Now is the Time to Preempt Local Control of False Alarm Management
False alarm fines are historically imposed by local governments to force those who habitually cause them to pay for public safety (police and/or fire) response and incentivize compliance through financial penalties. Fining end users and practicing other measures — such as enhanced call verification — is also proven to reduce false dispatches caused by end users.
Some local governments either dispute these findings from studies or they simply do not want to consider them because they run counter to their own agenda. In either case, the result for alarm dealers is potentially contradicting local ordinances for false alarm management. Some states have enacted legislation preempting local government ordinances that would fine alarm companies for false dispatches. More are needed.
It appears the Sandy Springs, GA ordinance that fines alarm companies for false dispatches, without meaningful due process for the reason, will stand. This necessarily creates substantial billing and financial issues for all alarm companies that operate in Sandy Springs and the surrounding jurisdictions. Yet, financial and business issues for alarm companies are of little concern to some local policy makers. What is important to them is “local control” of these sorts of issues, however, missing from their equation is the disparate impact these ordinances have on businesses that operate across jurisdictions.
For example, it is one thing for a city to charge X for local permits and another city to charge Y because each charges a certain amount for the same permit. But when most cities fine end users for false dispatches and only one fines alarm companies, it creates a conflicting business model that is imposed on the alarm business. Accounting and contractual concerns are only the beginning of issues that result.
Just as with licensing issues, states can and should take control when local governments implement opposing structures to address a unified goal, in this case — false alarm reduction. Georgia now has local governments with opposing structures to address false alarm management and it is time for the state to step in.
State preemption over local control is not new to licensing and it is not new to false alarm reduction. California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and, most recently, Iowa have current statutes that preempt local control over false alarm management. It is time for the Georgia Legislature to consider taking this step to create a meaningful law that will effectively reduce false alarms and establish a unified alarm management policy for all fire, intrusion and life-safety dispatches.
We will face many issues as an industry in 2021. While most will impact members as part of a broader economic or regulatory policy, alarm management is particular to electronic security and life safety. As partners in the public safety’s response to alarms, we owe it to our customers and public safety agencies to create the best framework possible for alarm management. Establishing best practices at the state level is the most appropriate means to that end.