CHAPEL HLL – The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved a new ordinance Monday that will fine home and business owners whose security systems repeatedly trigger false alarms.
The measure, which is planned to take affect in January of 2014, was proposed by members of both the Chapel Hill Fire Department and the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Another provision of the ordinance is that an alarm user must obtain an alarm permit from the Town within 10 business days of the initial operation of the system.
Fire Chief Dan Jones spoke to the Council and said that the department’s research indicated that 95 percent of alarms are false, accidental, or otherwise unfounded.
“The purpose of these alarms is to reduce these accidental alarms that tie up public resources and create unnecessary responses, which is a safety issue for us,” Jones said.
Accidental alarm activations can occur as a result of malfunctioning equipment, human error, or environmental conditions. The ordinance sets civil penalties for excessive false alarms, four or more within a permit year, and failure to obtain applicable alarm permits.
The CHPD responded to 1,250 alarm activations at a cost of $122,400. CHPD Chief Chris Blue also explained why he believed the program was important for the safety of the community.
A routine police alarm response includes at least two officers. A typical fire department alarm response requires up to ten firefighters.
The average time spent on-scene for alarm calls is 17 minutes.
“In the time it takes to clear an alarm, we are tying up half of the town’s fire fighting and emergency response resources,” Jones said.
Jones said that the program will require the equivalent of a full-time staff person and estimated the person will be in office for the first 12 months.
Chief Blue said that both departments will continues researching which alarm systems prove to be the faultiest, with the intention producing a report of the findings for the Council and community.
Council member Lee Storrow said he was concerned about the costs that UNC would accrue due to false alarms, though he was supportive of the program.