New Township Ordinance Designed to Stop False Alarms
From the Lower Merion Fire Department:
It is truly amazing that of the 2,500 yearly calls the Lower Merion Fire Department answers per year, nearly half are false or unnecessary alarms. Each time the bell rings, the Fire Department, which is mostly comprised of highly trained volunteers, responds. Whether they are at work, home with families, or sound asleep, when the alarm goes off, so do our Firefighters. The toll this takes upon our Fire Service cannot be understated, be it wear and tear on equipment, or on personnel.
Prior efforts to curtail the enormous rate of false alarms have been unsuccessful. Now, with the passage of a new ordinance, those causing a false alarm will be held responsible, and violators will be sanctioned. The Ordinance was adopted by the Township Board of Commissioners and has an effective date of January 1, 2017.
Highlights of the new alarm ordinance are below, but are not a substitute for reviewing the full ordinance, which can be found on the Township website. Strict enforcement of the ordinance is key to reducing false alarms. The ordinance is not designed to make money but, rather, to influence compliance. The fines will be imposed and, where necessary, the judicial system will be used to enforce.
—Registration. All fire and security alarms must be registered with the Township, including the name of the resident’s licensed alarm monitoring company, which in turn is required to be registered for a permit. A new registration form and process will be in place sometime early in 2017, and will be accessible on the Township website.
—Permits. No alarm system shall be installed without a Township permit. Violations of the ordinance may result in revocation of the permit.
—Initial Contact, Notification, Verification. Before reporting an active alarm to the Township, alarm monitoring companies must first try the owner, or emergency contact person. Failure to verify before submitting an alarm which turns out to be false is subject to a $200 fine which increases with each violation thereafter up to $600. NOTE: This requirement applies only to fire alarms.
—Maintenance and Inspections. Alarms must be maintained in working order and may be subject to Police or Fire Department inspections. Suppliers must provide written instructions on maintenance for users. If an alarm system is malfunctioning, the LMFD or LMPD may disconnect it and require repairs within15 days.
—Citations. Violators will be subject to fines of $200 for a first violation, increasing to $600 for repeat violations. Provided a property owner has registered their alarm device, only after the third false alarm in a 12-month period can they be fined.
—Contractor Requirements. These are designed to stop the number one cause of false alarms: the accidental triggering of alarms by contractors. Before commencing work, contractors must disable alarm devices. This includes testing or repairing the system (when the Fire Department and alarm monitoring company should be notified). If the failure to do so results in the transmission of a false alarm, that constitutes a violation of the ordinance. Contractors also must cover smoke detectors to prevent dust and dirt from entering the detector. Installers must comply with the Electrical Code and Township Fire Code. Failure to disable a device which results in a false alarm subjects the contractor to a $200 fine which increases to $600. The right to receive further permits may also be in jeopardy.
—Installation Violations. An alarm user and/or installer who improperly installs an alarm system in violation of the ordinance may be subject to fines.
—False Reports. One who knowingly makes or causes a false report requesting services of Police or Fire violates the ordinance.