False alarms are more than an inconvenience; they take up the time of emergency personnel who may be needed to respond to a real emergency. The majority of alarm calls received by police departments are false alarms that can be avoided. Many jurisdictions have adopted false alarm ordinances to increase accountability of alarm companies and owners. Penalties provide some cost recovery and an incentive for alarm owners to maintain their systems and take corrective action to prevent false alarms.
The ordinance and policy provisions on this page are offered as samples rather than models, though a model ordinance is cited. It is recommended that the city or town attorney, or in the case of a county, the county prosecuting attorney, be consulted before incorporating any of these provisions into your own regulations. For additional background reading, see:
- False Burglar Alarms, by Rana Sampson U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem Specific Guide Series, No. 4, 2nd edition, 2007
- Opportunities for Police Cost Savings Without Sacrificing Service Quality: Reducing False Alarms, Phil Schaenman, Aaron Horvath, and Harry Hatry, Urban Institute, 2012 - Presents options for substantially reducing false alarms and the police responses to them
- Reduce False Alarm Calls through Enhanced Call Verification, Police Chief, August 2004
- RCW 9.40.100 - Tampering with fire alarm or fire fighting equipment -- False alarm -- Penalties
- Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 9.16 - False Alarms - Requires an emergency response card on file, fees range from none to first false alarm to $250 for the seventh.
- Kirkland Municipal Code Ch. 21.35A - Police False Alarms - Requires registration, false alarm fees range from $50 - $300, requires corrective action, and provides for service suspension.
- False Alarm Reduction Program - Includes forms
- Olympia Municipal Code Ch. 5.55 - Security Alarm Business - Regulates businesses that install and monitor security alarms.
- Olympia Municipal Code Ch.16.44 - Alarm Code - Requires indemnity agreements, provides installation requirements, provides fees and methods of payment for excess false alarms.
- Security Alarm Program
- False Alarm Prevention Online School - Consumer education
- Puyallup Municipal Code Ch. 9.01 - Alarm Systems - Regulates businesses installing and monitoring alarms. Requires business license, regulates installation of alarm systems, requires bond, and provides for inspections.
- Renton False Alarm Reduction Program
- Spokane Municipal Code Ch. 10.48 - False Alarms - Detailed ordinance that requires licensing of alarm businesses, requires registration of alarm sites, sets responsibilities for alarm users, and provides cost recovery for false alarms.
- Wenatchee Municipal Code Ch. 6A.34 - Burglar and Fire Alarms - Provides regulations for alarm systems connected to the city monitoring system, requires registration, provides for monthly monitoring fee.
- Lewis County Code Ch. 9.15 - Alarm Systems - Provides provisions regarding installation of alarms, requires installer identification card unless being installed by residential owner, false alarm fees in 90 day period range from none for the first two to $150 for the fifth.
- Okanogan County Code Ch. 9.28 - Faulty Security Systems - Provides that the ownership and/or operation of a faulty security system in the unincorporated areas of Okanogan County is declared to be a public nuisance. Four or more false alarms within a 12-month period or nonpayment of penalties makes the system subject to abatement by removal or permanent deactivation.
- Pierce County
- Pierce County Code Ch. 8.64 - Alarm Systems - Requires alarm users registration, provides application process and fees, duties of alarm users, Provides duties of alarm installers and monitoring companies and required business registration, duties of alarm administrator, and false alarm fees, suspension, and appeals.
- Pierce County Sheriff False Alarm Reduction Program
Model Ordinances and Standards - False Alarm Reduction
- Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) - A trade association that represents companies offering security (alarm) monitoring systems through a central station
- Electronic Security Association (ESA) - A non-profit 501(c) 6 trade association with the purpose of representing, promoting and enhancing the growth and professional development of the electronic life safety, security, and integrated systems industry.
- Electronic Security Association of Washington - Formerly Washington Burglar & Fire Alarm Association
- Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) - The mission of SIAC is to create a structure for all interested parties to come together under the banner of "dispatch reduction" and "alarm management" and through a coordinated effort maximize the impact on "false dispatch reduction" and "alarm management" across North America by maintaining a liaison with national and state (or provincial) law enforcement leadership, while educating and empowering local alarm communities to proactively foster relationships with law enforcement before a crisis develops.