Montreal Schools Fined $217K for False Fire Alarms

MONTREAL

Since the implementation of a city bylaw designed to reduce false fire alarms here, Montreal Island schools have reported more than 400 false alarms from February 2009 through most of July. As a result, false fire alarms will cost Montreal Island schools more than $217,000.

The bylaw, which took effect last year, mandates that schools and other high-risk properties will receive a warning for the first alarm. Subsequent false alarms are fined on an escalating scale ($250, $750 and $2,700), reports the Montreal Gazette.

Of the 406 false alarms reported, 189 resulted in a fine; the other 217 instances were considered first time offenders. Additionally, 158 of those alarms had defects in alarm system parts.

“At CANASA [Canadian Security Association], we recognize the right of municipalities and/or government bodies to levy fines for false alarms in response to alarms and to provide services,” CANASA Executive Director Jean-Francois Champagne tells SSI. “The problem is there are no alternatives for schools to hire a private response service [such as is the case with intrusion alarms]. When it comes down to fire, I think we have to use a different approach then we have done with intrusion alarms.”

“The other thing, too, is that down the road we will be faced with situations where people are trying to prevent the communication of false alarms or fire signals, which ultimately could result into the loss of lives [because people don’t want to pay the fines],” Champagne adds.

Though many school board officials believe they should take responsibility for false alarms if equipment hasn’t been maintained, some are questioning if they should pay fines when students are the cause of false alarms. As it stands, a total of 126 fire alarms were set off intentionally.

“[School administrators can’t say], ‘Remove the pull stations that the students use all the time,'” explains Champagne. “They have to do the proper educating to make people understand how to reduce false alarms. Ultimately, it comes down to education and prevention.”

Some schools have been able to reduce false alarms by installing a box device on manual alarms, according to the newspaper. The device sounds a local alarm drawing attention to where the alarm was activated.

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