The Slippery Rock Borough Council has proposed an amendment to the Borough of Slippery Rock False Alarm Ordinance that will benefit fire stations who respond to the area.
At the last borough council meeting on Feb. 22, the council unanimously approved a motion to advertise their intention to amend the ordinance.
The ordinance defines false alarms as “an alarm to which police, fire or other emergency services respond resulting from the activation of an alarm or alarm system when a crime, fire or other emergency warranting immediate action has not in fact occurred.”
It said false alarms that are triggered, accidentally or intentionally, cause unnecessary disruption to borough emergency services, waste borough resources and endanger borough residents.
The borough constructed the ordinance for two reasons. One is to provide fees and penalties to tenants, owners and operators responsible to deter false alarms. The borough also hopes the ordinance will encourage the use of appropriate alarm installation services to prevent false alarms.
Slippery Rock Borough Manager Christian Laskey said it is at the fire chief’s discretion whether to issue a fine since they are looking for “strictly malicious alarms.”
“Our goal, number one, is to ensure everyone is safe,” Laskey said. “Two is to not put extra strain and stress on the fire department and their equipment, and three, if there are malicious acts the property owner isn’t aware of, we provide some ramifications.”
Laskey said the fire chief has the authority to dismiss false alarms for reasons like burnt food but will issue fines for reasons like smoking cigarettes inside.
Previously, the borough would collect fines from false alarms and keep the money. With the proposed amendment to the ordinance, the borough will collect the fines and distribute them equitably to benefit all fire departments that respond to false alarms.
“Our intention is to find out about these false alarms, fine them, and then give the fire department lump-sum amounts for these fines,” Laskey said.
The proposed ordinance said there will not be a charge for a tenant, entity or property owner’s first offense within a calendar year. However, for repeat offenders, the fine will increase each time.
A second false alarm will result in a fine of $50, a third false alarm will result in a fine of $100. Anytime after that, the repeat offender will pay $250 per false alarm.
Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Team (SRVFC) was founded in 1907 and has served the surrounding communities since then. According to their website, SRVFC responds to around 500 fire calls annually.
According to Laskey, some off-campus apartment complexes have advanced alarm systems that share the unit’s specific room and the time when the alarm goes off directly to Butler County dispatch. They then call the fire department.
“It’s the fire department’s job to go every time because they don’t know it’s a false alarm,” Laskey said.
The volunteer crew responded to 57 fire calls and 153 EMT responses in January alone, according to the SRVFC report from the last borough council meeting. Eighteen of the fire responses were fire alarms, while only eight structure fires were reported in the same month.