March 27, 2017

False Alarm Prevention

False Alarms

Like most cities of any size West Fargo has its share of businesses and homes with alarms. These are for the most part good and a great deterrent to crime. However false alarms can create a problem.

The entire alarm ordinance is under “ buildings” and can be found in section 5-0601.

Many hours per month and throughout the year are spent having both police patrol officers and our firemen answer false alarms. By definition “False alarm” means: the activation of an alarm system caused by anything other than an emergency or criminal activity. Although we want to work with businesses and homeowners to protect their business and families we have found that an incentive was needed to encourage people to not have an excessive amount of alarms.

Therefore section 5-0605 entitled FALSE ALARMS - FEE ASSESSED was added to the ordinance. It reads as follows:

  1. In the event that any false alarm, as defined above, occurs and results in the dispatch and response of the police and/or fire department, the responding department shall notify the City Auditor.
  2. Any alarm site which has more than three false alarms in any consecutive 45 day period shall be assessed a fee for each false alarm in excess of three.
  3. The fee shall be established by resolution of the Board of City Commissioners. ($50 for first offense and raises by $50 increments for each additional offense, ie: $50, $100, $150, etc)

Costs to Public Service

We find that each false alarm requires approximately 20 to 30 minutes of police time, usually for two officers. This costs you the tax payer many dollars. A vast majority, maybe as high as 98%, of the alarms West Fargo Police respond to are false. They are the result of employee error, janitors, pets and faulty equipment. As a result, hundreds of hours of officers' time are spent annually in response to these false alarms. This means there is that much less time officers have for needed police work. In addition, this creates a very hazardous situation for the officers and citizens. Officers, attempting to respond as quickly as reasonable, increase their chances of accidents and, more importantly, get lulled into a feeling of "just another false alarm", thus falling to take proper safeguards and open themselves to personal hazard when the alarm is valid.

Causes of False Burglar Alarms

Research suggests that false burgar alarms result from three main causes:

  • Faulty or inappropriately selected equipment
  • Poor installation
  • User error (forgetful or unknowledgeable homeowners or roaming pets)

Research tells us that false burglar alamrs are not evenly distributed. Some alarm systems experience no false alarms, and others, many. One study suggests thta 20 percent of alarm systems trigger 80 percent of false alarms. AS a result, officers responding to false alarms are often spending time away from locations where crime and disorder are occurring.

Here are some ideas on how to Reduce False Alarms:

  1. Be sure to have a good quality alarm system that has been installed by a licensed alarm company.
  2. Be sure that all of your employees are familiar with how your alarm system works.
  3. Have your alarm system tested on a regular basis.

The West Fargo Police Department will assist you in any way with your alarm needs as well as give you further ideas on crime prevention, at your request. Remember to provide the police with at least three people we can contact after hours in case of any emergency and be sure to keep this list current. In this way, we can assist you in caring for your business or home.

Call the West Fargo Police Department at 701-433-5500 to provide your information!