Jack Stigall, who becomes Bedford's new fire chief in January,
said improved technology is helping limit the number of false
alarms in Bedford. His department has the right to penalize repeat
false alarms, but has never done so.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Our dept. has been doing this for three years. It has greatly decreased the number of false alarm calls do to system malfunctions. If a pull station is pulled the occupant is not fined, because the system was not malfunctioning. In my city you only get one false alarm befor you are issued a citiation for being in violation of the false alarm ordinance. I also believe that schools, and hospitals are exempt. Anyone else doing this?