Borough of Downingtown, PA
Chester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Downingtown 1-11-1989 by Ord. No. 89-2. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Board of Administrative Appeals — See Ch. 4.
Noise — See Ch. 182.

§ 94-1 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the "Borough of Downingtown Alarm Ordinance."

§ 94-2 Definitions.

The following definitions shall apply to the interpretation and enforcement of this chapter:
ALARM SUPPLIER
The business by an individual, partnership, corporation or other entity of selling, leasing, maintaining, servicing, repairing, altering, replacing, moving or installing any alarm system or causing any alarm system to be sold, leased, maintained serviced, repaired, altered, replaced, moved or installed in or on any building, structure or facility.
ALARM SYSTEM
Any assembly of equipment, mechanical, electrical or battery-operated, arranged to signal the occurrence of a police, fire, hazard or medical emergency requiring urgent attention and to which police, fire units or ambulance corps are expected to respond.
AMBULANCE CORPS
Consists of an ambulance driver and any and all authorized personnel accompanying the ambulance.
ANSWERING SERVICE
A service whereby trained employees, in attendance at all times, receive prerecorded coded messages from automatic dialing devices reporting an emergency at a stated location, where such employees have the duty to relay immediately, by live voice, any such emergency message over a trunk line to the communications center of the Police or Fire Department or Ambulance Corps.
AUDIBLE ALARM
Any device, bell, horn or siren which is attached to the interior or exterior of a building, structure or facility and emits a warning signal audible outside the building, structure or facility and is designed to attract attention when activated by a criminal act or other emergency requiring Police or Fire Department or Ambulance Corps response.
AUTOMATIC DIALING DEVICE
A device which is interconnected to a telephone line and is programmed to transmit a signal by a voice or coded message that indicates that an emergency condition exists and the need for an emergency response is required.
BOARD OF ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS
The Hearing Board that determines all appeals with regard to false alarms, particularly under § 94-16E hereof. The Board shall consist of three residents of the Borough of Downingtown, who shall be appointed by the Borough Council and who shall serve staggered terms. One member shall serve for a period of three years; one member shall serve for a period of two years; and one member shall serve for a period of one year. Each and every year, the Borough Council shall appoint or reappoint members when said members' terms end.
BOROUGH
The Borough of Downingtown.
CENTRAL STATION
A protective system or group of such systems operated privately for customers by a person, firm or corporation which accepts recorded messages from automatic dialing devices at a central station having operators and guards in attendance at all times who have the duty to take appropriate action upon receipt of a signal or message, including the relaying of messages to the communications center of the Police or Fire Department or Ambulance Corps.
CHIEF OF POLICE
The administrative head of the Police Department.
EMERGENCY
A police, fire, hazard or medical emergency.
A. 
An alarm activated in the absence of an emergency, whether willfully or by inadvertence, negligence or unintentional act, to which the Police Department, Fire Department or Ambulance Corps responds. The definition excludes alarms caused by malfunctions of the County Department of Emergency Services receiving equipment; testing or repairing of telephone or electrical line or equipment outside the premises; acts of God, such as earthquakes, floods, windstorms, thunder or lightning; an attempted illegal entry, a crime in progress or, in the case of emergency medical alarm, an actual medical emergency requiring police, fire and/or medical personnel. If doubt exists as to the cause of the "false alarm," the Chief of Police or his designee, or the Fire Chief or his designee, shall make a decision regarding the circumstances of the activation.
[Amended 2-13-1991 by Ord. No. 91-2]
B. 
Multiple alarms received by the Police Department, Fire Department or Ambulance Corps before the system can be deactivated or repaired within a reasonable period of time after notice by the Borough shall be considered a single alarm. It shall not be considered a violation of this section for someone to activate an alarm when an actual emergency exists, even though he may activate an alarm for an emergency different than the alarm activated (i.e., pulls fire alarm for medical emergency). This shall be considered a crossover alarm.
C. 
The definition of a "false alarm" also includes the intentional activation of a holdup alarm for other than a holdup in progress, the intentional activation of a burglary alarm for other than a burglary, the intentional activation of a medical alarm for other than a medical emergency or the intentional activation of a fire alarm for other than a fire or hazard.
FIRE DEPARTMENT
The Downingtown fire companies.
FIRE EMERGENCY
A fire or other emergency or hazard that presents a substantial risk of fire or other disaster (i.e., chemical leak, building collapse, ruptured gas line, etc.).
HAZARD EMERGENCY
An explosion or leak of toxic gas, liquid or solid, or a potential explosion or leak.
INTERMEDIARY
A central station protective system or an answering service as herein defined.
KEY
To use a telephone line and equipment for transmitting a message, either directly or indirectly, by an automatic dialing device.
MEDICAL EMERGENCY
An emergency involving the health of a person.
PERMIT
Written permission duly granted to an applicant by the Borough upon payment of the required fee. The permits encompassed by this section include the following: installation permit, (i.e., building permit) and annual user's permit.
POLICE DEPARTMENT
The Downingtown Police Department.
POLICE EMERGENCY
An incident requiring prompt response by the Police Department.
POLICE, FIRE AND AMBULANCE COMMUNICATIONS CENTER
The police, fire and ambulance communications rooms equipment and the Chester County Police Radio Room (Chester County Emergency Services).
TRUNK LINE
A telephone line leading into the County Communications Centers of the Police and Fire Departments and Ambulance Corps which is for the purpose of handling calls on a person-to-person basis and which is identified by a specific listing in the telephone directory issued by the telephone company.

§ 94-3 Alarms without timing mechanisms prohibited.

On and after the effective date of this chapter, owners or users of audible alarms must equip such audible alarms with a timing mechanism that will disengage the audible alarm after a maximum of 15 minutes. Audible alarms without such a timing mechanism shall be unlawful in the Borough of Downingtown and must be disconnected by the owner or user within 60 days from the effective date of this chapter.

§ 94-4 Direct keying of automatic dialing devices.

On and after the effective date of this chapter, all automatic dialing devices that transmit recorded messages directly to the Police Department, Fire Department or Ambulance Corps shall be keyed to the County Department of Emergency Services radio room (telephone line separate and distinct from the trunk lines for the communications center).

§ 94-5 Information to be supplied to Chief of Police.

A. 
Within 90 days from the effective date of this chapter, every alarm supplier who has installed an alarm system in the Borough shall furnish to the Chief of Police the following information:
(1) 
The name, residence and telephone number of the owner or user.
(2) 
The address where the device is installed and the telephone number at that address.
(3) 
The name, address and telephone number of any other person or firm who is authorized to respond to an emergency and gain access to the address where the device is installed. Such person shall be located within 15 minutes traveling time of the aforesaid address.
(4) 
The name and telephone number of any person, firm or corporation, if any, other than the alarm supplier, who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the system.
(5) 
The type of system (i.e., holdup, burglary, fire or medical emergency).
B. 
Users of alarm system devices whose devices were installed prior to the effective date of this chapter shall, within 60 days after such enactment, supply the Chief of Police with the information specified in Subsection A of this section.
C. 
All information furnished pursuant to this section shall be kept confidential and shall be for the authorized use of the Police Department, Fire Department and Ambulance Corps.

§ 94-6 Alarm supplier's license.

A. 
On and after the effective date of this chapter, no one, except an alarm supplier holding a valid license from the Borough of Downingtown, shall sell, install or service any alarm system within the Borough of Downingtown.
B. 
The Borough Code Enforcement Officer shall issue an alarm supplier's license to an alarm supplier meeting the requirements of this chapter, upon the filing of the required application and payment of a fee of $100. Each license shall bear the signature of the Code Enforcement Officer and be good for one calendar year from the date of issuance. (See § 94-16G.)
C. 
Each alarm supplier who installs one or more alarm systems in the Borough shall make service available on a twenty-four-hour-per-day basis, seven days a week, to repair such devices and to correct malfunctions as they occur. Any person using an alarm system shall make arrangements for service to be available for such device on a twenty-four-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week basis.
D. 
No corporation, sole proprietor, partner, joint venturer, trustee, executor, administrator, employee, fiduciary or stockholder with a five-percent or greater interest in a corporation, except a corporation whose stock is publicly traded and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission or with a State Securities Commission, applying for a license to operate in the Borough as an alarm supplier shall have been convicted of a felony or pleaded nolo contendere to a felony charge or indictment.
E. 
The applicant for an alarm supplier's license shall furnish an insurance certificate annually confirming that the applicant has in force general liability insurance coverage in an amount of not less than $300,000 per occurrence. For an applicant who self-insures, such coverage shall furnish evidence of financial ability.
F. 
The licensees shall pay an annual license fee of $100.
G. 
A license or user's permit may be revoked or renewal denied if:
(1) 
The licensee or permittee fails to meet the requirements necessary to obtain a license; or
(2) 
The license or permit fee is not paid; or
(3) 
The Chief of Police has reason to believe the licensee's or permittee's installations are the cause of false alarms; or
(4) 
The licensee fails to provide emergency service as required by this chapter.
H. 
Alarm suppliers or their agents, shall demonstrate a working knowledge of alarm systems by having been full time in the business of burglar, fire or supervisory alarms for a period of not less than one year, having installed not fewer than 25 alarm systems, and by providing letters of recommendation from not fewer than three Chiefs of Police or Fire Departments in the commonwealth.

§ 94-7 Alarm system user's permit

A. 
The user's fee for an alarm system permit shall be $25, and said permit shall be obtained by or on behalf of the owner of the premises upon which the alarm system is installed from the Borough Code Enforcement Officer prior to the installation of the alarm system.
B. 
The permit shall bear the signature of the Chief of Police and be valid for a period of the fiscal year of October 1 through September 30 and be renewed annually unless revoked by the Chief of Police or the Code Enforcement Officer. The permit shall be physically present upon the premises using the alarm system and shall be available for inspection by the Chief of Police or the Code Enforcement Officer or their designees. The cost of said permit shall be $25 annually.
[Amended 11-1-1995 by Ord. No. 95-10]
C. 
The permit shall contain the address of the property; the name of the business, if applicable; the name of the owner, tenant or agent responsible for the property; the alarm supplier or other entity responsible for maintaining the system; the type of alarm (burglary, holdup or medical); how the alarm signal will be received by the communications center (tape, central station, etc.); at least two alternate emergency telephone numbers of persons to be contacted to secure the property, who shall be located within 15 minutes traveling time of the property; and any additional information as may be determined to be necessary. It shall be the owner's responsibility to amend the foregoing information whenever the information changes.
D. 
An alarm user who is over the age of 65 and is the primary occupant of a residence, if no business is conducted at the residence, may obtain a user's permit from the Borough without paying the above-stated fee.
E. 
Users who fail to obtain a permit within 60 days after the effective date of this chapter, if later, shall be liable to pay a late charge penalty of $100 for each calendar year that the permit is not obtained.
F. 
All locations in the Borough of Downingtown equipped with alarm systems, except as stated in this chapter, must secure and possess a valid permit for the same.

§ 94-8 Exemptions from permit requirement.

A. 
A battery-powered (nine-volt, eleven-and-two-tenths-volt or similar voltage) audible alarm system or an electrically energized audible alarm system whose sole purpose is to notify the occupants of the location of an emergency situation shall be exempt from the permit requirements of this chapter, if all of the following conditions exist:
(1) 
The alarm is not connected to any mechanical or electrical device that automatically notifies a person or agency outside that location that the alarm system is activated.
(2) 
The audible alarm does not sound outside the location (no external speakers).
(3) 
The internal signal emitted by the audible alarm does not exceed 90 decibels.
(4) 
The internal alarm does not cause undue annoyance or alarm to occupants of adjoining premises.
B. 
Alarm users who are not required to pay a fee or who are exempt from obtaining an alarm user's permit as above shall, nevertheless, be subject to the penalty provisions prescribed in this chapter.
C. 
After the effective date of this chapter, no one except an alarm supplier holding a valid license from the Borough of Downingtown shall install any alarm system within the confines of the Borough of Downingtown, with the exception of the type of alarms covered by Subsection A of this section.

§ 94-9 Technical information to be supplied.

Each alarm supplier who, after the effective date of this chapter, sells or leases in the Borough of Downingtown an alarm system shall furnish the operating instructions and manual to the buyer or lessee and the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer.

§ 94-10 Inspections.

A. 
The public safety requires that the incidence of false alarms and malfunctioning automatic dialing devices be kept to a minimum so as to reduce unnecessary calls to the Police or Fire Department or Ambulance Corps and to increase the effectiveness of properly functioning alarm systems. In order to enforce this and to reduce the incidence of false alarms and malfunctioning alarm systems, it is necessary that appropriate Borough officials have the right to inspect the installation and operation of any alarm system installed in the Borough.
B. 
Application for a permit for the installation of an alarm system and subsequent installation of such a system pursuant to a permit issued or the continuance of the use of any alarm system already installed at the effective date of this chapter shall constitute consent by the owner or lessee thereof and authorization for the inspection of any such installation and/or operation by the Chief of Police or Code Enforcement Officer or their designees.
C. 
All such entries upon the premises where an alarm system is installed and all such inspections of the installation and operations of alarm systems shall be at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice, except in emergency situations.
D. 
All alarm systems, installed in the Borough of Downingtown must conform to all applicable federal, state and local codes, including, without limitation, the National Electrical Code and Borough codes.

§ 94-11 Installation standards.

Every alarm supplier selling, leasing, furnishing or installing an alarm system to any user, which system is located on premises within the Borough of Downingtown, shall:
A. 
Be permitted to install only equipment that is listed by Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc., as being electrically safe and meeting the Borough requirements for the alarm system. Wiring for the alarm system must conform to all applicable federal, state and local codes. In the case of fire alarms, the stricter of the National Fire Protection Association standards or Borough regulations[1] shall apply.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 146, Fire Prevention.
B. 
Be required to cause each alarm system installed to be provided with standby battery power, which shall automatically and immediately take over in the event of a power failure.
C. 
Be required to install equipment in such a way as to neutralize electrical surges on the alarm system.
D. 
Be required to deactivate any alarm system within a reasonable period of time when multiple false alarms are received.

§ 94-12 Notification preceding device testing.

No person shall conduct any test or demonstration of any alarm system without first notifying the Chief of Police or the fire radio network, as applicable.

§ 94-13 Alarm suppliers to furnish copy of chapter.

Alarm suppliers and installers shall furnish at their own expense, at or prior to the time of contracting, a copy of this chapter to owners, lessees or users of the equipment or services to be supplied.

§ 94-14 Report of false alarms.

Any police officer, fireman or ambulance personnel responding to an alarm which is determined to be false shall promptly notify the Chief of Police of such alarm, in writing, and he shall, within 10 days, have notification of such false alarm sent via United States mail to the person in whose name the alarm is registered.

§ 94-15 Waiver of rights; indemnification agreement.

A. 
By submitting an application for a permit for the installation and use of an alarm system and the subsequent installation of such a system or by the continuation of the use of an alarm system already installed on the effective date of this chapter, the owner, lessee or user thereof shall agree that such permit application constitutes a waiver by such person of the right to bring or file any action, claim or complaint whatsoever against any police officer, fireman or ambulance personnel who make a forced entry in response to such an alarm into the premises on which such an alarm is installed.
B. 
In the event that the owner of such premises is a person other than the permit applicant, as in the instance of a lessee or other user not the owner of the premises on which the alarm is installed, such permit application shall constitute an indemnification agreement by the applicant to hold harmless any such police officer, fireman, ambulance personnel, the Borough, the Police Department, the Fire Department or the Ambulance Corps, as appropriate, from any and all damages whatsoever claimed by the lessor or owner of the premises on which the alarm is installed.

§ 94-16 Revocation of permit.

[Amended 1-9-1991 by Ord. No. 91-1]
Any alarm system which has four or more false alarms within a calendar year, with the exception of apartment buildings with three or more units, which shall be allowed nine false alarms within a calendar year, shall be subject to permit revocation as follows:
A. 
The Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer shall notify the alarm user and the alarm business providing the service or inspection to the user, by first class, postage prepaid, certified mail, of such fact and direct that the user submit a written report to the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer within 15 days of receipt of the notice describing actions taken or to be taken to discover and eliminate the cause of the false alarms.
B. 
If the alarm user submits a report as directed, the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer shall determine if the action taken or to be taken will substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms. If they determine that the action will substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms, they shall notify the alarm user, in writing, that his permit will not be revoked at this time.
C. 
If no report is submitted or if the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer determine that the action taken or to be taken will not substantially reduce the likelihood of false alarms, the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer shall give notice, by first class, postage prepaid, certified mail, to the user that the permit will be revoked without further notice, if the user does not file, within 10 days, a written request for a hearing.
D. 
If a hearing is requested, written notice of the time and place of the hearing shall be served on the user by the Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer, by first class, postage prepaid, certified mail, at least 10 days prior to the date set for the hearing, which date shall not be more than 21 nor less than 10 days after the filing of the request for hearing.
E. 
The hearing shall take place before the Board of Administrative Appeals, designated by the Borough Council, and the alarm user shall have the right to counsel and to present written or oral evidence, subject to the right of cross-examination. If the hearing officer determines that four or more false alarms have occurred and that the user has not taken action which substantially reduces the likelihood of false alarms, he shall issue written findings to that effect and an order revoking the user's permit.
F. 
An alarm user shall immediately discontinue use of this alarm system upon being notified, by first class, postage prepaid, certified mail, of the revocation of his user's permit.
G. 
An alarm user whose user's permit has been revoked may apply for a probationary user's permit. The Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer shall not be required to issue a probationary user's permit, unless he is satisfied that the user's system has been properly serviced and its deficiencies corrected. The Chief of Police and Code Enforcement Officer may impose reasonable restrictions and conditions upon the user before issuing a probationary user's permit, which restrictions and conditions shall be written on the permit. A probationary user's permit shall be issued for a one-year period. If the alarm user does not have four or more false alarms during that period, he may apply for a permanent permit under the provisions of § 94-7 of this chapter.

§ 94-17 Disconnection of alarm systems.

When messages evidencing failure to comply with the requirements set forth in this chapter are received by the Borough and the Borough concludes that the alarm system sending such messages should be disconnected in order to relieve the Police Department, Fire Department or Ambulance Corps of the burden of responding to false alarms, the Borough is authorized to demand that the owner or lessee of the alarm system or his representative disconnect the alarm system until it is made to comply with the operational requirements. If disconnection of the defective alarm system is not accomplished promptly and the Borough determines that the malfunctioning alarm system is repeatedly sending false alarms without any intermittent valid alarms, the Borough may then take any steps necessary to disconnect the defective alarm system.

§ 94-18 Fines for false alarms.

A. 
Consent to pay costs; schedule of costs. For the purpose of defraying the costs of the Police or Fire Department or Ambulance Corps of responding to false alarms, the owner, lessee or user of any alarm system or any person using the services of an intermediary or any other kind of direct or indirect connection with the police, fire or ambulance communications center, except persons using two-way live-voice communication by telephone, shall, as a condition of the installation and continued operation of such equipment or service, consent to pay the Borough for each false alarm originating from the owner's, lessee's or user's premises in accordance with the following schedule:
[Amended 1-9-1991 by Ord. No. 91-1]
(1) 
False alarms other than apartment building fire alarms:
(a) 
First false alarm per calendar year: warning.
(b) 
Second false alarm per calendar year: fine of $50.
(c) 
Third false alarm per calendar year: fine of $100.
(d) 
Fourth and subsequent false alarms per calendar year: fine of $300 for each false alarm.
(2) 
False alarms for apartment building fire alarms:
(a) 
First five false alarms per calendar year: warning.
(b) 
Sixth false alarm per calendar year: fine of $50.
(c) 
Seventh false alarm per calendar year: fine of $100.
(d) 
Eighth and subsequent false alarms per calendar year: fine of $300 for each false alarm.
B. 
Any such owner, lessee or user who fails to execute the consent described in Subsection A above within 90 days from the effective date of this chapter shall, within the ninety-day period, disconnect the alarm system.
C. 
Any owner, lessee or user of an alarm system may revoke or refuse to consent as set forth in Subsection A above only by disconnecting the alarm system. With respect to such systems installed at the effective date of this chapter, the owner, lessee or user can refuse or revoke the aforesaid consent by disconnecting such alarm system within 90 days from the effective date of this chapter.
D. 
Penalties provided for false alarms that are relayed or transmitted by an intermediary shall be the responsibility of the owner or user of the alarm system.

§ 94-19 Violations and penalties.

A. 
Any person who shall be convicted of a violation of any of the provisions of this chapter before any District Justice shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not exceeding $600 together with costs of prosecution and, in default of payment of such fine and costs, to imprisonment in the county jail for a term not to exceed 30 days. Such fine and costs shall be collectible before any District Justice (Court) as like fines and penalties are now by law collectible. Each twenty-four-hour period during which failure to comply continues shall constitute a separate offense.
[Amended 10-10-1990 by Ord. No. 90-16]
B. 
Any person found guilty of willful misuse or willful false activation of an alarm system shall be liable for a fine of $300, plus the cost of prosecution, or to imprisonment in the county jail for a term not to exceed 30 days, or both, for each and every such activation. Such fine and costs shall be collectible before any District Justice as like fines and penalties are now by law collectible. The same shall constitute a summary offense.