Town of Westminster, MA
Worcester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Meeting of the Town of Westminster as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Rapid entry system — See Ch. 148.
[Adopted STM 9-29-1983 as Art. 8]

§ 67-1 Intent; applicability.

A. 
This article is intended to regulate the activities and responsibilities of those persons or companies who purchase, lease or rent alarm systems, devices or services. It is further intended to encourage the improvement in reliability of these alarm systems, devices or services and to ensure that Police Department personnel will not be unduly diverted from responding to actual criminal activity as a result of responding to false alarms.
B. 
The provisions of this article shall not apply to alarm systems owned and/or operated by municipal, county or state agencies within the Town of Westminster.

§ 67-2 Promulgation of rules.

The Chief of Police may promulgate such rules as may be necessary for the implementation of this article.

§ 67-3 Direct connection to Police Department.

A. 
Alarm systems may be connected to the Communications Center in the Police Department by obtaining prior written approval from the Chief of Police.
B. 
Any alarm user may contract with any alarm company of his choice for the sale, installation and/or servicing of the alarm system to be installed on his premises.
C. 
The Chief of Police or his agent shall retain the right of inspection of the user's alarm system before connection to the Police Department's control board. The user shall pay for all inspection charges. Connection to the Police Department shall be made only by an authorized person to be chosen by the Chief of Police. Connection fees shall be paid by the user.
D. 
The annual fee for use of the control board connection shall be determined by the Board of Selectmen. The annual fee must be paid by the last day of February of that year.

§ 67-4 Automatic dial devices.

Automatic dialing services will not be interconnected to any telephone lines at the Police Department. Any person using an automatic dialing service may have the device interconnected to a telephone line transmitting directly to:
A. 
A private central station.
B. 
A private answering service.
C. 
Any privately owned or operated facility or terminal.

§ 67-5 Responsibility of user.

A. 
Every alarm user shall submit to the Chief of Police the name and telephone number of a least two other persons who can be reached at any time, day or night, and who are authorized to respond to an emergency signal transmitted by an alarm system and who can open the premises in which the alarm system is located.
B. 
All alarm users must notify the Police Department in advance of any testing of equipment. Failure to notify the Police Department in advance of a testing of equipment shall constitute a false alarm and be subject to the assessment schedule contained herein.
C. 
All alarm systems which use an audible bell or horn shall be equipped with an automatic shutoff device which will deactivate the alarm system within 15 minutes. All alarm users with an audible bell or horn must comply with this section within 90 days of the effective date of this article.

§ 67-6 False alarms assessment schedule.

Any alarm system which had five or more false alarms within a calendar year shall be subject to assessment as provided herein:
A. 
After the Police Department has recorded five separate false alarms from an alarm user within a calendar year, the Police Chief shall notify the alarm user, in writing and by certified mail, of such facts and require the user to submit within 10 working days of receipt of such notice a report describing the user's efforts to discover and eliminate the cause or causes of the false alarms. This notice, by certified mail from the Chief of Police or his designee, shall contain the dates and times of each alleged false alarm.
B. 
In the event that the Chief of Police or his designee determines that a report submitted in accordance with Subsection A of this section is unsatisfactory or that the alarm user has failed to show, by the report, that he has taken or will take reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce false alarms, then the Chief of Police or his designee shall order that the use of the alarm system be discontinued for a period of 30 days.
C. 
Fines.
(1) 
Any user of an alarm system which transmits a false alarm signal shall be assessed a fine of:
(a) 
Twenty dollars each for the fifth to seventh false alarm in a calendar year.
(b) 
Thirty dollars each for the eighth to 11th false alarm in a calendar year.
(c) 
Fifty dollars each for 12 or more false alarms in a calendar year.
(2) 
All fines assessed herein shall be made payable to the Town of Westminster for deposit in the general fund.
D. 
If the alarm user submits a report as required by Subsection A of this section, the Chief of Police or his designee shall determine whether the action taken or to be taken will substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms, then the Chief of Police shall notify the alarm user, in writing, that no assessment is made at that time. If no assessment is made at that time, the alarm user will be subject to assessment procedures on the next false alarm signal transmitted.
E. 
Upon failure of the user of an alarm system to pay two consecutive fines assessed herein within 60 days of the assessment, the Chief of Police shall order that the user discontinue the use of the alarm system for not more than six months.
F. 
Proof that a false alarm was caused by an act of God or by the actions of the telephone company shall constitute affirmative defense to assessment of the particular false alarm.
G. 
The provisions of this section concerning false alarms pertain to all alarm users, except municipal, county and state agencies.
H. 
All reports to the police of an alarm that has been activated, whether from a private person, answering service or central station, shall be recorded against the alarm user.

§ 67-7 Appeals.

A. 
Any alarm user who is aggrieved by a decision of the Chief of Police pursuant to § 67-6 of this article may, within five working days of notice of the Chief's decision, appeal his case, in writing, to the Chief for further consideration.
B. 
All decisions made by the Chief of Police after the appeals procedure are final. The only grounds for appealing a decision of the Chief of Police are:
(1) 
Proof of a false alarm assessment under § 67-6F assessment schedule.
(2) 
Written verification from the alarm user and the alarm company that all necessary steps have been taken to upgrade, improve and ensure the accuracy of the alarm system.

§ 67-8 Violations and penalties.

The following acts and omissions shall constitute violations of this article punishable by a fine up to $50.
A. 
Failure to obey an order of the Chief of Police to discontinue use of an alarm system, after exhaustion of the right of the appeal.
B. 
Failure to disconnect an automatic dialing device from any Police Department telephone lines within 90 days of the effective date of this article.
C. 
Interconnection of an automatic dialing device to any Police Department telephone line after the effective date of this article.
D. 
Failure to pay two or more consecutive fines assessed under § 67-6C of this article within 60 days from the date of assessment.
E. 
Failure to comply with the requirements set forth in § 67-5 of this article.
[Adopted STM 9-30-1992 as Art. 1]

§ 67-9 Purpose.

While early fire detection through the use of various detection systems is a valuable tool in the protection of life and property, it has been determined that the substantial number of false alarms hinders the efficiency of the Fire Department by the unnecessary deployment of apparatus and personnel to these false alarms. This article is intended to penalize the alarm user whose property or premises generate false alarms due to improperly designed, installed or maintained systems. It is further intended to reduce the number of false alarms and to promote the responsible use of reliable, properly maintained detector systems for the protection of life and property and the saving of taxpayer dollars in the Town of Westminster.

§ 67-10 Compliance required.

A. 
All buildings subject to MGL c. 148 shall be in compliance with said statute, including all requirements to have approved fire alarm systems.
B. 
All required fire alarm systems shall be in compliance with 527 CMR 24.00, Board of Fire Prevention Regulations, and the bylaws of the Town of Westminster. All buildings and structures located in the Town of Westminster shall be in compliance with applicable laws of the commonwealth and local bylaws.

§ 67-11 Definitions.

For the purpose of this article the following definitions shall apply:
A. 
Any device or system which, when activated by a criminal act, fire or other emergency, calls for Fire Department response by:
(1) 
Transmitting a signal to Fire Department headquarters;
(2) 
Transmitting a signal to a person who relays information to Police or Fire Department headquarters; or
(3) 
Producing an audible or visible signal to which the Fire Department is expected to respond.
B. 
Excluded from this definition and the scope of this article are devices which are designed to alert or signal only persons within the premises in which the device is installed and devices which are activated by the release of water from a sprinkler system.
ALARM USER
The occupant of the premises containing the alarm system. In cases where there is no occupant, the owner of the premises shall be deemed to be the "alarm user."
AUTOMATIC DIAL ALARM
A telephone device or attachment that mechanically or electronically selects a telephone line to report a fire or other emergency calling for Fire Department response. Excluded from this definition are devices which relay a digitally coded signal to Fire Department headquarters.
FALSE ALARM
An alarm raised without genuine cause or an alarm transmitted to the Fire Department that does not require the saving of human life, extinguishment of fire, control of hazardous situations, service, rescue, salvage or other related duties; or an automated device that transmits an alarm without genuine cause due to said device's malfunction, improper installation, mechanical failure, negligence of the alarm user, his agents or employees or other similar occurrences.

§ 67-12 False alarm charges.

When the Chief of the Fire Department determines that the Fire Department has responded to a false alarm, the Chief shall have the option to impose a charge on the responsible alarm user according to the following schedule:
A. 
First false alarm in any one calendar year: no charge.
B. 
Second false alarm in any one calendar year: no charge.
C. 
Third false alarm in any one calendar year: no charge.
D. 
Fourth false alarm in any one calendar year: $50.
E. 
For any and all subsequent alarms, an increase of the last charge assessed by $25.

§ 67-13 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person who violates any provision of this article may be penalized by indictment or on complaint brought in District Court or the Housing Court and may be subject to a fine as set forth in § 67-12 of this article for each separate offense.
B. 
Each day or portion thereof in which the alarm user is in violation of any section of this article shall constitute a separate offense.

§ 67-14 Noncriminal penalties.

As an alternative to criminal prosecution, the Fire Chief may elect to utilize the noncriminal disposition procedure set forth in MGL c. 40, § 21D, which is accepted by the Town of Westminster by this article, or by filing a complaint in the Superior Court requesting an injunction and civil or criminal penalties.

§ 67-15 Enforcement.

A. 
Authority. The Fire Chief or a legal designee shall have the authority to enforce this article through the use of violation notices, administrative orders or civil and criminal court actions as provided in MGL c. 40, § 21, and other applicable laws.
B. 
Notification and appeal.
(1) 
The Fire Chief or a legal designee shall notify the responsible alarm user of any false alarm charges by certified mail or by service in hand.
(2) 
Within 15 days after actual or constructive receipt of such notice, the alarm user shall pay the charge to the Town Treasurer for deposit in the Town's general funds.

§ 67-16 Liability of Town.

Notwithstanding the provisions of this article, the Town, its Fire Department, officers, agents and employees shall be under no obligation whatsoever concerning the adequacy, operation or maintenance of any alarm system or of the alarm monitoring facilities at Fire Department headquarters. No liability whatsoever is assumed for the failure of such alarm systems or monitoring facilities or for failure to respond to alarms or for any other act or omission in connection with such alarm systems. Each alarm user shall be deemed to hold and save harmless the Town, its Fire Department, officers, agents and employees from liability in connection with the alarm user's alarm system.

§ 67-17 Exceptions.

The provisions of this article shall not apply to alarm systems on premises owned or controlled by the Town, nor to alarm systems installed in a motor vehicle.

§ 67-18 Severability.

The invalidity of any part or parts of this article shall not affect the validity of the remaining parts.

§ 67-19 Contact information for responders.

[Added ATM 5-4-2002 by Art. 41]
The alarm user is responsible for providing and maintaining the names and contact information of at least two people who can be reached at any time of day or night, and who are authorized to respond to an emergency signal transmitted by an alarm system, or ensure someone responds. The alarm user shall ensure that anyone who responds can open the premises in which the alarm system is located, has the necessary knowledge of the alarm to effectively operate it, and is authorized to take any action necessary to correct any problems.