By David F. Rooney
City Council, tired of false alarms that cost the Fire Service time and money, now wants to slap the owners of the property where those false alarms occur with stiff financial penalties.
At first glance, Bylaw No. 1928 doesn’t look that bad: a “fee” of $150 or the actual costs of a Fire Service call out, “whichever is greater,” on the occurrence of a third false alarm and all subsequent false alarms.
However, the actual dollar value of getting fire department personnel and vehicles to the scene of a fire alarm (the fire alarms in question are those that are hooked directly to a service, which then contacts the fire department) is a lot higher than just $150 — it’s actually between $500 and $1,500, Chief Rob Girard told Council.
Council decided to take this step after it looked the high number of false alarms in recent years. In 2007, fire service personnel responded to 47 alarms, 30 of which were false. In 2008 there were 30 alarms, 25 of them false. In 2009 there were 63 fire alarms, 36 of them false and so far this year there have been 29 alarms — 23 of them phonies.
A memo to Council from Girard said that in 2009 a “great number of of these calls were for false alarms during construction of new buildings at Revelstoke Mountain Resort properties.” Throw together continued RMR property expansion, new hotels in the City, new school construction and an increasing number of fire alarm-monitored vacation homes and Girard anticipates “the number of false fire alarms to have a dramatic increase in the coming years.”
“A good number of these calls are determined to be… (the result of) burnt food, contractor activated, unauthorized alarms, insect activation, malfunctions of an automatic sprinkler system or fire alarm system or occupants doing maintenance on their systems such as vacuuming heads of changing batteries,” he said.
Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, gave first and second reading to Bylaw No. 1928.