Richland County, S.C., Announces New Alarm Procedures

Free security analysis, alarm verification and permanent suspension of response are detailed in new procedures


The Richland County, S.C., Sheriff's Department, based in Columbia, S.C., announced new false alarm procedures that became effective Nov. 1. According to the county's statistics, false alarms are costing tax payers an average of $60,000 per year in public safety expenses. False alarm calls have dropped steadily over the last five years, from 13,844 in the 1999-2000 report to 10,731 in the 2003-2004 year report, reflecting a decrease of over 22 percent.

The new policy offers a free security assessment from the sheriff's department after the fifth false alarm call, but after the fourth false alarm call, a second-call verification procedure from the central station monitoring company must be put into place. After eight false alarm calls, the location is permanently removed, and is designated to a non-response list.

Chris Cowan, public information officer for Richland County's Sheriff's Department, offered the following data and information to explain the county's policy:

False Alarm - general statistics
Each false alarm ties a deputy up for an average of 15 minutes and at 13, 000 false alarms per year this costs tax payers $60,000 per year.
July 1999 to June 2000 total false alarms = 13,844
July 2000 to June 2001 total false alarms = 13,147
July 2001 to June 2002 total false alarms = 14,888
July 2002 to June 2003 total false alarms = 11,809
July 2003 to June 2004 total false alarms = 10,731

New False Alarm Procedures - Effective November 1, 2004:
1. An alarm report will be taken at every location and incident where a Richland County Sheriff's Department resource is committed and no foul play occurred.

2. Locations are suspended and reinstated every Tuesday. The only exception is when a location has excessive false alarms between Tuesdays. This is when an officer on the road advises the alarm administrator that a location is a nuisance; the alarm administrator can suspended that location immediately. If the location is identified as a problem, notification is made to dispatch and the regional officers are responsible for leaving a written message to the suspension.

3. After the 2nd false alarm at a specific location:

A) A telephone call is made to the location asking the owner or manager if they are aware of the problem and aware of the County Ordinance.

B) A certified letter is mailed to the location notifying of the false alarms and of procedures and the ordinance. To include that they need to contact their alarm company and a second call verification system it is strongly suggested at this point and that the alarm company will be required to advise RCSD that this process has been installed upon the 4th false alarm suspension

4. After the 4th false alarm at a specific location:

A) A telephone call is made to the location asking the owner or manager if they are aware of the problem, aware of the County Ordinance, that 2nd call verification is required and that they are suspended from alarm response.

B) A certified letter is mailed to the location notifying them of the false alarms and of the ordinance and that this location is being suspended from response. The letter states what needs to be done in order to be returned to response list:

i. The alarm system must be serviced and checked.

ii. The alarm users must be educated by the alarm company on the proper use of the system.

iii. The alarm company must put a second call verification procedure in place

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