Burglar and fire alarms are necessary for keeping your property safe from damage or theft. But part of maintaining those systems is making sure your systems aren’t “crying wolf” to your local law enforcement agency. Sheriff’s offices, fire departments, and other emergency response providers are forcing companies, their systems integrators, and monitoring companies to tamp down on false alarms. It’s no wonder municipal governments are on board with punishing offenders after seeing that the NFPA recorded roughly 2,238,000 false alarms in 2012, or around 8.3% of all alarms.
So municipal governments are starting to crack down on false burglar and false fire alarms, and some of the biggest stories have been coming from our own neck of the woods. Let’s take a look at why nuisance alarms are a pain, and what you can expect to pay for one in south and central Florida’s most prominent cities and counties.
Why Are Fire and Burglar Alarms So Harmful to Activate?
If false alarms are going off regularly and emergency responders are dispatched, you’re losing productivity, money, and gaining a reputation for failing to address the problem.
Fire alarms must dial out from your business to the governing fire authority in your area, according to the NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, but burglar alarms may dial out directly to the police or go through your internal system first. Firefighters and police departments typically deal with dozens or hundreds of automatic calls a day depending on the size of their jurisdiction. You might feel comfortable letting the police check out an alarm just in case, but this kind of systemic thinking creates huge externalities for taxpayers and law enforcement down the road.
When a sizable chunk of all alarms are false alarms, those responders spend a lot of time and money driving out to locations they don’t need to be going to, taking away their readiness from very real crimes and fires. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office responds to nearly 18,000 false alarms annually, according to their website. That easily adds up to hundreds of thousands of hours across Florida and the United States that law enforcement and other emergency responders waste, cutting into their effectiveness and costing taxpayers a ton of money.
No one wants to “cry wolf” and gain a reputation for a questionable system. After enough nuisance alarms, many cities and counties have ordinances letting emergency responders reduce or completely eliminate their obligations to respond to those particular alarms. Getting burned like that could lead to a disaster when you have a real intrusion or fire on your hands. It’s important to understand first how and why alarms are triggered so you can take measures to avoid setting them off, and avoid the subsequent fines.
How Are False Fire and Burglar Alarms Triggered?
False alarms are caused by any number of malfunctions. “A lot of false alarms are due to lack of maintenance, cleaning devices, and neglect,” said Randy Berens, BCI’s assistant service manager. “Fire systems can be unpredictable as there are so many possible causes for false alarms.”
Some of the most common nuisance alarm triggers include:
- Faulty equipment;
- Low or dead batteries;
- Poor system deployment, like placing fire alarms too close to ovens so they frequently go off;
- Unstable electrical current or voltage;
- Human error;
- Motion detectors with very high sensitivity;
- Little to not maintenance by a service provider to identify problems; and
- Old, outdated, or otherwise unsupervised alarm equipment.
System malfunctions and unintentional activations like these make up as much as 77 percent of false fire alarms based on the NFPA’s 2011 “Unwanted Fire Alarms” report.
Setting off an alarm, particularly a fire alarm, triggers a response beyond your organization. While the alarm is going off, emergency responders get notified and may deploy to assess the situation. Wasting their time could net you a warning or even a fine, and sometimes more than one depending on local requirements. All that could take place automatically, and you could get fined for an illegitimate alarm.
Florida False Alarm Rates
The price of a false alarm differs depending on what town, county, or city is responsible for responding. Here are some of the costs for false alarms throughout Florida. Some caveats:
- Many cities and counties request or require alarm registration. You can usually find a link to the registration page in the footnotes if the city or county offers registration. Alarm registration is strongly recommended if it’s offered, even though it may not always be required.
- Some cities and counties distinguish between nuisance fire and burglar alarms, charging different fines for both. This list generally reflects nuisance burglar alarm fines, but may also cover nuisance fire alarms.
- Cities and counties generally base their fines on either a calendar year or set false alarms to expire on a sliding 12-month scale. Some may divide up the year differently.
- Remember, fire alarms must dial out to the assigned fire authority. Burglar alarms may start with a company chain of command, but frequently get escalated to law enforcement anyway.
Don’t see the city or county you’re looking for? Think our information is out of date? Drop us a line on our contact page and we’ll get it solved!
City False Alarm Ordinances in South and Central Florida (updated June 2018)
|1st Alarm||2nd Alarm||3rd Alarm||4th Alarm||5th Alarm||6th Alarm||Registration offered?|
*After the sixth false alarm, Tampa rates rise to $300. You can register your alarm at https://www.tampagov.net/police/programs/false-alarm-program.
**Miami also charges fines for failure to register your alarm system, which you can do at http://www.miamidade.gov/police/burglar-alarm-ordinance.asp.
***Hialeah authorities do not publish their fine structure online, nor were they available for comment at the time of publication.
****This table reflects Orlando’s commercial account false alarm fee structure. You can register your alarm here.
*****This table reflects Fort Lauderdale’s commercial account false alarm structure. The sixth and all subsequent alarms within a 12-month period are locked in at $190. You can register your alarm here.
^Pembroke Pines places systems with six or more false alarms on limited response. You can register your alarm with the city here.
^^Clearwater charges $100 for the sixth and any subsequent fines, and requires registration. You can register your alarm system on their website.
^^^Cape Coral waives the first and second fines if you register your alarm system with the city, which is required. You can register your alarm at https://www.capecops.com/alarm-registration/.
^^^^For the seventh and eighth incidents the fine in Cape Coral is $200. Nine or more false alarms yields $400. You can register your alarm on their website.
^^^^^Fines reflect St. Petersburg’s pricing table without a registered permit. You can register your alarm on their false alarms enforcement site. Fines with a registered permit are reduced.
++Palm Bay fines level off at $200 after the sixth occurrence. You can register your alarm on their website. Palm Bay emergency responders are not required to respond to any alarms, but currently always respond to registered alarms going off.
+++After the sixth occurrence, Miramar charges $125 for the seventh, eighth, and ninth false alarms. Over nine alarms is a $250 fine. You can register your alarm at https://www.miramarfl.gov/1326/Alarm-Application.
++++This reflects the fee structure for nuisance fire alarms, provided courtesy of the Lakeland Fire Marshal Cheryl Edwards.
+++++Sarasota charges $100 for the seventh false alarm, $250 for the eighth and ninth false alarms, and $500 each for false alarms after nine. You can register your alarm with Sarasota at https://www.crywolfservices.com/sarasotafl/.
County False Alarm Ordinances in South Central Florida (updated June 2018)
|1st Alarm||2nd Alarm||3rd Alarm||4th Alarm||5th Alarm||6th Alarm||Registration|
*Miami-Dade County requires you to register your alarm system or face a fine of $50 and then $100 for each false alarm thereafter. You can register your alarm at https://www.miamidade.gov/police/burglar-alarm-ordinance.asp.
**Palm Beach County charges $200 for the seventh, eighth, and ninth false alarm, and after the tenth the fine rises to $300. Palm Beach County also requires alarm registration at https://alarms.pbso.org/RegForm/NewRegForm2.aspx.
***Broward County imposes strict requirements on corrective action for false alarms. You can learn more by contacting the Broward Sheriff’s Office or visiting their site.
****After the sixth occurrence, Hillsborough County fines rise to and level off at $500.
*****Fines reflect Pinellas County’s pricing table without a registered permit. You can register your alarm on their website, https://www.pcsoweb.com/program-services/alarm-registration. Fines with a registered permit are reduced.
^In Polk County, the seventh alarm increases to $200, and each subsequent alarm is an additional $100 until the tenth, after which fines cap at $500. You can register your alarms at https://crywolf.polksheriff.org.
^^In Orange County, false alarms 7-12 cost $100, and after 12 the fine rises to $200. You can register your alarm on their website.
^^^Upon the third false alarm, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office can disconnect your service pending necessary corrective action to your system.
^^^^Sarasota County charges $25 for each false alarm and separates the year into two six-month periods for keeping track of false alarms. You’re also required to furnish the county with contact information for your alarm.
^^^^^The seventh and eighth false alarms in Lee County cost $200. The ninth and subsequent false alarms costs $400. You’re required to register with Lee County on their website.
+Seven or more false alarms in Brevard County net $200 in fines each time. Brevard County also charges significant administrative fees for malfunctioning alarms.
++You can register your alarms with Pasco County on their website.
How Can I Cut Down on False Alarms and Avoid Fines?
Avoiding false alarms can involve any number of steps depending on your problems and your business. Cutting down on human error can be as easy as holding training sessions for employees or residents to familiarize themselves with your fire or burglar alarm system. Other changes, like moving fire alarm hardware to less environmentally susceptible or misleading locations or upgrading your fire/burglar alarm system, could require the help of a service provider like BCI Integrated Solutions.
If false alarms are going off regularly and emergency responders are dispatched, you’re losing productivity, money, and gaining a reputation for failing to address the problem. These are hard facts, even if they’re tough to swallow. But if you’re concerned that it may cost more to fix your nuisance alarm problems than let them persist, don’t be worried.
Could I Save Money By Getting My Alarm System Serviced?
Yes! And we’re not just saying that. You can get your technology systems serviced when it’s convenient to you, and for a price you’re comfortable with. A monitoring and service agreement could cost a business with a single location as little as $1500 a year for continuous access to a professional systems integrator like ours. If your alarms are using POT (plain old telephone) lines and you haven’t upgraded to wireless, switching to wireless alarm monitoring alone can save you hundreds of dollars a year and provide you with a more reliable system.
We can provide you with the full range of system services, but our most popular options include:
- Fire alarm system testing and inspections;
- Fire alarm system maintenance
- Smoke detector cleaning and sensitivity testing
- Security system testing and inspection
- Fire sprinkler system testing and inspection
- Emergency services
- Special provisions
You may want more or less of these services depending on your needs. We can provide you with a customized maintenance agreement that addresses your specific needs and we have all sorts of bells and whistles, like our new client portal, to give you access to documents for your regulatory needs like AHCA or fire marshal inspections.
Upgrade Your Tech Systems With BCI Today
You’ve probably heard of or personally faced a nuisance alarm at your workplace whether it’s a school, corporation or another business place. These alarms could be so frequent you don’t even think about them anymore. But it’s very possible that they’re costing you a lot of money. Talk to one of our representatives today to discuss a maintenance agreement, monitoring agreement, or any of your other electronic building systems.