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Sep 1, 2017 3:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Considers Resetting False Alarm Policy

Sep 5, 2017 11:13 AM

Southampton Town could hit the “reset” button when it comes to false fire and house alarms.

Town Board members will hold a public hearing next week on a plan to wipe the slate clean every five years for those homeowners and business owners who have inadvertently triggered false alarms.

Presently, first-time offenders are given a free pass, but repeat offenders are subject to fines that are collected on an escalating scale, topping out at $1,000 per false alarm in extreme cases.

Under the current code, the fines kick in as soon as the second false alarm has been recorded—regardless of how much time has passed between offenses. With the proposed changes, the town would “forgive” all prior false alarms, and a new five-year period would begin when the next false alarm is reported to authorities.

“We get a lot of complaints on it,” said Town Attorney Carl Benincasa, regarding the escalating fee schedule. He also noted that, each month, between 15 and 20 people contact the town to dispute the fines.

So far this year there have been more than 185 false alarms recorded in the town, according to police records.

Southampton Town Comptroller Leonard Marchese said the town collects about $600,000 annually in false alarm fees.

A false alarm is only counted against a homeowner or business owner if local police and fire departments actually respond. When an alarm is triggered, the monitoring company tries to contact the homeowner first, and then a secondary contact.

But if no one can be reached, the monitors must call in emergency response, especially in the case of a fire alarm.

“We just want to make sure that everyone that has these alarms, that they’re maintaining [them] well and keeping up with [them] because there’s a real cost when it comes to emergency management,” Mr. Benincasa said.

Southampton Village Fire Chief Chris Brenner said this week that his department, which also protects Tuckahoe, Shinnecock Hills and parts of Water Mill, and typically answers around 1,300 calls annually, responds to between 800 and 900 false alarms each year.

“It’s becoming an increasing problem with more false alarms in the last 10 years,” Mr. Brenner said.

At the same time, he said he thinks the town should instead consider wiping the slate clean annually, explaining that the fines can be a burden to many residents and business owners.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, at 1 p.m. in Southampton Town Hall.

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Alarm companies are not responsible for alarms. Home owners pay the fee, even if the alarm malfunctions.
Part of doing business in the hamptons...
By knitter (1245), Southampton on Sep 3, 17 4:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
For the readers, if you think this policy is designed to help owners "maintain alarm systems" think of it this way. If John Doe has a "False alarm", it is their free pass. He gets his system serviced to "maintain" it. A month later his alarm goes off for burnt popcorn. He gets fined. Services the detector. 8 months later he burns a steak. Gets a bigger fine. Where is the intention of helping anyone?

As a local volunteer, when a fire alarm comes in the only ones who are, for a lack of better ...more
By BlackLab (37), Southampton on Sep 8, 17 7:15 AM
By the way, according to the article, if their have only been approximately 185 false alarms in the town, even at a max fee of 1,000, how does that equate to roughly 600,000 per year?
By BlackLab (37), Southampton on Sep 8, 17 7:23 AM
The Original Alarm Law created some 20 yrs ago under a Republican Administration was designed to charge a fee after the 3rd False Alarm, Appx 5 or more years ago under the Throne Holst administration the Town Board at the time Cleverly changed the Law in October one year to make it a Money Maker for the Town. If unpaid the Fines are attached to the yearly Property Tax Bill which is quite common with out of area homeowners as it is all a write off. Once again it is the Local Residents and Business ...more
By Brady (7), Southampton on Sep 23, 17 4:28 AM
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