Knoxville Passes False Dispatch Law; Institutes Penalties

The Knoxville, Tenn., city council has unanimously approved a new law that punishes property owners with alarm systems that send out repeated false alarms.

The ordinance, which will take effect in June, requires alarm users to register with the city and institutes enhanced call verification (ECV) for intrusion dispatches. Residents and businesses will not be allowed more than two false dispatches in a 12-month period. Subsequent violations will be punishable by a $25 fine.

Under the new law, multiple violations can also result in civil damages to the city for the cost of response and for any interruption of public services.

The city began studying the implementation of an ordinance nearly a year ago to combat high rates of false dispatches. According to the city, the police department receives more than 18,000 false alarm calls each year, which accounts for 11 percent of its annual calls for service. The cost of answering false alarm calls each year to the police department is about $488,000, according to the city.

The fire department receives more than 2,000 false alarm dispatches each year — about 9 percent of its annual calls for service — at a cost of about $565,000, according to the city.

After seeking guidance from the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), Police Chief Sterling Owen formed a study group that included alarm industry professionals, 911 personnel and representatives from the police and fire departments.

John Knox, president of Life & Property Security Systems in Knoxville, and a study group participant, says he and his alarm industry brethren greatly appreciated the invitation from Owen to help the city form the ordinance.

“If we work together we can accomplish what we need, and that is to stay away from nonresponse,” says Knox, who is secretary of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s (NBFAA) Executive Committee and a member of Security Sales & Integration’s Editorial Advisory Board.

The city’s new law was crafted using a model ordinance created by NBFAA as a guidepost.

One aspect of Knoxville’s new law that Knox and other alarm industry representatives argued against was implementing a blanket regulation that covers all false dispatches.

“I think they would have done better to have two separate ordinances — one for fire, one for burglary,” Knox told SSI. “It’s really hard to have an ordinance that will fit cleanly for both.”

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