Bill seeks a farewell to alarms


During one eight-day period last year, firefighters in Towson answered 96 false alarms -- all because of one nursing home's faulty alarm system.

The experience is one reason why the Baltimore County Fire Department is asking the County Council to approve the use of a new state law that enables local governments to issue the equivalent of traffic tickets -- carrying fines -- for repeated false alarms and uncorrected fire code violations.

The enabling state law took effect Oct. 1, and the County Council is to vote on the change in local law tomorrow night. Should the bill pass as expected, it would become county law in 45 days. Deputy Fire Chief John F. O'Neill said his firefighters would probably begin enforcement after 60 days of training.

The law would authorize a citation with a $30 fine for the owner of any system producing more than three false alarms in one month, or eight in one year.

Higher fines would be assessed -- up to $400 per infraction -- for citations issued to owners of commercial buildings who are found on a second visit to have failed to correct code violations.

The fines would range from $30 for a missing fire extinguisher to $100 for a blocked exit or improper storage of flammable liquids, Deputy Chief O'Neill said.

He said that fire officers will use discretion in issuing the alarm tickets.

The department now handles about 600 false alarms a year and conducts 3,600 reinspections of code violations.

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