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  1. #1
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    Question Charging for false alarms

    I have searched the forums for this information and was unable to locate the information needed.

    My question is under what authority does a fire department charge for false alarms? Does this authority come from a city ordinance or from the International or Uniformed Fire Codes? Also what criteria does your department use for enforceing this policy? How do you define false vs. true alarm?

    Any help would be appreaciated


  2. #2
    Forum Member fflynn17's Avatar
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    Our town fire inspectors get faxed a false alarm report whenever an alarm activation is classified any of the 700 codes in the NFIRS system. Any commercial building that has 3 false alarms in a year receives a summons to the town court, issued by the fire inspectors office. The town attorneys usually accept a "Civil Compromise" of around $250 to be sent to the fire department, NOT the town.

    Our Fire inspectors are part of the town building department.
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    Any 3 false alarms received from the same location within 30 days gets a referral to the town fire inspector. Usually, depending on the history of the location, a warning letter will be issued. If the location has been a constant problem, a fine of $150. will be levied.
    This "fine" usually ends up as a donation to our department.

    I believe it's in the town code, but not sure.

    Alarms such as smoke from cooking, steam from showers, child pulling a box, etc,. are usually not fineable.

    Any continued alarm activations from construction, malfunctions, or other unknown reasons usually get warnings first, then fines.

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    Senior Member JenniJ375's Avatar
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    I work for a very small town...but I know that we have one house in particular that we get to respond to about 5 times a month...this residence is a summer home. Thank goodness one of the Captains on our FD is the "propery manager" if you will, of this home so access for us is easy. All of the smoke detectors are wired in through Tasco...so when one goes off...we get called automatically. A few months ago we got called to that residence 4 times in a matter of 2 days. Dust in the device!! Whatdoya know!!! Bottom line...the Chief called the security company and told them to let the home owners know that if the problem is not rectified, the FD will charge them. The detector that kept going off...the one in the storage shed!!! I guess what I am trying to say...our Chief made the call...I do not know if he has to clear it through anyone first....
    ~~Jenni~~
    Canaan Fire Department-Canaan, NH
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    MembersZone Subscriber Dickey's Avatar
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    Usually this is controlled locally by local ordinance.

    In my town, we are able to charge for our services and the police department is able to issue a citation after 3 false alarms in a year. Not calendar year but a 12 month period.

    Now, the idea of "false alarm" may be different between the fire and police departments.

    For example.......facility expands, has a wing added to the building. Fire alarm goes off when technician is working on it because he forgot to log it off. Then it goes off due to faulty detector. Then goes off for power surge in the building from construction. Then.......one night at supper time for the residents, the kitchen crew burn toast.

    The burnt toast is not a false alarm. It did the job it was designed for, to detect smoke and heat.

    The idea is not to let your police department issue any sort of citations or the fire department issue any bills for services before checking with each other first.
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  6. #6
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    one of the Captains on our FD is the "propery manager"
    can he spare a minute to "maintain" the detectors at the property he manages?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  7. #7
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Where I work, we have many many alarms. Sometimes it is just a bad head, sometimes it is contruction, sometimes it is burnt popcorn in a lounge, sometimes it is (believe it or not) actually something burning.

    The facility hosts a pays for a huge holiday dinner for the entire city fire department each year.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JenniJ375's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Bones42
    can he spare a minute to "maintain" the detectors at the property he manages?
    You know we asked him about that...that is Tasco's job apparently. I guess his job is to make sure the house is winterized as well as ready for summer and all. Needless to say...the owners have had that detector removed from the shed
    ~~Jenni~~
    Canaan Fire Department-Canaan, NH
    "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand,
    we will understand only what we are taught."
    Baba Dioum, Senegalese Conservationist

  9. #9
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    It is normally done through local law/ordinance. We have a law that says any alarm that automatically summons FD/PD must be registered with the Fire Marshal's Office. Now we know where they are. You get 3 free falses in 180 days. After the 3rd - $50. 2nd - $100. 3rd and subsequent - $200. If it isn't registered, and we find it on an automatic alarm - $50. You also want to be sure to define what a "false activation" is. Burnt food may not be considered a false activation. The detector did its job. We typically consider activations due to lack of maintenance a false activation.

  10. #10
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    My former department had a policy of on your 4th false alarm in 6 months, you get a $100 fine. Each alarm after that the fine increases $50. The authority from this came from a town ordinance that was "pushed" by the FD.

    An important point. The alarms had to be the result of a system malfunction. A kid pulls a box, no fine. A storm rolls in and lighting sets the alarm off, no fine. Power goes out and when it comes back on the alarm sounds, no fine. We wanted the fines to get people to properly service the systems, not punish them for things they cant control
    Fire Marshal/Safety Officer

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    Talking

    Thanks for all the information!! This will be a terrific help.

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by Dave1983
    My former department had a policy of on your 4th false alarm in 6 months, you get a $100 fine. Each alarm after that the fine increases $50. The authority from this came from a town ordinance that was "pushed" by the FD.

    An important point. The alarms had to be the result of a system malfunction. A kid pulls a box, no fine. A storm rolls in and lighting sets the alarm off, no fine. Power goes out and when it comes back on the alarm sounds, no fine. We wanted the fines to get people to properly service the systems, not punish them for things they cant control
    I would think that the power going out and then coming back on, the alarm system should be able to handle that. A pull box has the system working as inteneded and a ligntning storm does whatever it wants but a power outage is a forseeable occurance that the alarm should be able to deal with.

    Birken

  13. #13
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BirkenVogt


    I would think that the power going out and then coming back on, the alarm system should be able to handle that. A pull box has the system working as inteneded and a ligntning storm does whatever it wants but a power outage is a forseeable occurance that the alarm should be able to deal with.

    Birken

    Its not the fire alarm system itself, but the telephone equipment that is affected. Offten when the power goes out, the phone system will "fault". The fire alarm company then looses its "conection" to the system, so they call in a fire alarm. When this happens we find the system in trouble mode, not alarm.

    We are trying to get the alarm companys not to do this, but its a slow process.

    This only happens in buildings with older systems that dont have battery back up or an emergency power source.
    Fire Marshal/Safety Officer

    IAAI-NFPA-IAFC/VCOS-Retired IAFF

    "No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
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    Failure is when fantasy meets reality

  14. #14
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    In PA, it's up to the municipality (city, borough, township) to enact an ordinance setting fines for repeat false alarms and to enforce these ordinances. Where it gets a little sticky is that, even though the local fire department isn't the enforcing agency in most cases (municipal departments may be in this position), the fire department's report will be what is used to determine whether an alarm is false or with cause. For example, whether the OIC writes "burnt food" (a legitimate "fire call") or "smoke from cooking" (a nuisance "false alarm") can be the determining factor in whether or not a fine is levied under a false alarm ordinance.

    Still, many municipalities in my area have such ordinances, usually charging anything from $25 to $200 per false alarm past a certain number of "freebies."

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