Too many false alarm calls are putting emergency services staff at risk in Red Deer County, say the assistant county manager.
Ric Henderson said every year, crews respond to hundreds of calls at businesses and homes where, when they show up, there is no emergency.
On Tuesday, Red Deer County council gave first reading to a new False Alarm Bylaw that may curb the alarms by penalizing home owners and businesses for the second false alarm within a calendar year.
The first offence can result in a $200 fine payable to the county. Subsequent response would see offenders pay $400 per incident.
Henderson said this bylaw is a long time coming because the incidents are on the rise.
He did not have a specific number but he estimated the crews respond to hundreds of false alarm calls every year.
For example, they see situations where businesses run fire drills with employees but do not inform the fire crews or the alarm company.
Or employees will forget the security code to get into a building and set off the alarms.
“A fire call (is) an emergency response for our fire vehicles,” said Henderson. “That puts not only our people at risk but those on the roads. When you’re running lights and sirens, that’s a risk every time.”
Henderson said the false alarms are taking the personnel away from other legitimate complaints, emergencies and duties. As well, he said the unnecessary response is taking the volunteer firefighters away from work and home.
Henderson said the bylaw isn’t intended to be a money grab but to make property owners accountable for their alarm systems.
“Sometimes when it hits you in the pocketbook, it makes a difference,” said Henderson. “People need to be accountable for the systems that they have in their property. Even though you have a company that is monitoring it, the property owner is still responsible for what happens with that alarm.”
Red Deer charges residents $300 on second and subsequent offences for false alarms due to faulty equipment under its Emergency Services Department Fees and Charges and Bylaw. The bylaw is under review.
Blackfalds and Lacombe approved similar bylaws earlier this year.
County council is expected to pass the new bylaw in September.