Martha’s Vineyard emergency operators, police officers, and firefighters handled approximately 2,420 separate alarm calls last year. Nearly all were false alarms.
With Island towns facing increasingly tight public safety budgets, the number of false alarms last year is raising questions about the money and resources used to respond to these false alarms. Notification of a real emergency very rarely comes from an automatic alarm, most real emergencies are called in through the 9-1-1 system.
“I’ve been here ten years,” said Major Susan Schofield, who supervises the Dukes County communications center that receives automated alarm calls. “I can remember four, maybe five burglar alarms that turned out to be real.” Each alarm requires a response, first by the emergency operator handling the call, and then, in nearly every case, by an Island police officer, firefighter, or both.
When real emergencies happen in a town where public safety officers are tied up checking a false alarm, often police officers or firefighters from other towns are asked to respond to the emergency, or to cover the alarm check.
Alarming number of false alarms dismay responders—(source)
The article goes on to discuss who is responsible for the costs associated with responding to false alarms. Emergency responders have to assume that every alarm is the real thing. This means that a police officer, firefighter, or both must respond to every alarm call. Tying up police and fire personnel, emergency vehicles, fuel costs, time costs, etc… burden the municipal resources.
We have blogged about this before, many communities across the country are considering verified response for alarm activations. Verified Response is a policy that requires independent “eyes-on” verification of a problem at the scene before the local authorities will respond to the alarm activation.