False alarm bylaw gets first reading in Red Deer County
Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 06:00 am
Residents of Red Deer County who habitually set off false alarms could soon pay a penalty for wasting the time of emergency personnel, say officials.
On Aug. 5, Red Deer County council gave first reading to a bylaw that would charge property owners $200 for a second false fire or intrusion alarm within a calendar year.
For a third or subsequent incident, the fee would increase to $400 each time.
According to a press release from the county dated Aug. 6, the bylaw is intended to hold citizens accountable for hundreds of unnecessary emergency responses caused each year by false alarms that result from “mechanical or human error,” which divert resources and attention from actual distress calls.
“We’re not looking for revenue. It’s just at times you need to have a penalty to make people more accountable,” Ric Henderson, the assistant county manager, told the Gazette.
Henderson said the money would go to the county’s general revenue, adding that feedback is being sought via emails and phone calls and that the bylaw will be back before council in mid-September for second reading.
County mayor Jim Wood said he has not received any public reaction so far.
“And I don’t expect to. In general, I think that people would expect that those people who have alarm systems, that they would function properly,” Wood said. “And I think that most people would expect that those that continually have it go off need to get their systems repaired.”
False alarms caused by what the county considers as “mechanical” errors are caused by security systems that have not been maintained, Henderson said.
However, emergency personnel are also called simply due to negligence.
“We’ve had people, (businesses) that decide to do the fire drill and they’ll pull the pull station. That activates the alarm. But they’ve neglected to inform the alarm company or the fire department they’re doing that,” said Henderson.
“So that pull station goes to the alarm company, who (calls) 911, who dispatch our resources and you get there and they find out, oh they’re just doing a fire drill.”
Henderson said alarm companies attempt calling property owners to verify calls only to find out that contact information is missing.
The onus is on the homeowner to have that information updated and to be present when alarm companies call, he said.
“It is the responsibility of the property owner to be around and have a call back from the alarm company,” he said.
Wood said many members of the county fire department are volunteers, who are called to respond, whether they’re at home or work.
“It could be any hour of the day. Or it could be taking them away from an existing fire,” he said.