JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With more than 5,000 false alarms annually, Johns Creek along with Sandy Springs and Dunwoody will use escalating fines to bring the problem under control.
At the Feb. 11 City Council meeting, members voted unanimously (Councilman Ivan Figueroa absent) to create a false alarm ordinance
City Manager John Kachmar said the volume of false alarms is affecting the city’s ability to properly respond to emergency calls.
“We have limited resources to answer calls. And when there are 14 false alarms a day, there is a tragedy waiting to happen because our people are answering a cry wolf situation,” Kachmar said.
Mayor Mike Bodker agreed.
“The problem is about 90 percent with commercial properties and our schools. We can’t ticket a school, but we can the others. Most of the problems are with a small core of businesses that just won’t do anything about the problem,” Bodker said.
The ordinance goes into effect May 1. It also requires all residential and commercial alarms to be registered with the city. They can do so online in about two weeks, Kachmar said. Registration is free, but if an owner is cited for a false alarm and is not registered there is a fine of $100.
If a resident has an alarm that just sounds off but does not send a signal for a fire or police response, no registration is necessary. However, if the alarm goes on for more than 20 minutes and requires a police car to respond, then it can be a $100 fine.
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. Those false alarms are much more expensive, the city estimates a false fire alarm costs $480.
A second offense through ninth 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.
“It’s a problem in every community, and it costs money to roll out for a false alarm and it ties up your resources,” Kachmar said. “When it’s fire [alarms], it is more expensive with fuel consumed and wear and tear on equipment.”
In addition to the fiscal cost of these responses, it also takes “the edge off” the personnel responding. It debilitates those responders and creates the wrong kind of anticipation when they answer a call, Kachmar said.
To read the entire ordinance goes online at the city’s web site.