Alarm Ordinance in Sandy Springs
Effective June 19, 2019, monitoring alarm companies must provide True Verification through audio, video or in-person verification, and prior to calling 911. True Verification affects intrusion (burglar) alarm activations only. Automatic response remains for fire, duress, panic button, holdup, and medical alarm activations.
What Does Verify Mean:
"Verify or verified means visual or audible confirmation of an attempted or actual crime, fire or other emergency situation at the alarm site by means of:
a. Confirmation by the alarm user at the alarm site or via self-monitored audio/visual equipment;
b. Confirmation by a private guard responder at the alarm site;
c. Audible and/or visual evidence provided by a monitored alarm system
There are varieties of systems that range from low to high cost which will enable an alarm user to be in compliance, including the use of a self-monitored system where you maintain your traditional alarm system and pair it with a self-installed/self-monitored video system. Guard response requires no added equipment, and costs are typically based on per-activation assessments.
Why the Change to True Verification?
The City adopted its first alarm ordinance in 2012, with the goal of reducing the large number of false alarm calls into the 911 Center, using valuable public safety resources in both the 911 Center as well as Public Safety personnel required to follow up on false alarm calls. The original ordinance fined alarm customers for false alarms. While there was a decrease during the first year of the ordinance, subsequent years did not show any substantial decline in call volume. In 2017, with false alarm calls still averaging 10,000 per year, the City Council revised the alarm ordinance, placing fines on the alarm companies as it is the alarm company placing the call to 911 requesting public safety dispatch. The trend of high call volume with 99.5% of alarm calls false alarms continued. Research into cities with success at reducing false alarms showed that True Verification provided substantial reductions in false alarm calls. In June 2018, the Council revised the ordinance, requiring True Verification, providing the alarm industry with a full year to prepare for the change. The Ordinance was amended May 2019, providing alarm companies with 24 hours to provide video or audio clips to the 911 Center.
The main objective of the ordinance change is to enhance the safety for all who live and work in Sandy Springs.
Response to SIAC Press Release: The Security Industry Alarm Coalition issued a press release on May 14, 2019. You can click here to view. The release contained a number of inaccuracies, which are addressed in this information statement.
What Do Alarm Users Need to Know | How to Prepare for the Ordinance Change
Understand all of your options. If your current alarm provider is offering excessive charges to add video or audio monitoring or guard response, you have the option to shop other providers.
PC Magazine recently reviewed the Best Smart Home Security Systems. Below are a few local price comparisons. Note that the City does not endorse one product over another. Select the option/s that work best for your home and situation.
- UAS Security provided a quote of $20-50 per activation for guard response service. ADT is offering its customers an option of guard response at no additional monthly fee, using a fee per activation approach.
- Alarm companies like EMC are offering tiered plans, where you are able to select options that best fit your needs.
- Ring Video Doorbells are available at Costco for $149.99. You can purchase a 10-piece Ring Alarm Wireless Kit for $239.99, which includes the base station, keypad, motion detector and 6 contact sensors. 24/7 monitoring is $10 per month.
- Nest Cameras are available for $397 at Bed, Bath & Beyond, which includes 3-indoor WiFi cameras with Google Home mini. They also offer the Canary all-in-one System for $169, which includes free cloud storage for your video and works with Alexa devices.
- Home Depot and Lowe’s also offer a variety of home security systems
(*Rates above were observed on April 5, 2019)
Alarm Services & Monitoring
A basic alarm system typically consists of motion sensors placed within a building. A break in one of the system’s sensors sends a signal to the primary control panel. “Monitoring” is a secondary add-on service which is intended to report malfunctions or abnormal conditions for alarm company repair and services.
Alarm systems are often used in residential and commercial properties for what customers perceive as detecting intrusion or unauthorized entry. More than 99 percent of calls from monitoring alarm companies are false alarms, a statistic that is consistent across the country. An estimated 18 percent of all calls into the City’s 9-1-1 center come from alarm companies. This high percentage of false alarms results in a financial cost to the public and threat to public safety by the unnecessary diversion of public safety resources.
We understand that by using an “alarm system,” you are looking out for those you care about. Advances in technology now make it possible for audio and/or video activation, which enable the ability to better assess whether an intrusion alarm activation is a burglar in the building or simply a faulty sensor in need of repair. In addition, systems today can be self-installed and monitored; installed and monitored by a third-party company, or a combination of both.
The main objective of the ordinance change is to enhance the safety for all who live and work in Sandy Springs. Following a model used by cities including Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Detroit, adding the requirement to provide either audio, video or in person verification has drastically reduced the false alarms reported into 9-1-1.
What Can You Do to Help Reduce False Alarms
Major causes of false alarms:
- Unlocked or loose doors/ windows
- Children, Neighbors and Visitors
- Cleaning Crews/ Repairmen/ Pet Sitters
- Pets or other wildlife
- User Error
- Equipment Malfunction
Before you activate your alarm system:
- Are you and others who use the security system fully educated on its proper operation? This may include domestic/cleaning crews, children, neighbors, caretakers, employees and temporary staff.
- In determining the two contacts required by the State of Georgia for Enhanced Verified Response, consider carefully those contacts – who is the best person to help your alarm company determine if an activation merits a police response. Also, be sure to have your monitoring company’s phone number saved in your phone, so you recognize the number should they call you.
- Make sure you securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
- If you are leaving your home or business, make sure the door you leave by is closed tight.
- Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
- Know and rehearse the process to cancel an accidental alarm. Anyone with your key should know this process.
- Know how much time you have after you arm your system to leave and to disarm your system when you enter.
Know what to do if you set your alarm off accidentally:
- First, don't panic. Carefully enter your disarm code to reset your system.
- Wait for your Alarm Company or central monitoring station to call, give your password or ID card number.
- Do not leave your home or business until you have talked with your monitoring station! If they do not call you, have the number posted by your control panel and contact them to cancel the police dispatch.
- You can arrange to have your alarm monitoring station call you or another designated person first before the police are called whenever your alarm is activated.
- If you are aware of a problem with the system, you can cancel the police dispatch.
DO NOT call 911 to cancel alarm activations--you must call your monitoring station.
Avoid objects that trigger your alarm:
- Unlocked, loose-fitting, or open doors or windows. Always keep doors and windows locked when the alarm is in an "ON" mode to reduce the chance that friends, neighbors or customers enter and cause the alarm to activate.
- Unsupervised pets - If you have pets, take special care to purchase an alarm system that is tolerant of pets. You may not want to purchase motion detectors if your pets have free run of the house when the alarm is on. Also, sometimes barking dogs can activate glass break detectors.
- Balloons that move can cause motion sensors to go off.
- Drafts that move plants and curtains.
- Thunderstorms should not be a common cause for alarm activations. Click here for helpful tips.
At your business:
Watch for these pitfalls that may activate your alarm:
- Swinging doors or windows
- Banners or signs
- Mylar balloons
- Plants or curtains caught in drafts
- Stacked items, such as boxes, which may fall, setting off motion detectors
- Unsupervised guests
- Untrained, unaware or uncaring employees
- Alarm equipment, such as motion sensors or overhead door magnets, being hit by forklifts
Enhance your alarm system’s potential:
- Ensure that anyone authorized to use your alarm system is properly trained in its usage.
- Use deadbolt locks.
Contact your alarm company:
- If you plan any improvement or renovation projects, such as changing phone systems, reconfiguring a room, adding a wall, rearranging cubicles, installing skylights or ceiling fans, or even fumigating.
- If you plan to change your alarm system batteries. This can cause an interruption in your system’s power supply which may trigger an alarm activation.
- Also, alert your alarm company if you hire domestic help or acquire a pet.
CryWolf Services, Inc. is the alarm administrator for the City of Sandy Springs. An Alarm Company can register the company or any of its customers by calling 1-855-725-7101. Under the City of Sandy Springs False Alarm Ordinance, the Alarm Company is responsible for registration of its customers. Alarm Companies are defined as individuals, companies or other entities engaged in the business of planning, installing, servicing, maintaining, repairing, and/or monitoring alarm systems.
Under the False Alarm Ordinance, alarm companies working with customers located within the City of Sandy Springs must be registered with the City. In addition, the Alarm Company must complete an alarm permit registration application for each of its customers.
Companies which monitor alarm systems, but do not install alarm equipment, are considered Alarm Companies and must register its customers in accordance with the Alarm Ordinance.
In accordance with State of Georgia law, Enhanced Verification is required, meaning the alarm company has attempted telephone verification using the two resources provided by the alarm company's customer. Alarm Companies are required to maintain a record of all calls to the 911 Center, including the date, time of the call, the location of the alarm, and the name, address and phone number of the alarm user.
Violations of the Alarm Ordinance & Fines
Fines for false alarms are assessed to the Alarm Company, not the individual alarm user.
Alarm Companies are billed directly for all false alarm fees. The fee structure is designed to recover the costs of public safety dispatch and response by the City.
Administrative Fines include failure to register an alarm company or alarm system and improper paperwork. A full list is below.
False Alarms are those calls made by an Alarm Company to the 911 Center in which public safety personnel is en route to a property location in which the call proves to be unfounded. Canceled alarms where the alarm is canceled, but the officer has already checked the premise, are also considered false alarms. An alarm which is canceled prior to the officer being sent to the premise is not considered a false alarm.
Calls made to request public safety dispatch without state-mandated verification conducted prior to the request for dispatch are administrative violations which disqualify an alarm for response in addition to a fine to the alarm company.
Alarm Companies are not restricted from passing along false alarm fines to their customers. Alarm users are encouraged to understand their Alarm Company’s policies and procedures related to false alarms and assessment/payment of fines when entering an agreement with the Alarm Company.
The following are the false alarm and administrative assessments:
1 False Alarm
2 False Alarm
$150.00 per occurrence
3 False Alarm
$250.00+ property address is placed on non-response status for 12 months
False Alarm Fine for Automatic Response to Panic | Duress | Hold Up | Fire - $250 per occurrence
Failure to register alarm company and/or provide the City with a list of all current alarms in operation within city limits
Failure to notify City prior to putting an alarm in operation
Failure to timely notify alarm administrator of changes to list of alarm users
Failure to verify activated intrusion alarm
Failure to maintain or present records
Installation of non-recessed holdup alarm button
Response is always provided for panic, duress, hold-up and fire alarms.
Alarm Companies may appeal an assessment of a false alarm fine or permit suspension to the Alarm Administrator by submitting in writing the reasons for the appeal within 30 days of the date of the notice sent.
Appeals should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to PO Box 102117, Atlanta, GA 30368-2117.
Please include alarm company name and permit number, the alarm customer’s name and permit number, alarm location, date of the false alarm, reasons for the appeal, and any supporting evidence. An appeal form is available for the alarm company to use in filing by the City’s administrative vendor, CryWolf.
Alarm users assessed fees by their alarm company need to appeal those fees directly to the Alarm Company. An alarm user can work in cooperation with its alarm company by providing information which can be used in the appeal filed by the alarm company. It is suggested that the alarm user checks with the alarm company regarding false alarm policies, including a non-payment policy, pending an appeal of a false alarm.
Click here to view the Appeals Flow Chart
On June 19, 2018, the Sandy Springs City Council approved changes to its False Alarm Ordinance as indicated in the attached document. The changes update the definition of “verified” to mean visual or audible confirmation of an attempted or actual crime, fire, or other emergency situation at the alarm site by means of: 1. Confirmation by the alarm user at the alarm site or via self-monitored audio/visual equipment; 2. Confirmation by a private guard responder at the alarm site; or 3. Audible and/or visual evidence provided by a monitored alarm system, provided that such evidence shall be made available to the emergency communications center prior to dispatch. This change in definition will move the City to a model of full, confirmed verified response through audio, video, or in-person verification.
The ordinance provides that the definition change becomes effective on June 19, 2019, to allow alarm users and alarm companies time to adapt to the new model. All other provisions of the attached ordinance would become effective immediately upon adoption.
Other changes to the ordinance requires alarm companies to notify an alarm user when the user’s system has been registered, to provide users with the appropriate permit number, and to require alarm companies to copy the city on notifications to alarm users when service is suspended for an alarm company’s failure to meet the requirements of the ordinance.
On May 1, 2018, the Sandy Springs City Council approved a change to Section 18-36 of the City’s Code of Ordinances related to Alarm Permits. When an alarm company has its permit suspended for noncompliance with the Ordinance, the alarm company MUST PROVIDE WRITTEN NOTICE TO ITS CONTRACTING ALARM USERS, notifying them that the alarm company is no longer entitled to request public safety department response to activated intrusion alarms. Failure of the alarm company to notify its customers as provided shall result in a suspension of the alarm company’s permit for a total of three (3) months following the alarm company coming into full compliance with the provisions of the Ordinance.