Reno amends alarm ordinance

Changes in the City of Reno's alarm ordinance that went into effect June 1 are designed to significantly decrease the number of false alarms to which the Reno Police Department responds each year by at least 5,000, while also holding the alarm company and the alarm user responsible for the installed alarm system, and the owner accountable for its operation.

According to the Reno Police Department, there were approximately 10,280 alarms in Reno in 2007, but only about 100 of those alarms resulted in a crime report being taken or an arrest being made. And in 2006, the Reno Police Department received 11,242 alarm calls of which only 106, or slightly less than 1 percent, actually involved a crime. According to Reno Police Lieutenant Mike Whan the cost of sending an officer to a false alarm is greater than the false alarm fee in the new ordinance that is levied. False alarms divert Reno Police officers from real emergencies, including those involving life-safety situations, to respond to non-emergency false alarms. According to Whan, the number one cause of false alarms is user error and faulty equipment.

The new ordinance reduced the $105.00 residential false alarm fee and the $138.00 commercial false alarm fee to $75.00 each. Those fees go into effect once an officer has been dispatched to a call however there is no charge for alarm calls that are cancelled prior to an officer being obligated to the call. Robbery, panic and duress false alarms have a $200.00 service fee. According to Whan, each alarm user is allowed three false alarms within their annual permit period, and prior to being actually suspended, the user and alarm company both are given a 30-day period in which to correct the problem. After that, the alarm user an pay a reinstatement fee and provide a letter from the alarm company outlining the false alarm problem and how it was repaired or corrected, and successfully take a free online alarm school.

An annual alarm permit fee of $25.00 is required for both residential and commercial alarm users, while senior residents age 60 and older have a discounted fee of $10.00 for residential alarm sites.

A committee began analyzing alarm responses, false alarms and the City's alarm ordinance in effect at the time (RMC 806.055) in 2005. Three meetings were subsequently held with representatives of local alarm companies and one representative from a national alarm company prior to adoption of the ordinance. The Reno Police Department also provided information about the proposed changes to the City of Reno's eight Neighborhood Advisory Boards and held a public workshop on the proposed changes in June of 2007. According to Whan, alarm companies were asked to forward a letter about the alarm ordinance changes to alarm users from Reno Police Chief Michael Poehlman prior to the June 1 effective date of the new ordinance, approved last September, which can be found online at .

Administration of the City of Reno's alarm ordinance provisions including alarm tracking and false alarm billings, among other services is conducted by ATB Services Company, LLC of Colorado Springs through a contract with the City of Reno approved by the Reno City Council according to Whan. ATB Services, which also administers the alarm ordinance for the City of Sparks, is a national professional service company that specializes in administration of alarm programs. Whan says ATB Services Company recently sent letters to customers of local alarm companies advising them of the city's alarm ordinance changes.

Under its contract with the City of Reno, ATB Services will coordinate the registration of approximately 9,000 alarm users, and 40-50 alarm installation and monitoring companies located both in and out of state. As part of the alarm user permitting process, ATB Services will verify each alarm site as being within the Reno City Limits. ATB Services is also responsible for tracking and billing for false alarms, handling all alarm suspensions and reinstatements, assist with filing of appeals, provide for on-line payment and other services including alarm educational aspects.

A link to information about the alarm ordinance, registration and permit requirements and fees can be found on the Reno Police Department's webpage at, including a link to the ATB Services Company website.