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To improve public safety and manage Town safety resources wisely, the Accidental Alarm Program and its associated ordinance set civil penalties for excessive accidental alarms (four or more within a permit year) and failure to obtain permits.
An accidental alarm is any signal that solicits a response from Police or Fire departments to which the responding units find no evidence of fire or products of combustion or medical emergency or no evidence of unauthorized intrusion, robbery, or other such crime in or on premises. Accidental alarm activations can occur as a result of malfunctioning equipment, human error or environmental conditions.
When the program was implemented, public safety officials looked at how limited resources were being used. Many hours were being spent investigating alarm reports that turned out to be accidental.
In 2012, the Police Department responded to 3,630 alarm calls at a cost of $75,213. In 2012, the Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to 1,250 alarm activations at a cost of $122,400. Police Department routine alarm responses include at least two officers while Fire Department response include three to four fire apparatus with up to 10 firefighters. About 95 percent of alarm dispatches turn out to be unfounded.
The Chapel Hill Police and Fire departments collect alarm statistics throughout the year.
Accidental alarm calls continue to drop since the implementation of the program. In the second half of 2014 (July through December), accidental alarm calls for the police department dropped more than 26 percent; accidental alarm calls for the fire department—which receives about half the number of alarm calls compared to police—dropped more than 10 percent.