JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Businesses and residents in Johns Creek just got an extension to sign up with the city until August or perhaps September to register their alarm systems. The original date was June 1.
In an effort to reduce the cost false alarms, the city passed an ordinance spelling out the penalties for continued false alarms. The primary fine sets in if police answer a call to an unregistered alarm system.
The ordinance had been due to take effect next month, but City Manager John Kachmar told the City Council May 6 that would not be practicable.
The city has chosen a vendor, Cry Wolf, to administer the ordinance and collect the fees, but the contract still has not been released by the city’s legal department for council’s signature.
“The holdup has been selecting the vendor who then must offer the city a contract for approval. Once that is done, the vendor will be sending out notices to tell residents and businesses how to register their alarm,” said Mayor Mike Bodker.
The need for the ordinance was made manifest when the Johns Creek Police Department announced that police and fire answered 5,000 false alarms last year. To curb these costly and purposeless calls, the City Council voted unanimously Feb. 11 to create a false alarm ordinance.
Other cities have decided to go the same route. Johns Creek, along with Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, will use escalating fines to bring the problem under control. Kachmar said the volume of false alarms is affecting the city’s ability to properly respond to emergency calls.
A first offense for a false alarm is no charge, but the owner must show proof of repair if the system is faulty. With police, offenders get a second chance before a fine, not so with fire.
Fire false alarms are much more expensive. The Johns Creek Fire Department estimates its cost to “roll out” for an alarm is $480 for manpower, wear and tear on equipment and fuel.
So the second through ninth false fire alarm offense in one year is a $250 fine. Subsequent alarms are $500 each.
False alarms for police after the second grace response are $50 for the next three. After that, the fines go up incrementally to $250 and finally $500.
There is an added cost to false alarms beyond their fiscal cost that is harder to quantify. They also “take the edge off” the personnel responding. It debilitates the sense of urgency for responders who continually must respond to false alarms. That creates the wrong kind of anticipation when they answer a call, Kachmar said.