[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Amherst 8-3-1992 by L.L. No. 12-1992; amended in its entirety 10-28-2019 by L.L. No. 20-2019. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter shall be known as the "Town of Amherst Alarm Code."
The purpose of this chapter is to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the Town of Amherst by reducing the number of avoidable alarms of fire, intrusion, holdup or other emergencies which contribute to ineffective utilization of police and fire emergency agencies, require emergency responses which are susceptible to high accident rates, interfere with genuine emergencies (responses) and produce unnecessary alarm noise to the surrounding community.
For the purpose of this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them by this section:
- ALARM SYSTEM
- A device or an assembly of equipment which is designed to detect smoke, abnormal rise in temperature, fire, medical emergency or an entry into or exit from a building, structure or facility and by reason thereof emits an audible response intended to alert persons outside of the premises and/or transmit a signal or message to an emergency agency either directly or through a private answering point.
- AUTOMATIC DIALER
- A device that automatically dials and relays a prerecorded message to an emergency agency.
- EMERGENCY AGENCY
- The Police Department or Fire Company, central fire dispatch or other emergency dispatch center.
The owners and lessees of premises having alarm systems shall comply with all provisions of this chapter on or before the January 1, 1993.
No person shall install or maintain an external audible alarm device which does not contain an operational automatic cutoff system which turns off the external audible alarm after a period not to exceed 10 minutes.
An automatic dialer connected directly to an emergency agency shall automatically disconnect and/or terminate its message after the message has been transmitted a maximum of two times. Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, the total transmission time of all messages shall not exceed five minutes.
No alarm system shall have an automatic dialer feature or other type of alarm alert which connects automatically to enhanced 911 or the 911 emergency telephone system.
There shall be no automatic alarm system with direct communication of any type to an emergency agency without prior written authorization from the emergency agency where the alarms terminate.
The activation of an alarm system through mechanical failure, malfunction, improper installation or the negligence of the owner of the premises, user, custodian or the negligence or carelessness of the lessee of the premises where the alarm system is located or the negligence or carelessness of any employees at the premises requiring an emergency response when in fact an emergency does not exist constitutes an avoidable alarm. An avoidable alarm also includes intentional activation of an alarm system when the activator knows an emergency situation does not exist.
An avoidable alarm does not include alarms activated by violent conditions of nature or similar causes beyond the control of the user, owner or operator of the alarm system. The activation of an alarm system under any circumstances in which the activator reasonably believes that an emergency situation exists shall not be deemed to be an avoidable alarm.
Where the reason for the alarm is due to a finding by the responding fire company that burnt food or cooking activities triggered the alarm that conduct is deemed to be an avoidable alarm.
Charges. An owner or lessee of real property to which an emergency agency responds as a result of avoidable alarm shall pay a fee for each such response in each calendar year as follows:
Notice of excessive use. The owner and/or lessee of real property which received an emergency response by reason of an avoidable alarm shall be notified, in writing, by means of first-class mail of all avoidable alarms up to five four police alarms and/or one fire alarm in a calendar year. The notice shall be sent in writing, by means of first class mail, to the owner at the address maintained by the Town of Amherst Assessor or a duly authorized representative who has been designed by the owner to receive such notice, said designation required to be filed with the Building Commissioner. If notice to the lessee is sent, it shall be sent to the property c/o lessee of premises unless a different name and address are provided by the lessee.
Contents of Notice of Violation. The notice to the owner and/or lessee of the real property which received an emergency response by reason of an avoidable alarm shall be provided with the following information:
Time and date of avoidable alarm;
Address of the real property. If the real property has more than one unit, the unit/apartment/suite number;
For fire alarms, the name of the volunteer fire department which responded together with the name of the officer in charge. For other alarms, the name and rank of the police officer(s) who responded;
An incident reference number assigned by fire dispatch/police department;
A copy of the incident detail report police incident report for the alarm at issue;
The fine being imposed as per Town Code § 65-7(B); and
A copy of a letter which states as follows:
The Chief of Police and the Commissioner of Building shall each establish procedures whereby an owner of real property or lessee thereof on which an alarm system has been installed and who has been notified of an avoidable alarm may present evidence as to why any such alarm should not be classified as an avoidable alarm.
The Chief of Police shall designate up to three (3) members of the Police Department to receive evidence of alarm responses and make recommendations and findings of fact concerning said classification.
The Commissioner of Building shall designate members of his/her department, not to exceed five (5) in total, to receive such evidence of avoidable alarms make recommendations and findings of fact concerning such classification.
The Chief of Police and the Commissioner of Building shall make the final determination concerning a classification, which determination shall be reviewable only pursuant to procedures under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules and said proceeding to be commenced within thirty-five (35) days after the mailing of the determination by the Building Commissioner or Police Chief to the owner/lessee.
To challenge a classification of an alarm as an avoidable alarm, the real property owner or lessee shall notify the Building Commissioner for fire alarms or the Chief of Police for all other alarms, in writing (an e mail is acceptable), within twenty (20) days after receipt of notice of the avoidable alarm that he/she wishes to appeal such determination. The failure to give such notice shall be deemed a waiver of right to review that determination.
Upon ten (10) days of receipt of the appeal, the Chief of Police for other alarms or the Building Commissioner for fire alarms shall:
Designate one (1) representative of the relevant department (Building Department representative shall be a fire inspector), to receive evidence from the property owner or lessee thereof. The representative shall be selected from a list established by the relevant department of the same on a random basis;
Notify the property owner/lessee thereof of the designation of the specified fire inspector as Hearing Officer for fire alarms or the police department representative for all other alarms;
Provide property owner/lessee with time, place and date of hearing at which time the designated hearing officer shall hear said evidence; and
Advise the property owner/lessee of his/her right to be represented by counsel at such hearing.
The duly designated representative of the relevant department shall afford the owner/lessee to present evidence in support of the claim that the alarm was not avoidable.
At said hearing, the burden of proof shall be upon the Town to establish that the alarm was avoidable by substantial evidence. This burden shall be met by the submission to the Hearing Officer of the Notice of Avoidable Alarm and the Fire Dispatch Report for fire alarms or the police incident report for other alarms if the same indicates, in the judgment of the Hearing Officer, that:
For Fire Alarms, the reason for the activation of the alarm was a finding by the responding fire company that burnt food or cooking activities triggered the alarm in the absence of a fire, or
For all alarms that the alarm was triggered through the mechanical failure, malfunction, improper installation or the negligence of the owner of the premises, user, custodian or the negligence or carelessness of the lessee of the premises where the alarm system is located or the negligence or carelessness of any employees at the premises requiring an emergency response when in fact an emergency does not exist. An avoidable alarm also includes intentional activation of an alarm system when the activator knows an emergency situation does not exist.
At the hearing conducted pursuant to these provisions, the technical rules of evidence shall not apply except the rules of evidence regarding hearsay with respect to the submission of the Fire Dispatch Report or the Police Incident Report, shall apply.
Within ten (10) days of the hearing, the designated fire inspector shall prepare a report of the hearing and transmit the same to the Commissioner of Building for fire alarms or the designated representative of the Police Department shall prepare a report of the hearing and transmit the same to the Chief of Police for all other alarms. The report shall include findings of fact and recommendations.
Within ten (10) days of receipt of the report and recommendation, the Commissioner of Building for fire alarms or the Chief of Police for all other alarms shall issue a final determination concerning a classification of the alarm as avoidable or non-avoidable.
Payment of charges. Avoidable alarm charges shall be paid to the Town Clerk of the Town of Amherst at 5583 Main Street, Williamsville, New York 14221.
Failure to remit fee. Failure of a real property owner or lessee of property on which an alarm system is installed to pay the avoidable alarm charge within thirty (30) days following notice of the amount due is a violation of this code and is punishable by an additional fine of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) per day if the prior fine was not paid.
The Chief of Police shall enforce this chapter for alarm systems which detect medical emergencies and entry or exit from a building, structure or facility. The Commissioner of Building shall enforce this chapter for alarm systems which detect smoke, fire or abnormal rise in temperature. For that purpose, the Commissioner of Building and the inspectors employed in the Building Department are authorized to issue and serve appearance tickets.
The Chief of Police shall enforce this chapter for alarm systems that require a police response.
Any person, business, firm, corporation, partnership, association or other entity who is found in violation of any other provisions of this code shall be subject to a civil penalty, not to exceed $1,000 for each offense. A separate offense shall be deemed committed upon each day during which a violation occurs, continues or is permitted.
If any section, clause or provision of this chapter or the application thereof to any persons is adjudged invalid, the adjudication shall not effect other sections, clauses or provisions or the application thereof which can be sustained or given effect without the invalid section, clause or provision or application, and to this end the various sections, clauses or provisions of this chapter are declared to be severable.