False Alarms

The hardest part of this story was getting the data.

The WPD gets a big high 5 for handing it over the fastest. They also figured out how many hours those alarms equate  to (41,664 hours) and about how much money they cost each year ($572,308).

But remember THIS: those numbers are based on ONE officer responding. The WPD says that most calls…especially if it’s a bank alarm…require more than one officer. In some cases…they send out the chopper and the dogs ( = $$$$$).

Costs really start to add up when they respond to the same location multiple times in one night. Captain Williamson says that sometimes, after a few calls, they can’t even get the owner to come out and shut off the alarm…even though its THEIR responsibility.

I asked the WPD for names…who are the “worst offenders”…whose business or residence do you have to go to multiple times a night, or multiple times throughout the week? I wanted to ask those people why they can’t better maintain their alarms…and do they feel any responsibility for wasting resources? Unfortunately, the WPD says that they can’t provide any names…due to how their data system operates. That was frustrating but deadline came before I was able to pursue it further. After the ordinance comes out next spring, if there are still “worst offenders” for false alarms…I’ll be pressing for a list of names and addresses.

Each year, the number of false alarms in the city keeps going up. Captain Williamson says that’s likely because of the growth our city has seen (i.e. annexation). Still, if you own an alarm system…its your responsibility and that means making sure everyone in your family knows how to arm and un-arm the system, notifying your alarm company if you will be testing it, educating ALL of your employees about your company’s device and making sure that deliveries are made in a way that does not accidentally trigger the alarm (oh…and STOP BURNING THE POPCORN!).

The purpose of the ordinance is to cut down on these high false alarm rates by penalizing repeat offenders. However, I’ve heard mixed reviews from both city and county staff as to whether or not it will actually come to fruition. Apparently they’ve been working on this ordinance for 3 years. The WPD says that it’s now on their lawyer’s desk and with approval from City Council…it will soon be in effect.

Here are more of the figures:

From the New Hanover County Sherriff’s Office

  2005 2006 2007 2008
Total  Alarm Calls 4545 4586 4278 5059
Total Reports 39 30 26 30
False Alarms 4506 4556 4252 5029
Percentage False 99.14191 99.34584 99.39224 99.407

From the Wilmington Fire Department:

38,642 total alarms in the past 4 years…5,705 false alarms. That means that 14.7% are considered false. OF THOSE….there are two types of alarms: manual (you pull the red trigger on the wall) and automatic (hanging in your ceiling and set off without your control). When its an AUTOMATIC alarm….96% of the time it’s false.

The WFD says it’s very difficult to estimate how much those false calls are costing them because different trucks go to different calls and its hard to estimate fuel and maintenance costs on those trucks. Whatever the case…we’ve all seen a fire truck…its NOT cheap to get it out of the driveway.

The WFD already has an ordinance that fines for false alarms but this new one is a joint project with the WPD. There is a very interesting follow-up I have for this piece…but I can’t tell you about it now…because I am OUT.THE.DOOR to Africa tomorrow!

See you in December.




1 Comment

  1. burglar alarm…

    Sounds Great!…

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