Panel Backs Fines for False Fire Alarms

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At the request of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Laura Chick, the city’s Board of Fire Commissioners voted Tuesday to support a plan to crack down on businesses and homes that generate false fire alarms.

Chick proposed a similar crackdown last year on false burglar alarms that she said keep police from responding to real crimes.

A set of increased fines for businesses that generate repeat false alarms has been credited by police with reducing the number of false alarms by about 3% during the first six months of 1996.


Last year, the city’s Fire Department responded to 17,530 automatic fire alarms throughout the city, 85% or 14,944 of which were determined to be false alarms, according to a report by Fire Chief William Bamattre.

In the report, Bamattre estimated that the Fire Department spent up to 6,894 hours responding to false fire alarms. The report also said that one building alone had a total of 156 repeated automatic alarms last year.

“‘The problem has plagued the department for much too long,” Chick told the commission. “We need to adopt a common-sense response to those who put the rest of us in jeopardy by continuously calling upon our Fire Department when there is, in fact, no fire.”

Under Chick’s proposal, the Fire Department would first notify alarm companies about repeated false alarms. But eventually, the city could adopt fines for businesses and homes that generate more than two false-alarm calls per year.

Although Chick did not recommend a set of fees, Bamattre suggested an $82 fee for false alarms generated by houses and a $203 fee for businesses.

The entire City Council is expected to consider the matter within two weeks.