Columbus, GA (WRBL) – Columbus police and fire departments are trying to cut down on the surprisingly large number of false alarm calls in the city. Representatives from both departments proposed false alarm penalties as a way to curb those calls in tonight’s city council meeting.

Their proposal suggested the city employ a third party company that would monitor the false alarms and financially penalizes the owner of the alarms.

The Fire Department says they’ve stayed consistently around 2,500 false fire alarm calls per year. The Police Department says they had about 22,000 false alarm calls in 2018.

False alarm, according to the written proposal, means the activation of an alarm system to summon public safety which occurs as a result of mechanical or electronic failure, malfunction, improper installation, or the negligence of the alarm user or his employees or agents, unless the public safety response was canceled by the alarm user or his agent before public safety personnel arrived at the alarm location. An alarm is false when, upon determination by the responding officer, no unauthorized entry, robbery, or other crime was committed or attempted in or on the premises, or when no medical emergency or fire exists which would have activated a properly functioning alarm system.

“Well what it does is every time we have an alarm, we send a minimum of two officers, sometimes more depending on what business or the residence, and the officers get there and they have to of course check, and we’re talking a minimum of 30-45 minutes on each call, so you can do the math on the man-hours that we put into. Probably 96 percent of the alarms that we answer are false alarms,” says Assistant Police Chief Gil Slouchik

The proposal also discusses alarm users register their systems so law enforcement knows who owns it. “Effective January 1, 2020, no alarm system shall be used unless the alarm user first registers for such alarm system within seven days of its installation with the CPD or such other entity as the Council may designate. The permit shall be a one-time cost of $35. Alarms installed prior to January 1, 2020 shall receive a new permit and registration at no cost provided that they come forward and register the alarm within 90 days of the effective date of this Ordinance. Failure to register an existing alarm within the initial 90 period shall constitute a violation of this Ordinance. For the purposes of complying with this section, an alarm contractor may register an alarm user and thereby obtain the permit for such alarm system; provided, however, that the alarm user shall ultimately remain responsible for alarm registration priorto use of the alarm system.Upon registration, each alarm permit shall be assigned a permit number. If the permit numberisissued directly to the alarm user, the user shall provide the permit number to the alarm contractor to facilitate public safety dispatch. ”

The council will vote on the proposal during next week’s council meeting.