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False alarms leads to real bills for SLC homeowners

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False alarms leads to real bills for SLC homeowners (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Last November, Susan Smith accidentally pressed a panic button on her home's alarm system and set it off.

“It was just a mistake," she said.

Because it was a panic alarm, police were dispatched. Susan explained the mistake, thanked the officers and thought that was the end of it.

Several weeks later, she got a bill in the mail from Salt Lake City demanding she pay $150. It was a fine for both forcing cops to be dispatched to a false alarm and, more surprising to Susan, for not having a permit to have a home alarm.

"I had never heard of such a thing,” she said.

Matthew Rojas, spokesperson for Salt Lake City, says that near the end of the 20th century, false alarms had become a real nuisance, and not just to neighborhoods forced to listen to the blaring alarms that would sometimes sound for days.

“Every time a firetruck, EMS or police officer has to go and respond to a false alarm, that's one less firefighter, EMT or officer available in the event of a real emergency,” he said.

The city took action, requiring all homeowners with alarms get permits so the city knew how to reach the homeowner in the event of a false alarm. The city also began fining homeowners for false alarms.

The move worked.

"In 1998, there were almost 10,000 responses to false alarms. In 2016, that number dropped to 350."

Rojas says people be worried about getting a bill after reaching out to emergency responders when they think something might actually be wrong – even if it turns out not to be a real emergency. The bills only come when a home alarm system is sounded erroneously or by accident.

“You're not getting a bill if there's an actual emergency. The bill in this instance is due to a false alarm,” he said.

As for Susan, Salt Lake City tells us that she actually did have a permit. It was applied for by her home alarm company when they installed the alarm.

Rojas says the city waived that part of the bill. She's only on the hook for the false alarm, and the city cut that bill in half.

As Get Gephardt has previously reported, watch out for anybody who's trying to sell a permit for a home alarm. In Salt Lake City, getting a permit for a home alarm is absolutely free.