Crackdown on False Alarms Pays Off for Northwest City


One year after the Kirkland City Council, located near Seattle, adopted an ordinance requiring alarm users to pay $20 to register their alarms and $50 fines every time their alarms go off in error, such calls have declined 47 percent, the city recently announced.

That percentage exceeds even the police department’s original goal of 39 percent, according to a report in the Seattle Times.

Despite the improvements, false alarms remain a headache, the newspaper reported.

In Kirkland, about 45 percent of the thousands of alarm calls received between June 2006 and June 2007 were false.

Kirkland’s year-old ordinance prescribes a warning for the first false alarm. After that, it’s $50 each time until the sixth false alarm. After that, the city won’t respond for 90 days, except in the case when a panic or duress button is activated indicating a person is in immediate danger.

Other cities in the Puget Sound area are also reporting that recent efforts to crack down on the false alarms by imposing fines and registration fees have begun to have a positive effect.

Redmond has had a similar program for several years. In fact, Kirkland modeled its ordinance after Redmond’s, according to the newspaper.

In 1999, the Redmond Fire Department responded to 2,476 false alarm calls. After the ordinance went into effect in January 2000, the calls dropped 32 percent to 1,687 calls.

As of last year, the calls were down 54 percent compared with 1999.

Marysville passed a similar ordinance in 2003 and has seen false alarms drop from 1,098 in 2002 to roughly 500 in 2006.

The measures weren’t popular with everyone there, at first. At the time, alarm companies and property managers complained the fees and fines were just a tax on their businesses.

“There’s always resistance to something new,” Ron Haner of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), told the newspaper. “I can’t say we jump up and down with joy about it, but life goes on.”

NBFAA puts out a “best practices” guide for avoiding false alarms. And generally the industry has improved, cutting false alarms to about a third of what they were a decade ago, he says.

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