False Alarm Synopsis
Why have a False Alarm Ordinance?
On December 22, 1998, the Little Rock City Board of Directors passed the False Alarm Reduction Ordinance in order to encourage alarm owners and alarm monitoring businesses to assume appropriate responsibility for the maintenance and mechanical reliability of alarm systems, to prevent unnecessary responses to false alarms by emergency personnel, and to protect citizens from the dangers of emergency personnel and equipment being inappropriately utilized because of answers to unwarranted alarms. The ordinance also establishes a schedule of civil penalties for repeat offenders of the ordinance.
What is a false alarm?
An alarm call is considered to be false if a request for immediate assistance of emergency personnel is made and:
- An actual emergency situation or threatened criminal activity does not or did not exist.
- Is a result of accidentally or negligently activated signals, as well as any signal that is the result of faulty, malfunctioning, or improperly installed or maintained equipment.
- Is a result of an act of God (i.e. weather conditions).
- Emergency personnel are dispatched and the call is canceled while the responding personnel are en route.
- The responding emergency personnel determines that the request was otherwise unwarranted.
If an alarm is activated and emergency personnel are dispatched, it is still considered to be a false alarm if the request was made as a result of the following:
- A low battery in the alarm system
- Power outage or power failure
- Telephone line failure
- Thunderstorms and any other weather-related causes
- Rodents, pets, etc., triggering the alarm system
- Defective/malfunctioning alarm system equipment
- Anyone who is allowed access into a home, apartment, business, or other building who fails to disarm the alarm system (in which the alarm system owner is still responsible for the false alarm)
What is a real alarm?
Alarms are considered to be valid and not false only under these circumstances:
- The alarm was activated as a result of criminal activity
- The alarm was activated and there was proof of attempted criminal activity
- The alarm system was activated by an alarm user upon a good faith belief that an actual or threatened crime is about to occur
How much are false alarm civil penalties?
Because any alarm system can malfunction at any time without warning, the ordinance allows three alarms per year in which no civil penalty is assessed against the alarm owner. If the alarm user exceeds the three (3)-alarm limit, civil penalties are assessed on the following schedule:
||Amount of Civil Penalty
|1st through 3rd
||Free, no charge – letter is sent after 2nd alarm
|6th and all subsequent alarms
||Varies depending on agency responding:
$200 – Police response
$300 – Fire response to a house
$450 – Ambulance response
$500 – Fire response to a larger building
If emergency response personnel respond to multiple false alarms in one day, each call is counted as a separate violation. If instances where more than one agency responds to the same call, the civil penalties may increase accordingly. Invoices for fines are generally sent within three (3) to ten (10) business days after the date the alarm occurred and fines are considered to be past due thirty (30) days past the invoice date. If violators cannot pay, refuses to pay, or wishes to contest false alarm charges, the matter will be brought to Little Rock Environmental Court.
What can I do to prevent false alarms?
- Test your alarm system—check your alarm system documentation to find out how and how often to inspect it. If you don’t have this information or need help, call your alarm system’s customer service department.
- Make sure that your contact information and call list is current and up-to-date. If it has been a while since you’ve updated this information or if someone on your list has moved or changed jobs, contact your alarm monitoring company’s customer service department and make sure that names and phone numbers are current.
- “If you give them a key, give them the code!” If a family member, real estate agent, a babysitter, or anyone else who is allowed access to your home and sets off your alarm, YOU are responsible for the false alarm. Make sure that whoever has a key knows how to identify themselves to an alarm monitoring company if the alarm is set off by accident.
- A lot of false alarms for about any type of building—houses, businesses, churches, etc.—are as a result of someone trying to open a locked front door. In some installations, if you push on a locked door hard enough, the door may move a little bit, just enough for alarm sensors to lose contact and cause a false alarm.
- If you recently had a false alarm, find out which zone or sensor was activated, and try to figure out why the alarm system was activated. If the same zone or sensor is triggering the system multiple times, then you may have a defective sensor.
- For more tips for preventing false alarms, you can visit the FARA (False Alarm Reduction Association) Consumer Information web page.
If you have any questions regarding your alarm system, please call your alarm system or monitoring company’s customer service department. If you have any questions regarding the City’s false alarm ordinance or false alarm civil penalties, you may call the false alarm coordinator at (501) 371-4570.