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False alarm can be costly to the community

A false alarm, whether it be for a police or fire emergency, is always better than the real thing. But when false alarms are recurrent, they can become a strain on the resources of the community.

TXK Today spoke to all police and fire departments in Texarkana to see how each department handles false alarm calls. Here is what each one had to say:

Texarkana, Ark., Fire Marshal Stephen Johnson said going to a false alarm is costly in that his department has to send out four to five trucks per call.

“The cost involved is that there’s a delayed response for a real fire. Or, there’s the possibility of a truck going through a green light and someone hitting us. So, there’s the potential for an accident,” he said.

Plus, if trucks are on scene of a false alarm and a structure fire occurs, the Texas side fire department would have to step in and take action, Johnson noted.

Fire departments have to run their trucks to the scene of an alarm until it’s determined a false alarm has taken place – even if it’s suspected to be as such.

“As far as alarm regulation, our City Board of Directors have chosen to not regulate alarms, therefore, we abide by their decision,” said Kristi Mitchell, Public Information Officer of the Texarkana, Ark., Police Department.

“It is estimated that an alarm call essentially costs the city approximately $50 based on time and salary,” she said.

“Over the past five years, the Texarkana, Texas, Fire Department has responded to an average of 423.8 false alarms,” said Lisa Thompson, Public Information Officer with the City of Texarkana, Texas.

“Two fire units respond to each alarm at $80 an hour each. This brings our annual average cost to approximately $67,808 and a total of 2,966.6 man hours.”

Here are the totals of false alarms broken down by year for the TTFD:

  • 364 for 2009
  • 375 for 2010
  • 449 for 2011
  • 416 for 2012
  • 515 for 2013

The number of false fire alarms in Texarkana, Texas, has crept up over the years because of modern construction, which includes more smoke alarms and sprinkler systems being installed in newly-built homes and businesses, Thompson explained.

“Although they are time consuming and costly for our fire department to respond to and investigate, safety and protection of our residents and their property is our number one priority. So false alarms are necessary,” she said.

At the next council meeting, the council will have a public hearing concerning the city’s proposed Master Fee Schedule for fiscal year 2015, and a false alarm fee for fire has been considered, Thompson said.

“I am not sure what the final status of that proposal will be, but the agenda will be published by Friday (tomorrow) and you can look up the master fee schedule that is being considered here:http://texarkanacitytx.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.”

In order to help prevent false alarms for the fire department, Thompson suggested home and business owners ensure that their alarm systems are working and functioning properly by performing quarterly checks on the equipment.

“Inspect your home or business to make sure that the fire alarm system is working according to manufacturer’s standards. Devices should be cleaned regularly and family members, employees or managers should be trained on how to operate the system. Homeowners and business owners can also ensure that fire detectors are placed in the correct locations. Smoke detectors that are placed too close to kitchens, cooking appliances, locker rooms or bathrooms will most likely be accidentally activated,” Thompson said.

Sgt. Aaron Brower, Public Information Officer with the Texarkana, Texas, Police Department, said each residence and business within the city limits of Texarkana, Texas, is required to have an alarm permit as per Chapter 3A of the Texarkana, Texas, City Ordinance.

“Each alarm permit costs $20 yearly. Each alarm site is allowed six false alarms per year. After six false alarms they are charged $50 for each subsequent alarm,” Brower said.

The modus operandi on alarm calls is for two officers to respond and check the location for any suspicious behavior. The size and accessibility of the location determines how long officers are on scene, Brower said.

By Texarkana, Texas, city ordinance, an alarm system is defined as a device or series of devices that transmit a signal indicating an alarm condition and is intended to summon law enforcement.  An alarm system does not include a local alarm or an alarm installed on a vehicle.

Each alarm system site or location must have a separate registration form. Completed applications and payment may be submitted in person at the Texarkana Police Department, which is located on third floor of Bi-State Criminal Justice Center.

Source: http://txktoday.com/news/false-alarm-can-costly-community/