Reducing False Alarms

The goal of the ordinance is to reduce false alarms through education, progressive fines, and suspension of response. The police department will not suspend response to panic or robbery alarms. The ordinance does not affect fire, carbon monoxide or medical alarms.

Background

One of the recommendations in the Police Department’s Master Plan, approved by council in 2013, was to implement changes to the department’s policy to reduce the amount of time spent responding to false alarms. All alarms in the City of Boulder are installed and monitored by private alarm companies; the police department does not directly monitor alarms. During the two year period from 2014 through 2015 the police department responded to 4,915 alarms. Only ten alarms were determined to be legitimate, resulting in a false alarm rate of 99.79%. A response to an alarm usually requires two officers. Given that the vast majority of alarms are false, a large amount of officer time, in addition to dispatch time, could be spent on other duties and responsibilities.

The police department worked with the local alarm business community as well as the national nonprofit Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) to address the problem. The alarm companies recommended instituting annual alarm permit fees as a method of insuring alarms are installed and maintained properly. They also recommended implementing fines for repeated false alarms and eventual suspension of police response to chronic alarms.

False Alarm Prevention Tips

What is a false alarm?

The Boulder Alarm Ordinance defines a false alarm as: “the activation of an alarm system when, upon inspection by the city, evidence indicates that no unauthorized entry, robbery, or other such crime was committed or attempted in or at the alarm location which would have activated a properly functioning alarm system. Notwithstanding the foregoing, a false alarm shall neither include an alarm activated by unusually violent conditions of nature nor an alarm which is canceled before police personnel respond to the alarm location. Multiple alarms caused by a single technical malfunction in single alarm system for a period up to 12 hours shall constitute only one false alarm. Each 12-hour period shall constitute a new violation.”

Did you know?

Three main causes of false alarms are: 1) user error, 2) installation/service errors, and 3) equipment failure.

  • More than 80 percent of all false alarms are caused by user error.
  • There are easy steps you and your alarm dealer can take to prevent false alarms.
  • False alarms present a serious threat to the effectiveness of our local police, fire and EMS departments, as well as to the safety of our residents.
  • False alarms are costly and dangerous because they divert police officers from proactive crime prevention efforts and can divert public safety responses from true emergency calls.

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

Prevent False Alarms

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.
  • Make sure you securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
  • When leaving your home or business make sure the door you leave through 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 how much time you have to disarm your system when you enter.

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.

At home

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.
  • DO NOT call 911 to cancel alarm activations--you must call your alarm company.
  • Drafts that move plants and curtains.

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

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.

Review with your alarm company the procedures you expect them to follow when your alarm activates:

  • Do you want them to attempt to call more than one person on your contact list before requesting emergency dispatch?
  • Do you only want the police notified if exterior and interior zones are both activated?
  • Put your instructions in writing.

With people

Enhance your alarm system’s potential:

  • Train responders with keys on complete system operation.
  • Ensure that anyone authorized to use your alarm system is properly trained in its usage.
  • Use dead bolt locks.

False alarms

  • Divert emergency resources away from true emergencies.
  • Are a nuisance to you and your neighbors.
  • Make your security system less reliable.
  • Costs you and your community money.

Recommendations

  • Have a maintenance contract with a licensed alarm company and have your alarm system checked every year.
  • If you are apprehensive about using your system, call your alarm company TODAY!
  • Do your part to prevent false alarms.

Appeal a False Alarm Citation

Appeal Process

The Alarm User may appeal an assessment of a false alarm fine to the Alarm Administrator by setting forth in writing the reasons for the appeal within thirty (30) days of the notice date. The Alarm Administrator will render a decision in writing. Be sure to include the following with your appeal:

  • Your name
  • Your email address (if applicable)
  • The alarm location
  • Date of the false alarm
  • Your permit number
  • Reasons for the appeal
  • Any supporting evidence

Appeals must be sent to

  • Via email to boulderco@citysupport.org or via mail to Boulder Police Deparment-False Alarm Reduction Prograom PO Box 19936 Boulder, CO 80308

When are Appeals Not Granted

Appeals are not generally granted as a result of the following:

  • Faulty, defective or malfunctioning equipment supplied by an alarm business.
  • Improper installation or maintenance by an alarm business.
  • Improper monitoring by an alarm business.
  • Alarm activations that occur while alarm technicians are repairing or servicing the alarm system.
  • An occurrence where no evidence of criminal activity, fire, or medical need is present.
  • Mistakes made by private contractors, maids, cleaning crews, visitors, etc.
  • Item(s) within the home or business that move causing motion detectors to activate (i.e. curtains, signs, balloons, etc.).
  • Doors and/or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts that activate the alarm system.
  • Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away and who activate the alarm in error or are not familiar with required codes or passwords.
  • Pets, rodents or wildlife movement in or near the home or business.
  • Alarms caused by Apartment Management Employees.

In the case of the first two items above, if you suspect the false alarm was due to faulty equipment or improper installation contact your alarm company. In such cases, the system should be inspected and repaired where necessary.

* This list is only intended as a guide to assist you in deciding whether to appeal a false alarm or contact your alarm company for discussion. This list is not intended to cover every situation where an appeal may be denied.

Frequently Asked Questions

The alarm ordinance is posted online - please click here for a copy of the ordinance

The City wants to substantially reduce the number of false alarms that the police department responds to, thereby freeing up police resources to respond to emergencies.

Yes, they are. Across the nation, the growth of alarm system ownership has resulted in a tremendous number of false alarms. The response of false alarms has created an additional burden on law enforcement agencies. Nationwide, approximately 99 percent of all burglar alarms police respond to are false.

Make sure that you immediately report your false alarm to your alarm company, so they can cancel with police dispatch prior to police arrival to your home or business. Ensure that everyone in your household or business has been properly trained on your alarm system. Make sure your alarm system is in good working order and inspected periodically by your alarm company.

Please complete the online registration form. You may also contact the Boulder False Alarm Reduction Program at 855-787-2702, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The annual fee for a permit or permit renewal is $35.00.

Everyone operating an alarm system inside the city limits is required to register their alarm system.

No, car alarms do not need to be registered.

The fees are used to offset the City’s administrative costs of the program.

First False Alarm No Charge
Second False Alarm $100.00
Third False Alarm $200.00
Fourth False Alarm $300.00
Fifth and Over False Alarm $450.00

No, you will never be charged for an alarm activation that is not false. This ordinance allows charges for false alarms only.

Yes, you can pay online at by clicking here. You will need your account number and password.

The mailing address is: Boulder False Alarm Reduction Program PO Box 913029 Denver, CO 80291-3029

The Alarm User may appeal an assessment of a false alarm fine to the Alarm Administrator by setting forth in writing the reasons for the appeal within thirty (30) days of the notice date. The Alarm Administrator will render a decision in writing. Be sure to include the following with your appeal:

  • Your name
  • Your email address (if applicable)
  • The alarm location
  • Date of the false alarm
  • Your permit number
  • Reasons for the appeal
  • Any supporting evidence

Appeals must be sent to:Boulder False Alarm Reduction Program PO Box 913029 Denver, CO 80291-3029

Yes, the alarm user may file a written request within 7 days of the appeal denial notification to: Boulder False Alarm Reduction Program PO Box 913029 Denver, CO 80291-3029. Hearings may be conducted through submission of written material or in-person.

Failure to pay the alarm fines within 30 days and/or the 5th false alarm will result in the suspension of police response to the alarm location.

The alarm ordinance went into effect on March 1, 2017.

If you received a duplicate alarm invoice, please contact us at 855-787-2702, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5p.m. so we can delete the incorrect invoice(s). If you are directed to a voicemail box, please leave a message with your name, address, phone number and the account/permit numbers that need to be combined or deleted.

Call us at 855-787-2702, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.