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false alarm fines -alarm companies owed an explanation / Phoenix AZ / ESA's warning on Sandy Springs, GA
September 21, 2017
Members owed an explanation about false alarm fines
    We believe the leadership of several alarm associations, including SIAC and TMA/CSAA, owe their members and explanation. A recent letter was sent to their membership seeking donations to…  ”Fight Onerous False Alarm Ordinances”.   “…If ignored, ordinances like this can become dangerous precedents that quickly take hold in other jurisdictions around the country, putting your customers and your business at risk.”
    What do they mean, ”putting your customers and your business at risk”.  Scary language…. an explanation please. 
    Ken, are these legal issues? Do the K&K contracts mitigate the risks?  More guidance would be useful.
Lee Jones
Support Services Group
    Fuel for the fire…  See ESA's announcement below
Detective H.W."Robbie" Robinson #5002
Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit / Alarm Inspections
Phoenix, Az
    On July 18, 2017, the City of Sandy Springs, a suburb of metro Atlanta, passed an ordinance that will force alarm companies to pay false alarm fees and fines, regardless of reason and without establishing culpability. The ordinance is effective as of Sept. 1, 2017.
Under the new ordinance, alarm companies installing and servicing alarm systems are required to register the system with the city and pay the following fines for false alarms: 
First Offense:                        $25.00
Second and Third Offenses:   $250.00
All Subsequent Offenses:       $500.00
    In addition to these quickly escalating fines, the new ordinance will impose financial penalties on alarm companies for failing to update a subscriber’s contact information, even when the subscriber has failed to provide the information in a timely manner. This further punishes alarm companies for an action over which they have no control. Click here to review the Ordinance and the Resolution establishing fines for violations.
    The Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) and the Georgia Electronic and Life Safety and Systems Association (GELSSA) have been working tirelessly on this issue. However, despite numerous efforts by experts in false alarm reduction to assist Sandy Springs in adopting a more effective solution, the City chose to proceed with an approach that is detrimental to both its citizens and our industry.
    Sandy Springs officials claim to have interest from more than a dozen other jurisdictions in Georgia exploring the adoption of similar ordinances. Meanwhile, Arizona, Colorado and Tennessee are considering similar laws that will hold alarm companies financially responsible for any false alarm.
    We must address the ordinance in Sandy Springs with legal intervention to ensure alarm companies not only in Georgia, but throughout the country, are not unfairly penalized and punished for false alarms. This is a crucial, but costly, initiative and ESA, on behalf of SIAC, is requesting financial support from our members.
    We always like to hear from Robbie Robinson [and the few other AHJs that participate on this forum].  I'd like to welcome Becky Buckhannon of the Phoenix Police Dept who is the Alarm Coordinator for the Phoenix Police Department.  Not sure if this is new appointment but we look forward to her participation.  Robbie of course is [in my opinion] a law enforcement alarm expert.  I'm looking forward to him putting in his 20 years and then buying alarm contracts when he leaves the job and goes into the business.
    I also want to thank Lee for his continued participation on this forum, and at the same time invite everyone to participate [easy as a Reply to the daily email].  
    False alarms.  I really think I have a great idea, despite some criticism.  Alarm companies need to charge for false alarms and maybe all calls to the central station, for any reason.  Automate it.  AHJ seem to think that fines will be a deterrent, so let's pitch in.  
    We know that fines are not a deterrent to false alarms, at least not from the alarm industries perspective. AHJs, First Responders, have a different perspective.  How can there be two different perspectives [and yes, if you're getting bored with this, it is important to your business, so keep reading]? 
  • False alarms from the AHJs perspective:  causes unnecessary dispatch, allocation of personnel, tremendous expense, risk of injury for unnecessary responses; waste of everyone's time.  On other hand, as some AHJs have discovered and what the alarm industry is worried about other AHJs discovering, a pretty good revenue source that adds to the municipalities' coffers.  
  • False alarms from the alarm industries perspective:  Customer dissatisfaction and frustration, not to mention the "fuel for the fire" [to borrow Robbie's observation] if fines are imposed.  Yes, there is also the added burden placed on the central stations fielding all these false alarms.  On a positive note however, the false alarm may alert the subscriber and dealer to deficiencies in the alarm system that requires repair service or perhaps further education by the subscriber regarding the alarm's use.  It may also be indication of failing communication pathways.  
    That brings us to Lee's observation.  Are the false alarm fines being imposed by AHJs really ”putting your customers and your business at risk”,  "unfairly penalized [alarm companies] and punished for false alarms"  and "further punishes alarm companies for an action over which they have no control"?
  • Putting customers are risk:  could be, especially if First Responder adopt a no-response policy.  Also, false alarms may have the consequence of customers discontinuing the use of their alarms.  That will put a strain on the customer - alarm dealer relationship because the customer won't want to pay for a service they are afraid to use because of the potential fines.  Not using the alarm of course defeats the purpose of having installed it in the first place, and presumably there was a reason to install the alarm.  It is an impossible position to take that alarms serve no function, do not deter crime and other disasters, and do not aid, rather than hamper, First Responders so they can better do their job and serve the public. 
  • Punish alarm companies for action over which they have no control:  Well that is an assumption that I am not entirely in agreement with.  I think alarm companies do have some control over the false alarm situation.   False alarms have many components, but better installation and consumer education are significant contributing factors, and both are within the control of the dealer, to some degree.  What is the alarm dealer doing to decrease the chances of false alarms?  What can the dealer do besides choosing equipment that is more reliable, communication pathways that are more reliable, and educating the consumer?  Let me tell you something, as a consumer of alarm services.  Not a single one of my friends, every one of whom has a system in their home, knows the number of their central station and most don't even know who the central station is. They obviously can't call the central station to report a false alarm.   If that central station doesn't have a verification process it's going to call First Responders every time.  How about putting the central station's phone number on the key paid?  How about insisting that subscribers have some back up communication, a text message, ECV, some verification, and pay for it; it's cheaper than fines.
    That brings me to the final issue raised by Lee.  Yes, the Standard Form Agreements protect the dealer from the false alarm fines, even if the AHJ is fining the dealer.  Complete reimbursement from the subscriber to the dealer is required [and reimbursement from the dealer to the central station is also required], so ultimately no matter who the AHJ fines, it's going to be the subscriber who pays the fine [in an ideal world].  How many subscribers won't pay and how many will cancel service over false alarm fines, well that needs another study.  A subscriber who cancels the alarm service for false alarms is, in my opinion, in breach of the contract, and that has consequences - many hear from my collection attorneys.


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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
516 747 6700