Tracks Sandy Springs ordinance: No false alarm

City mulls fines for unneeded calls

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Businesses and residents may well want to upgrade or service their alarm systems, because the Johns Creek City Council will soon contemplate fines for false alarms.

Saying the 300-odd false alarms a month are not only an intolerable expense but a drain on city emergency manpower, the council will see a draft ordinance this month which will allow for fines for persistent false alarms.

City Manager John Kachmar said the volume is affecting the city’s ability to properly protect its citizens. The problem includes commercial businesses, residences and schools (where pranksters are often to blame), but primarily, the culprits are businesses.

“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.”

A fire alarm response cost is placed at $480.

False alarms chiefly occur because of aging systems or cheaply made systems. Either way, they are a drain on the city’s emergency services resources, Kachmar said.

To curb the abuse of the emergency response system, Johns Creek is following the path sister ChatComm cities Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have followed to fine abusers of the system who fail to take corrective measures.

Once the city passes its ordinance, all three cities will use the same private vendor to collect the fines. That is why the city wants to pass a similar ordinance to the other cities so that there will be uniformity in the punitive measures.

The Sandy Springs ordinance does not charge for the first two false alarms for police, then $50 for the next three. After that, the fines go up incrementally to $250 and finally $500.

False fire alarms are more expensive to respond to and therefore have a steeper curve for fines. Sandy Springs allows just one false alarm before fines start at $250 for false calls 2 through 10. After that, fines escalate to $500.

The Sandy Springs ordinance also calls for all systems to be registered. There is no fee for registration, but failure to register is a $100 fine.

“The purpose is not to raise revenue, but to instill in people the need to have alarm systems that are in good working order and are properly maintained,” Kachmar said. “Unfortunately, this is the only method we have to bring alarm systems into compliance.”

The ordinance will be an item on either the Jan. 14 or Jan. 28 workshops, Kachmar said.