Based on a budget briefing note appearing on the City of Toronto’s website on Monday, the City of Toronto proposes raising the rate for false alarms, vehicle incidents and non-emergency elevator responses from $350 to $410 per hour.
The additional $60.00 added to the $350.00 fee is based on the recommended Provincial fee of $410 per hour per vehicle dispatched. The City hopes to raise approximately 2 million more in revenue each year from this increase.
The City of Toronto regularly sends out approximately 10,000 false-alarm invoices annually and generates $6.5 million in revenue every year.
There are two types of false fire alarms “nuisance” (mechanical failure) and “malicious” (intentionally or neglectfully triggered).
The previous by-law in place, prior to April 15, 2010, allowed for one free nuisance false alarm call every two months or one malicious call per year without any false fire alarm fees being imposed.
On April 15, 2010 Toronto City Council eliminated any exemptions for false fire alarms at the request of Fire Chief William A. Stewart and raised False Alarm fees raised April 15, 2010 to $350 per hour/per fire vehicle and for Firefighters responding to an individual in an elevator – $350 fee for each fire vehicle.
This is part of Toronto City Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby’s rationale for moving the motion she did:
In Spring 2010, on the advice of the Fire Chief, City Council amended the False Fire Alarms Policy on April 15, 2010 so that residents would no longer be given an exemption to false fire alarm fees. At the same time, the “fees” rose to $350.00 per hour/per fire vehicle dispatched to the scene of the alarm.
Typically, 3 fire vehicles are dispatched to a single family home, at a cost of $1,050.00 (3 fire vehicles X $350.00) to the home owner. Three (3) fire vehicles don’t actually have to show up to the home, as long as they are “dispatched” to the home (residents whose alarm system has accidently been triggered have seen only two fire vehicles appear on the scene and have received a notice to pay $1,050.00 because three (3) fire vehicles have been “dispatched” – see story)
The False Fire Alarm fee doesn’t apply to 911 calls to report a potential fire hazard.
Prior to that time, residents were given one exemption per year. This worked well, because it gave fire alarm subscribers a warning that they must get their fire alarm in good working order to prevent future false fire alarms.
Removing this exemption has caused considerably harm to residents, especially single family homes, where a false alarm will cost them over a $1000.00. As a result, homeowners are deactivating their alarms. This action could put their property and the properties of the entire neighbourhood at risk.
On December 16, 2010 the Toronto City Councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby and John Parker moved a motion to ensure that homeowners would not be charged $1050.00 fee for a single Nuisance False Alarm within a 12 month period.
On December 16, 2010 City Council requested that the City Clerk give notice that Toronto City Council intends to amend Appendix B – Schedule 1, Fire Services of Chapter 441, Fees, of the Toronto Municipal Code to charge fees for the City’s response to the second and subsequent Nuisance False Alarm per municipal address per 12 month period.
The Toronto City Council directed Deputy City Manager Butts to report to the Licensing and Standards Committee to consider this matter at its January 21, 2010 meeting.
The Motion was amended and carried unanimously.
Since April 15, 2010 the fire department has issued 1,100 notices of false fire alarm fees and out of the 1,100 false fire alarm tickets issued, 800 homeowners have been forced to pay the $1,050.00 (represents 3 fire vehicles being dispatched) false fire alarm fee (see story ). The other 310 owners were not forced to pay because they offered evidence their alarms weren’t caused by mechanical malfunction.
The City claims that the intent of the by-law is to assist owners get their systems fixed and to recover the cost of resources travelling to false fire alarms. As soon as the owners have their fire alarm systems fixed, they receive back up to 90 per cent of the fees paid reimbursed.
The false fire alarm fees apply in cases where automatic fire alarm systems are triggered because of “malfunction or neglect,” and in cases where alarms are set off “inappropriately with malicious intent.”
Only when owners invest money to reduce false fires alarms, after the Toronto Fire Department approves the work, will a refund be issued. If you use a home fire alarm system and that service provider fixes your system at no cost to you, you will not be entitled to a refund.
Police will now Charge $130.00 to Respond to False Alarms.
The Toronto Police Services Board voted to increase the fee to $130 from $83.50, starting Feb. 1, reflecting what it costs to send a cop to false alarms. See the 2010 Budget Briefing Note – page 4.
The cost recovery program was launched in 1996, charging $70 for false alarms.
In 2007, police responded to a total of 22,912 alarms, but only 666 were valid. Officers spent an average of an hour at each of the calls.
The projected annual cost for false alarms between 2009 and 2011 is more than $3.1 million and police would have recovered about $1.8 million at $83.50 per false alarm.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada:
437. Every one who wilfully, without reasonable cause, by outcry, ringing bells, using a fire alarm, telephone or telegraph, or in any other manner, makes or circulates or causes to be made or circulated an alarm of fire is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
R.S., c. C-34, s. 393; 1972, c. 13, s. 31.
In response to false fire alarms, the City of Toronto decided to pass By-Law 259-2000 on May 11, 2000 which would provide one thousand dollars ($1000.00) as a reward to any person who supplies information leading to the conviction of any person or persons who willfully, without reasonable cause, make or circulate or cause to be made or circulated an alarm of fire with the City of Toronto.
Update: January 21, 2011 – No relief from false-alarm fee:
Fire Chief William Stewart urged the committee not to relax the rule, saying valuable resources are wasted on false alarms. The department is instead asking the city budget committee to hike the fine this year to $1,430, rather than $1,050, or $350 per truck dispatched, for each offence.
Councillor Cesar Palacio, chair of the committee, moved a successful motion that the fire department report back March 30 — after this year’s budget is set — with more information including possible ways to provide leniency for single-family homeowners.