New Philadelphia, Ohio - City officials continue to discuss the possibility of fining residents and businesses for repeated false alarms.
New Philadelphia Fire Chief Jim Parrish and Police Chief Michael Goodwin were on hand during a recent meeting of council’s Special/Contact Committee to discuss the need for legislation to address the hundreds of false alarm calls received by the two departments each year.
While he didn’t have exact numbers, Chief Parrish said the fire department receives several hundred false alarm calls a year from residences and businesses, many due to faulty alarm systems.
He noted that one hotel, in particular, had 43 false alarm calls between January 10, 2016, and June 2, 2018.
“That’s a chain business, and they have that in all their businesses just like that. They have a problem in the design of their alarm system,” Chief Parrish explained. “Right outside the bathroom in the hotel, there’s a smoke alarm, and if they close the door and they shower and they open that door, as soon as they’re done all the steam comes out and hits the alarm and we have a false alarm.”
Chief Parrish said that right now there is no legislation addressing the issue or consequences for repeated false alarm calls.
“We don’t have anything with teeth to get them to fix it,” he said.
He noted that each false alarm call to the fire department costs the city department about $250.
Chief Goodwin said his department also responds to several hundred false alarm calls per year. He noted that those calls don’t cost the city any extra money because there are already officers out on patrol but may delay the department’s response should an actual emergency be occurring somewhere else.
The two chiefs are recommending a plan that will fine businesses and homeowners $500 per call after their second false alarm call.
Chief Parrish said the goal is not to deter people from installing fire alarms or burglar alarms but to encourage them to maintain them.
“We’re not trying to prevent you from having them, but we want you to maintain them just like you would with every other part of a home or business,” he said.
Chief Goodwin said the goal of the legislation is not for the city to make money or to punish those who have alarm systems but to encourage residents and businesses to have their systems regularly maintained.
“It’s not that we’re looking for the city to get rich off of this or make any money off of this,” he said. “It’s not to punish people that have alarms. It’s just to kind of maybe wake them up a little bit that as an alarm owner or user, you have some responsibility, too.”
In addition to having their systems regularly serviced, homeowners are also being advised to remember their passcodes.
“If your alarm goes off, the first thing the alarm company is going to do is call your house to see if everything’s ok. All we’re asking is remember what your password is. We won’t get that call then if you give them the right information,” Chief Goodwin said. “When the phone rings, answer it and tell them what they want to know, and we won’t have to go.”
The legislation is expected to be introduced during the October 8 City Council meeting and approved on the third reading.
STACEY CARMANY, TUSCO TV