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SafeTech CEO Speaks out Against Proposed ‘False Fire Alarm Bylaw’

SafeTech CEO Appears before Councillors at City of Toronto Committee hearing on ‘False Fire Alarm Bylaw’

Sean O'LearyI would like to thank the committee for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of myself, the alarm industry and the many thousand of clients that SafeTech monitors and protects in this great city. I own an alarm company called SafeTech Alarm Systems that services the Greater Toronto area. We are responsible for monitoring homes and businesses, mainly average size dwellings and small businesses, protecting people and their property.We monitor against unlawful entry and various hazards such as flood, fire, carbon monoxide and natural gas poisoning etc… I am here today to raise some concerns regarding the changes made in April 2010 to the City of Toronto False Fire Alarm Bylaw and state my objection to the proposed budget increase now being contemplated. I also encourage you to support Councilor Lindsay Ruby’s motion at City Council to re-instate the original Bylaw exemption of one false alarm per year. The old False Fire Alarm Bylaw gave municipal property owners one free dispatch per annum and ‘Fire Services’ when required dispatched two vehicles at a total cost of $700.00. In April 2010 Toronto City Council removed the exemption for the first dispatch and ‘Fire Services’ began sending three vehicles per incident for a total cost of $1050.00. With the newly proposed $60.00 per vehicle increase the new rate of $410 per vehicle would mean home and building owners deemed at fault for a false alarm would now end up having to pay $1230.00 and this amount is out of reach for most property owners. Out of my entire client base approx 10%, no more, are monitored for smoke and fire detection. Of that group only about 1% will have a false fire alarm dispatch per year. Up until recently, when a fire alarm signal was received by our central station we immediately called the premise; if we did not get an answer we called all the key holders and attempted to verify the fire alarm. Most of the time we are able to reach someone or check the account history and determine in advance if the signal was false or not. I believed the system worked fine! However, now with the current Fire Alarm Bylaw costing $1050 for each False Fire alarm dispatch alarm companies have had to change the way they do things and not for the better. I have had to instruct my central station to not dispatch on a fire alarm unless it is verified by a client or key holder. This new policy puts the home owner at risk because now we will not dispatch unless we are sure. And we can’t always be sure. If we don’t dispatch and the place burns down and god for bid if there are occupants inside – it will be my liability. I think the new bylaw needs to consider all stake holders and the real incremental cost of a fire alarm dispatch. If the firemen and the vehicles are on standby anyway the actual incremental cost to perform a dispatch is not significant. Please consider this before raising the fire dispatch fee. Under present rules a fire alarm dispatch can not be aborted. Once in progress three fire trucks must attend to the scene where the fire alarm was generated and make a physical determination of the fires authenticity. Even if a central monitoring station operator receives a call from the subject property owner indicating that the fire is false there is nothing he or she can do to cancel the dispatch, all fire trucks will still attend to the scene. This is a waste of valuable resources. The current dispatch policy is too rigid and will only ignite the frustration of property owners. Even though municipalities have had a long history of providing emergency support services to home and building owners as part of the services provided to property tax payers the new False Fire Alarm Bylaw seeks to penalize anyone with a monitored fire alarm. The new bylaw is excessively restrictive and does not seek to find alternative less intrusive methods of reducing costs or minimizing the impact to Toronto property owners. In fact, I believe it would not be difficult to make a strong constitutional argument that the new bylaw infringes on the rights of property owners as is guaranteed by our County’s Constitution under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires law makers to create laws that are not overly restrictive and which will have minimal impact on citizen rights. Building owners have a right to protect their property from the ravages of fire. As property tax payers they are entitled to use and rely upon the ‘fire services’ of this City. The new False Fire Alarm Bylaw may seek to reduce the nuisance of false fire alarm dispatches but what it actually accomplishes is the reduction of all fire dispatch services, both real and false, putting both home and business owners at risk!