Service fees contribute to drop in false fire alarms

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Once seen as an unacceptable strain on resources, the number of false alarms Toronto firefighters are responding to has now dropped dramatically.

The reason: homeowners are now being charged a fee for false alarms.

Since the roll-out of a “service fee bylaw,” Toronto Fire Deputy Chief Jim Jessop says the number of calls has dropped from more than eighteen thousand malicious or nuisance alarms per year a decade ago, to about eight thousand alarms in 2016.

“The information we were getting (a decade ago) from our inspectors was that systems were not being maintained, systems were not inspected and tested as required and there was no deterrent.” Jessop told CityNews.

The deterrent is now a stiff fee if Toronto fire responds to your home, condo, apartment or business for a faulty alarm.

CityNews spoke with one homeowner who says his family received a $950 charge after their home monitoring system erroneously set off the fire alarm while he was at work.

Toronto Fire charges $410 dollars for each truck that is dispatched to a “malicious or nuisance alarm.”

They will not, however, charge a fee to those who call 911 for seeing smoke or believing they are in danger – for example from a fire or carbon monoxide exposure.

If residents are hit with a fee, there is an appeals process. Plus, they can receive 90 per cent of the fee back if they prove they have repaired a faulty alarm system.

Though the bylaw has helped douse the number of false alarms, Deputy Chief Jessop says eight thousand calls are still eight thousand too many.

“This is not a revenue generating tool. Toronto fire would be happy to never respond to any malicious or nuisance alarms. They do exist but certainly the fact that over the last decade we’ve cut the number of false alarms by over ten thousand certainly supports that the program is working.”

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