Bills are on the way in Chilliwack for nuisance alarms

It's to address the problem of when emergency services are called out unnecessarily after a security or fire alarm sounds

Not one invoice has been issued from City of Chilliwack for false alarm calls.

But they’re coming.

Officials are moving ahead this summer with plans to enforce the false alarm bylaw first passed by Chilliwack council in 2011 — and they’re doing it incrementally.

Council voted recently to launch an information blitz this summer, with phased-in fees to be charged to the property owners in cases where emergency services are called out unnecessarily after a security or fire alarm sounds.

Up until this point city officials relied on RCMP staff to notify them manually, and it was thought computerized software would be devised to automatically bill people for false intrusion alarms.

But it turned out there was no way to do that, and as a result no false alarm invoices have ever been sent.

But now the technical issue has been resolved and they’re ready to move forward, said senior city staffer Rob Carnegie at the last city council meeting, in a report to council.

Staff started a project last year to tackle the problem by developing the invoicing software in-house, using city hardware.

“The systems are now ready for implementation however, with the amount of time that has elapsed since the bylaw was first introduced, staff are anticipating that property owners will have forgotten the requirements implemented through the enactment of this bylaw,” according to the staff report.

It’s a problem because excessive fire alarms that call out police or fire services are considered a “nuisance.”

The number of false alarms totalled 71 in Chilliwack at the outset of the year in January 2015, and have gone up ever since.

In February 2015 there were 77 false alarm calls, and in March 2015 there were even more, with a total of 92 false alarms.

Council voted last meeting for the phased-in approach to let people know gradually about the changes.

But before any actual invoices are fired off, a public info campaign will kick off by next month. A second phase will see owners get warnings of what they would have been billed.

And the third phase will see invoicing kicked into gear, but only after the second report of a false alarm.

“From that point onward all property owners will be required to comply with the full terms of this bylaw,” according to the report.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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