Columbus residents could be fined for false alarm calls made to first responders

Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 12:39 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Higher penalties may be put into place for residents in Columbus if they have too many false alarms coming from their home security systems.

A new alarm proposal is headed back to city council for a final vote but some are concerned about the impact and having to register their alarms with the city.

Both the Columbus Police Department and Columbus Fire and EMS are already short-staffed.

Right now, they are having to respond to every call and a lot of them are false alarms from people’s security systems or fire alarms.

Columbus police along with fire and EMS officials went to city council to propose a new alarm ordinance.

The first false alarm is free and the fee for the second offense can be waived by going through an online class.

The third time will be a $100 fine.

“What we got now is just not working. In 2018, the police department responded to about 22,000 false alarms and the fire department has been consistently running over 2,500 false fire alarms. It’s a lot of cost and manpower in vehicles and in gas and especially with us with resources,” said Assistant Police Chief Gil Slouchick.

Homeowners with alarm systems have mixed feelings about the new alarm proposal.

“Sometimes, the alarms go off and you didn’t do it on purpose. I don’t think those people should be fined, but if someone is doing it on purpose, yes, I think it takes the firefighters and policeman away from their duties,” said a Columbus home and alarm owner.

“No, I don’t think I have to be fined for a false alarm,” said another Columbus home and alarm owner.

Columbus Fire Marshal Ricky Shores said it takes a lot of manpower to respond to these calls and over the last 10 years, the false alarms have been steadily on the rise.

“You have to keep in mind that these trucks weigh 30 to 40 tons and every time they get on the road, we put the citizens of Columbus in harm’s way. So, we would like to see a reduction in false alarms so we make sure our units are available for true emergencies,” said Shores.

Adding a third-party company is also a part of the plan, so they can come in and handle false alarm calls. You would also have to register your alarms with that company if you are not already registered with the city.

“If you are currently registered with the city, there is no charge. You are grandfathered in. You can do it on the internet, you can do it through the mail, and you can set up an account on the internet with that provider and every year, you have to re-register that alarm at no cost,” said Slouchick.

The ordinance is expected to go back to council next Tuesday for a vote during the next meeting at 9 a.m.

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