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Fire Fees: Riverside County Supervisors to Consider Charging for False Calls

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on an order initiating an ordinance that would regulate fire false alarms, according to the meeting's agenda.

Update Tuesday 3 p.m.:

Riverside County supervisors Tuesday signed off on plans to establish penalties for individuals or businesses responsible for triggering false fire alarms that needlessly divert emergency resources.

Without comment, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 -- with Chairman John Tavaglione absent -- to authorize the Office of Emergency Services to work with the Office of County Counsel on finalizing an ordinance.

Original Story as Follows: 

Riverside County supervisors Tuesday will consider plans for an ordinance that would establish penalties for individuals or businesses responsible for triggering false fire alarms that needlessly divert emergency resources.

The county's Office of Emergency Services is seeking the Board of Supervisors' approval to work with the Office of County Counsel on drafting an ordinance, so no fee amount has been given just yet.

The idea is to help mitigate the cost of responding to false calls, and to help deter them from happening: 

"These calls range from someone pulling the fire alarm erroneously at a school to not turning off a house alarm in time," according to a County fire and Office of Emergency Services (OES) document.

"Responding to these calls prolongs the time that it can take for the (fire) department to respond to a bona fide emergency and can ultimately jeopardize the health, welfare and safety of Riverside County residents," the document continues.

Supervisor Jeff Stone last year raised the issue of false alarms and what might be done to prevent them while considering ways to save the fire department money as it struggled to pare down a $5 million budget deficit.

According to the fire department, firefighters responded to 2,110 false alarm calls -- or an average of six per day -- countywide in 2011.

A four-fifths board vote is required for the drafting to move forward.

-City News Service Contributed to this Report

Diego Rose December 04, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I find it an awkward proposition in that the entire operation of fire protection is already paid for through the extraction of tax funds. We the people, already pay for all of the goods that the Police, Fire, and all government agencies provide. Knowing how the fire depart. tends to talk people into using the services once they have been dispatched, I'm sure for legal reasons, I suggest simply training the departments to make better judgement calls on scene in order to prevent unnecessary transfers and help reduce a number of medical transfers. I've seen this first hand and I know that EMS providers all wish they had more autonomy to make judgement calls on scene. I can think of many ways in which to save money. I think a lot of agencies tend to look very shortsightedly at problems and go after those issues or problems that sound good but have very little, if any, teeth.
ATC December 04, 2012 at 08:44 PM
They responded to 2,110 false alarms in 2011...countywide! That's 6 per day...countywide! Just how many county fire stations are there...countywide? About 100. And out of those 100 stations, only 6 have to respond to a false alarm in any given day? And this really is a pressing problem? No, it is nothing more than a way to try to squeeze additional money from citizens, as if we do not pay enough already in taxes. Supervisor Jeff Stone should be ashamed of himself for wasting the Board's time on frivilous crap like this.
Charles Ferrell December 04, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I would be willing to listen to a plan that would call for a fine for multiple false alarms coming from a single source. Even then, I would want to have the nature of the false alarms identified to see what level of fault the owner of the alarm must bear. For example, if an alarm is improperly installed and for no other reason keeps going off on a number of occasions, then the owner of the alarm ought to be required to see to it that the alarm is function properly. Then, after a few warnings, if nothing is done to correct the situation, then fines could be in order. For another example, if a retail store is being "vandalized" by folks pulling, pushing or whatever other way setting off alarms, I wouldn't fine the retail store owner. I would insist that the retail owner install security cameras, then those who set off false alarms could be cited and charged with a crime for their actions. Anyone setting off a false fire alarm intentionally should be cited and charged with a crime. However, it seems a bit draconian for the county to simply impose fines against someone whose fire alarm simply goes off for no obvious reason. I can understand the county's overall concern, because fire units responded to a false alarm creates a number of problems. Among them include possible risk of accidents as a result of fire trucks going Code 3 (red lights and sirens) to a false alarm and fire trucks being late to handle real calls because they were busy handling false ones.

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