Wichita City Council OKs changes to false alarm ordinance

The Wichita City Council approved changes Tuesday to a city ordinance dealing with false alarms that trigger a response from emergency services.

The changes, which were proposed by the police department, clarify the language of an ordinance that was introduced in 2010.

“We wanted to clean it up and make it easier to read and understand,” said police Capt. Doug Nolte.

The changes require alarm users to register their own alarms instead of relying on alarm companies to register them, and it modifies “nonresponse” policies so they apply to both those with delinquent accounts and false alarm abusers.

By having users register, Nolte said, emergency personnel will have more up-to-date information and will be able to know whether there are pets, children or elderly people living at a residence, for example.

The ordinance aims to reduce the resources spent by emergency services on responding to false alarms, Nolte said.

In 2010, there were about 19,458 false alarms for the Wichita fire and police departments. That number dropped to 17,814 in 2011 and was 18,461 last year.

Nolte said he thinks the ordinance helped the number of false alarms drop, but clearer language in the ordinance could help the number drop more.

“We want to see that down as close to zero as possible,” he said.

An annual $25 registration fee for alarms, which is waived if you don’t have a false alarm, will remain.

The city assesses fees for people and businesses that have more than one false alarm. There is a four-minute time period for people to call off a false alarm before it is counted against them.

Emergency departments can flag certain addresses and alarm systems that have repeated false alarms, Nolte said.

Elizabeth Harlenske in the city attorney’s office said the city will not be liable if emergency services decide to not respond to an alarm they believe to be false that turns out to be true.