City News Service
A City Council committee signed off Tuesday on a plan for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department to begin charging fees for false alarms.
The unanimous action by members of the Budget Committee forwarded the proposal to the full City Council for adoption.
Assistant Chief Brian Fennessy said firefighters respond to an average of nearly 6,300 false alarms every year, expending nearly 2,000 hours of time and costing around $540,000.
Worse than the cost, responses to false alarms make firefighters unavailable for real emergencies, he said.
A number of locations have more than 20 false alarms annually, and some as many as 40, Fennessy said. He said hospitals and hotels are among the worst offenders.
He told the committee members that the first two false calls to businesses or residences with permits would be free, but the third would cost $195. The fees would increase with subsequent false alarms.
Owners of systems with systems that are not permitted would not receive the two grace calls, he said.
"We want to make sure the fees sting enough so (owners) will put in new alarms, or change alarm companies if that's the issue,'' Councilwoman Marti Emerald said.
Kevin Faulconer said the fees would be a "disincentive'' for owners to ignore their alarms that work poorly.
"When you get to five, 10, 20 false alarms, that's not an accident,'' Faulconer said.
Fennessy said a similar effort to collect fees for false alarms in 1993 did not work and was abandoned.