Mandatory alarm registration to begin for Wilson, N.C. in the fall

Move part of an effort to reduce false alarms

July 30--Everyone who has a fire or security alarm will need to register the alarm with the city of Wilson in about three months.

The city's new alarm registration program is still in the planning stages but a new registration website should be available within two or three weeks, said Capt. Eric Smith, with the Wilson Police Department.

"I'm hoping to have the website up in a couple weeks so people can start registering their alarms," Smith said. "You'll be able to go online and register your system and see your history."

A kickoff planning meeting is taking place today and final decisions will be made on how to roll out the program. As the details are finalized, a large public education campaign will start that will include public notification about the city's ordinance that requires alarm registrations. Notices about the registration process will be sent to residents, possibly in Wilson Energy bills, through automated phone messages and advertising.

As soon as the information is presented, residents will have anywhere from two to three months to register, Smith said. The deadline to register has not been set but officials plan to give everyone plenty of time to learn about the program and complete the registration process, Smith said.

Because of the high rate of false fire and security alarms in the city, the Wilson City Council passed an ordinance in March establishing the requirement that all alarms be registered. Registrations are mandatory and without a registration, an alarm owner can be fined $100 and charged a $15 registration fee. The fine can be waived if the alarm is registered in 45 days.

There are no registration or renewal fees but fines will be levied if there are repetitive false alarm signals within a 12-month period. Fines for false security alarms are $50 for the third, fourth or fifth incident, $100 for the sixth and seventh and $250 for eight or more. Fines for false fire alarms are $500 for the third, fourth and fifth incident and $755 for six or more.

Ten or more false alarms in a year and failing to pay the fines within 30 days may result in a discontinuance of service from police and city firefighters. In an effort to reduce the number of false alarms, the city ordinance requires ongoing maintenance of the system. An alarm user must also respond to the location within 30 minutes of the alarm being set off.

City police found that 99 percent of 5,371 security alarm calls in 2013 were false. Wilson firefighters also found that 566 of the 1,768 fire alarm calls were false during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

"My goal is to try to reduce these security alarm calls by about half," Smith said. "My hope is to have as few false alarms as we can."

The goal of the registration program is to reduce the number of false alarm calls, which tie up city resources and personnel and divert fire and police from other necessary calls. Registrations also provide fire and police with needed contact information when alarms are set off.

"It'll save time and increase the communication between us and the alarm owners," Smith said. "It will free up our resources."

Registrations will be accepted after the website is launched. A website link will be available on the Wilson Police Department's website. Registration forms will also be available at the Wilson Police Department and Wilson Fire and Rescue Services.

The city is outsourcing the management, maintenance and billing of the program through a contract with Public Safety Corp. The program isn't intended to be a money-maker for the city and Public Safety Corp. will be paid through a revenue-sharing agreement that is based on money collected from fees and fines, Smith said.

Alarm registrations will need to be renewed once every 12 months at no cost. The program will provide one-year renewal reminders through the mail or email. -- 265-7818

Copyright 2014 - The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.