fire truck
A Los Angeles Fire Department truck. Photo by John Schreiber.

With the Los Angeles Fire Department receiving thousands of false alarm calls each year, a City Council committee moved Wednesday to develop a fine for any property owner responsible for a false alarm.

Councilman Mitchell Englander introduced the motion directing the fire department to come up with recommendations for a false alarm fee five years ago, and at the Public Safety Committee meeting chastised department officials for letting it linger and not coming forward with any plan.

“The motion was five years ago. We spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds,” said Englander, who is the committee’s chair. “Not to mention we are taking resources offline and putting other lives at risk. In fact, I would venture to say lives have probably been lost over the last five years without question because a resource wasn’t there on time.”

Englander did not offer any evidence that lives had been lost due to a false alarm, and the fire department said it did not have any proof either.

“I don’t have any statistics that would tie us to that statement, so I couldn’t speak specifically if there has been any lives that have been lost,” Kristin Crowley, deputy chief of the Fire Prevention and Public Safety Bureau, told City News Service.

Englander moved without objection to direct the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer to take over the development of a program and report back to the committee in two weeks.

“I want to move this out of the fire department. It’s not getting done because it’s not a priority,” Englander said.

The department responds to about 12,000 to 15,000 false alarms each year and Englander pointed out that it equated to more than one false alarm every hour of every day.

We roll out, if you can imagine, Code 3, lights and sirens, putting lives in jeopardy,” Englander said. “Not only the public’s, but the fire department personnel, every single hour, minimum, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.”

Englander said the police department has had a fine system in place for false alarms for six or seven years and that it had helped reduce the number of false alarms. He said the fire department’s program should be similar to the police program.

Crowley said she has been in her role since June and that implementing a false alarm fee is one of her top priorities. She said she could not speak to why the department had not developed one in the last five years since Englander’s motion was introduced.

“Our overall goal, with this being a priority, is basically if we can decrease the amount of unwanted alarms that will obviously leave our emergency responders and our paramedics and trucks more available to respond to those critical calls so we can serve the community,” Crowley said.

–City News Service

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