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comments on false alarms, risks and cost October 3, 2017

KEN KIRSCHENBAUM, ESQ
ALARM - SECURITY INDUSTRY LEGAL EMAIL NEWSLETTER / THE ALARM EXCHANGE
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comments on false alarms, risks and cost
October 3, 2017
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comments on false alarms from September 27, 2017 article
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Ken
    I am a firefighter.   90% of our responses to alarm system Dispatch's are on false alarms.   We are a 100% volunteer department as well, so everything and anything that is proposed that will reduce false alarms I am definitely on board with. Just this past week we had 27 false alarms directly related to alarm systems.   And I can tell you from the firefighter perspective because of all of these false alarms received it is very difficult to take it seriously when we receive one. 
Anthony Vanhorn
The Security Guy
Murray Ky 42071
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Response
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    I won't hold you to the 90% since those in the know who talk about this issue seem to claim that 99% of the alarms are false alarms.  
    First Responder response to fire is very different than First Responder response to a burglar alarm.  I can see two areas of concern when it comes to alarm response, whether actual or false alarm.
    Let's discuss cost first.  Police or EMT are likely to send one car.  Fire?  The whole brigade.  I had a gas leak in my fireplace other day; I knew it was the valve in the propane fire place.  Propane company wouldn't help at all and insisted that I call the fire dept, so I did, explaining that the situation was under control but I need assistance shutting off the propane tank.  In 10 minutes there were 3 fire trucks and one supervisor in his own vehicle.  Maybe the response was warranted; it wasn't a false alarm.  
    Intrusion response typically requires some verification, even if it's only one call to the premises.  Fire requires immediate dispatch.  Perhaps that wouldn't be such a costly policy if every fire department insists on completing the response even if it's confirmed that it's a false alarm and no situation exists that requires fire department response.  Maybe the rules need to change on verification and central station response for fire signals.
    Of course police, fire or EMT all have their own particular risks.  The risks involve getting to the scene of the alarm and also then having to deal with the situation once there.  A recent case discussed the Fireman's Rule [which is the same as the Policeman Rule] which is essentially that a fire or policeman can't sue for an injury suffered responding to an emergency condition unless there is some negligence invoking the premises.  Here are some quotes from the case footnotes:
11 “[M]ore than [thirty] jurisdictions in the United States have adopted the firefighter's rule .... Approximately [ten] states do not appear to have addressed the firefighter's rule at all. Of the remaining states, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York have abolished or severely limited the rule by statute.... Oregon and South Carolina have abolished or declined to adopt the firefighter's rule by judicial decision.” (Citations omitted.) Apodaca v. Willmore, 306 Kan. 103, 113–14, 392 P.3d 529 (2017).
12 The concurrence asserts that the “overwhelming majority of other courts continue to hold that encouraging citizens to call for help without fear of liability, even for emergencies of their own creation, remains a paramount public policy.” None of the cases cited by the concurrence, however, specifically focuses on the public policy rationale of encouraging society to call for help except for a quick mention. Of specific note is the concurrence's reliance on Berko v. Freda, supra, 93 N.J. at 81, 459 A.2d 663, and Lanza v. Polanin, 581 So.2d 130 (Fla. 1991), where the New Jersey and Florida Supreme Courts examined the public policy arguments behind the firefighter's rule and approved of the policy rationales. Those cases, however, have been superseded in both states by legislative action abolishing the firefighter's rule. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.182 (1) (West 2014); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:62A–21 (West 2014). While New Jersey and Florida courts may have decided that the public policy was in favor of the firefighter's rule, it is the proper role of the legislature to make those determinations, and the legislative bodies in those states decided that the public policy rationales did not support continuation of the firefighter's rule. See Campos v. Coleman, 319 Conn. 36, 65–67, 123 A.3d 854 (2015) (Zarella, J., dissenting). The concurrence's reliance on Steelman v. Lind, 97 Nev. 425, 634 P.2d 666 (1981), is misplaced as well, since the Nevada legislature examined the public policy rationales and felt that this concern was not so important so as to permit the continued expansion of the firefighter's rule, although the rule was not completely abolished. See Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.139 (2015).
13 To be clear, we are not advocating for the complete abolition of the firefighter's rule in this opinion. The issue has not been raised by the parties. We only mention these other jurisdictions for a broader view of places that are apparently unaffected by the lack of the firefighter's rule.
    So what is the fire fighter rule?
"The common-law firefighter's rule provides, in general terms, that a firefighter or police officer who enters private property in the exercise of his or her duties generally cannot bring a civil action against the property owner for injuries sustained as the result of a defect in the premises." Supreme Court of Connecticut.
SEPEGA v.  DELAURA.  In this case the issue was:
"The principal issue in this appeal is whether the firefighter's rule should be extended beyond the scope of premises liability so as to bar a police officer from recovering, under a theory of ordinary negligence, from a homeowner who is also an alleged active tortfeasor." 
    And the court concluded that
"We conclude that the firefighter's rule should not be extended beyond claims of premises liability ..."
    Keep in mind that if a First Responder does sue you, the alarm company, and there are plenty of cases where First Responders are injury and want to sue someone, and the alarm company who dispatched the false alarm is a wide open target, you are going to want to invoke the Indemnity Provision in your Standard From All in One Agreement.  The First Responder won't be a party to the alarm contract so won't be subject to the other protective provisions.  For your sake you should have an insurance procurement clauseallocation of risk and indemnity provision in your contract the end user.  Order the proper contract today atwww.alarmcontracts.com
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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
ken@kirschenbaumesq.com
516 747 6700
www.KirschenbaumEsq.com