[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of Calvert County 6-19-2001 by Res. No. 24-01. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The purpose of this chapter is to encourage alarm users and alarm businesses to maintain operational reliability and to properly use alarm systems to reduce and/or eliminate false alarm dispatch requests.
This chapter governs systems intended to summon police, fire and/or emergency medical response, requires permits, establishes fees, provides for penalties for violations, establishes a system of administration and sets conditions for suspension or loss of permits.
The False Alarm Reduction Unit is established under the Calvert County Department of Public Safety. The unit may hereinafter be referred to as "FARU."
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- ALARM BUSINESS
- Any business, by an individual, partnership, corporation or other entity, which engages in one or more of the following: sells, leases, maintains, monitors, repairs, services, replaces, alters, moves, installs, sells at retail, or responds to an alarm system at an alarm site.
- ALARM BUSINESS LICENSE (ABL)
- A license issued by the Calvert County FARU Administrator to a business allowing alarm installation and monitoring, which will hereinafter be referred to as "ABL."
- ALARM DISPATCH REQUEST
- A notification to the Calvert Control Center that an alarm, either manual or automatic, has been activated at a particular alarm site.
- ALARM SIGNAL
- The activation of an alarm system.
- ALARM SITE
- A single premise or location served by an alarm system or systems. Each tenancy, if served by a separate alarm system in a multi-tenant building or complex, shall be considered a separate alarm site.
- ALARM SYSTEM
- Any mechanical or electrical equipment, device, or series of devices, including, but not limited to, systems interconnected with radio frequency signals, which is designed to discourage unauthorized entry or other illegal and/or criminal activity or detect smoke, fire, heat and/or water flow, by emitting or transmitting a remote or local audible, visual, or electronic signal indicating an alarm condition. "Alarm system" does not include:
- ALARM USER
- Any owner or lessor of any alarm system, the occupant of any dwelling unit with an alarm system, each tenant that uses an alarm system in a multi-tenant building, and any person, firm, partnership, corporation, government or other entity which uses an alarm system at an alarm site.
- Verification from the alarm company that there is no emergency and there is no further need to respond. A cancellation code will be given to the monitoring company to be used for cancellation of personnel.
- CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRATION (CR)
- A certificate issued to an alarm user certifying that the alarm system has been registered with the Calvert County FARU Administrator, which will hereinafter be referred to as "CR."
- FALSE ALARM DISPATCH
- An alarm dispatch request to the police, fire or emergency medical services when emergency responders find no evidence of medical need, a criminal offense or an attempted criminal offense or, after completion of a timely investigation of the alarm site, the senior fire officer determines there is no evidence to support activation of the fire alarm system. An alarm dispatch request, which is canceled by the alarm business or the alarm user prior to arrival on the scene, shall not be considered a false alarm dispatch.
- FALSE ALARM REDUCTION UNIT ADMINISTRATOR
- Commonly known as "FARU Administrator," means a person designated by the Calvert County Commissioners to supervise the False Alarm Reduction Unit and to administer, control and review alarm applications, certificates of registrations and alarm dispatch requests.
- FALSE ALARM USER AWARENESS PROGRAM
- A program authorized by the FARU Administrator of Calvert County for purposes of educating alarm users about the responsible use of their alarm systems and problems created by false alarm dispatches.
- HOLDUP ALARM
- A silent alarm signal generated by the deliberate activation of a device intended to signal a robbery in progress.
- A device that allows control of an alarm system by the manual entering of a coded sequence of numbers or letters.
- The process by which an alarm business receives signals from alarm systems and relays an alarm dispatch request to the Calvert County Communications Center for the purpose of summoning police, fire and/or emergency medical services response to the alarm site.
- NONRESIDENTIAL ALARM USER
- Any alarm user, monitored or unmonitored, not defined elsewhere.
- PANIC ALARM
- The deliberate activation of an audible alarm intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation requiring response.
- An individual, corporation, partnership, association, organization or similar entity.
- The transaction or process by which an alarm user takes over control of an existing alarm system that was previously controlled by another alarm user.
- An attempt by the alarm business or its representative to contact the alarm site by telephone or other electronic means, whether or not actual contact with a person is made, before requesting police, fire and/or emergency medical services dispatch in an attempt to avoid an unnecessary alarm dispatch request.
No alarm user shall operate, or cause to be operated, an alarm system at its alarm site without a valid CR issued by the Calvert County FARU Administrator. A separate CR is required for each alarm site.
The application for a certificate of registration is to be filed by the alarm business servicing the alarm and must be submitted to the FARU Administrator within 10 business days after the alarm installation or alarm takeover.
Upon receipt of a completed application form, the FARU Administrator shall issue a CR to an applicant unless the applicant has:
Any false statement of a material matter made by an applicant for the purpose of obtaining a CR shall be sufficient cause for refusal to issue a CR.
A CR cannot be transferred to another person. An alarm user shall inform the FARU Administrator, in writing, of any change that alters any information listed on the CR application within 10 business days or the CR will not be honored.
All fees owed by an applicant must be paid before a CR may be issued.
Proprietary alarm holders must possess a CR if the alarm user will be requesting alarm dispatch.
A CR shall expire December 31 of each year and must be renewed annually by submitting an updated application to the FARU Administrator. The FARU Administrator shall notify each alarm user of the need to renew 30 days prior to the expiration of his or her CR. It is the responsibility of the alarm business and the alarm user to submit an application prior to the CR expiration date. Failure to renew will be classified as use of a nonpermitted alarm system and citations and penalties may be assessed without waiver, unless the FARU Administrator has been notified in writing that the alarm system is no longer in use.
If an alarm system installed by an individual tenant in an apartment complex unit is monitored, the tenant must provide the name of a representative of the apartment owner or property manager who can grant access to the apartment to the alarm business which is providing the monitoring service.
A tenant of an apartment complex shall also obtain a CR from the FARU Administrator before operating or causing the operation of an alarm system in the tenant's residential unit.
For purposes of enforcing this section against an individual residential unit, the tenant is responsible for false alarm dispatches emitted from the alarm system in the tenant's residential unit.
If the owner or property manager of an apartment complex provides alarm systems in each residential unit as an amenity, then the owner or property manager of the apartment complex shall obtain a CR for each unit from the FARU Administrator.
For purposes of enforcing this section against an individual residential unit, the tenant is responsible for false alarm dispatches emitted from the alarm system in the tenant's residential unit.
The owner or property manager of an apartment complex shall obtain a separate CR for any alarm system operated in a nonresidential area of the apartment complex, including, but not limited to, common tenant areas and office, storage and equipment areas.
In addition to suspension or revocation pursuant to § 5-16, the FARU Administrator may suspend or revoke a CR if it is determined that:
A person commits an offense if he operates an alarm system during the period in which his CR is suspended or revoked.
Unless there is independent verification that there is a crime, fire or medical emergency in progress, appropriate emergency services of Calvert County may refuse response to an alarm dispatch request at an alarm site for which the CR is revoked.
If the CR is reinstated, the FARU Administrator may revoke the CR if it is determined that four subsequent false alarm dispatches occur within 60 days after the reinstatement date.
If the FARU Administrator denies the issuance or renewal of a CR, or suspends or revokes a CR, he shall promptly send written notice of his action and a statement of the right to an appeal to the alarm user and the alarm business.
FARU Administrator may reinstate a suspended CR upon receipt of acceptable evidence that the cause has been addressed and appropriate corrective action has been taken.
Any person engaging in an alarm business to operate or install alarm systems in Calvert County must apply to the Calvert County FARU Administrator for an ABL. Such license application must be signed by either the owner of the business for a sole proprietorship, one partner for a partnership or a corporate officer for a corporation, and must be approved by the Calvert County FARU Administrator.
A nonrefundable processing fee of $50 must accompany ABL applications. A nonrefundable processing fee of $25 for a renewal must accompany a renewal ABL application each year.
Should an alarm business license be suspended, revoked or denied, the alarm business must notify, within 10 business days, by first class mail, each of its alarm users that the alarm business is unable to request the Calvert County Communications Center to dispatch to the user's alarm system for the duration of the suspension, revocation or denial. After suspension, revocation and or denial, the alarm business must also provide the FARU Administrator, by first class mail, within 10 business days, a list containing the names and complete addresses of the alarm business' licensed alarm users at that time.
If the alarm business license has been revoked or suspended, a reinstatement fee of $100 must accompany a reinstatement application.
A licensed alarm business must not enter into a contract regarding its business in Calvert County with any other alarm business that does not have a valid Calvert County alarm business license.
The owner, partner or corporate officer of an alarm business must conduct a criminal history background check on all employees of the alarm business involved in the sale, installation, monitoring or maintenance of an alarm system. The background check must cover the past seven years.
Any registrant or applicant who requests a hearing to show cause why an alarm business license should not be revoked or suspended, or the license application should be granted or renewed, must include an appeal filing fee of $25. Upon successful appeal, the reinstatement fee will be waived.
Any alarm business not registered is subject to a fee of $150 per alarm responded to, being serviced by that alarm business.
It is the responsibility of the alarm contractor to register all alarm users they service. Any alarm, where the user is not registered, will result in a fee to the alarm business of $150 per alarm. At time of application for the ABL, registration forms for registering customers will be provided. CR's must be submitted for all existing customers within 30 business days of issuance of ABL. After initial registration of an alarm business, CR's should be completed for all new customers at time of sale and/or installation of an alarm system by an alarm business and submitted to Calvert County FARU within 10 business days of installation.
It is the responsibility of the alarm contractor to alert FARU within 10 days of any takeovers for which they are assuming responsibility. In addition, it is the responsibility of the alarm contractor to alert FARU within three days of any systems that they are releasing their responsibility to monitor.
Failure to comply with the provisions of § 5-8, Alarm business license requirements, will constitute grounds for denial, suspension or revocation of an alarm business license.
False statements to any of the questions contained in the alarm business license application may constitute perjury. Perjury, fraudulent behavior, or any violation of the conditions for the issuance of this license will result in refusal of license or, if granted, in revocation or suspension of it.
An alarm user shall:
Maintain the premises and the alarm system in a manner that will minimize or eliminate false alarm dispatches;
Make every reasonable effort to respond or cause a representative to respond to the alarm system's location within 15 minutes when notified to deactivate an alarm system to provide access to or security for the premises, or have a Knox Box available; and
Not manually activate an alarm for any reason other than an occurrence of an event that the alarm system was intended to report.
An alarm user shall adjust the mechanism or cause the mechanism to be adjusted so that an alarm signal audible on the exterior of an alarm site will sound for no longer than 15 minutes after being activated. Water monitor gongs are exempt from automatic shutdown.
An alarm user shall have a properly registered alarm business inspect his alarm system after three false alarm dispatches in a one-year period. The FARU Administrator may waive an inspection requirement if he determines that the false alarm(s) were not related to a defect or malfunction in the alarm system. After six false alarm dispatches, the alarm user must have a properly registered alarm business upgrade and/or modify the alarm system to be more false alarm resistant and/or provide additional formal user training, as appropriate.
An alarm business performing monitoring services:
Shall not request dispatch for emergency response during the first week after installation of an alarm system but, rather, use that week to train the alarm user on proper use of the alarm system unless extenuating circumstances necessitate immediate requests for response as determined by the FARU Administrator;
Shall report alarm signals by using telephone numbers designated by the FARU Administrator;
Shall verify every alarm signal, except a duress, hold-up, or fire alarm activation, before requesting emergency response to an alarm signal;
Shall communicate alarm dispatch requests to the County in a manner and form determined by the FARU Administrator;
Shall communicate verified cancellations of alarm dispatch requests to the County in a manner and form determined by the FARU Administrator; and
Shall ensure that all alarm users of alarm systems equipped with duress alarms are given adequate training as to the proper use of the duress alarm.
Must notify the alarm user in writing within 72 hours if a police, fire or emergency medical services dispatch was requested to its alarm location.
Shall be registered with the Maryland State Police and the Calvert County FARU.
Shall register alarm users.
Must maintain a record of all calls soliciting dispatch, including the time, date and location of the alarm and the name, address and phone number of the alarm user. The record must also include the cause of the alarm, if known, and the monitoring dispatcher's name and any other information such as identification or employee number. This record shall be current and shall be made available to the FARU Administrator, if requested.
Violation of any of the above will result in a fee as determined in this chapter and/or not to exceed $150 per violation and/or suspension or revocation of CR and/or ABL.
Upon enactment of this chapter, alarm businesses shall not program alarm systems so that they are capable of sending "one plus" duress alarms. Alarm businesses may continue to report "one plus" duress alarms received from alarm systems programmed with this feature prior to enactment of this chapter. However, after enactment of this chapter, when performing a takeover or conversion, an alarm business must remove the "one plus" duress alarm capability from the alarm system being taken over or converted.
Upon enactment of this chapter, alarm businesses shall not install a device for activating a hold-up alarm, which is a single-action nonrecessed button.
Every alarm system installed after enactment of this chapter must be either Underwriters Laboratory (UL) CPO1 certified or better and meet the following installation standards:
All alarm system equipment must be used only for the purpose intended by the manufacturer, and installed per manufacturer specifications.
Every alarm system must have standby power sufficient to operate the system in a non-alarm status (without being the cause of alarm activation) for a minimum of four hours.
Any alarm system that has a multi-phase power service and a dedicated transformer to that premise (building) only does not require surge protection as described above.
Every alarm system must be installed under National Electrical Code (NEC) and UL 681 or manufacturer's standards.
Any door or window contact installed for the purpose of activating the alarm system must be hermetically sealed if used on solid state control panels.
Any residential alarm system with an audible alarm must have a sufficient number of sound-generating devices to alert or awaken all normal hearing occupants within the alarm user's premises that an alarm has been activated.
Every alarm system using a digital communicator must have a proper phone interface device as required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), accessible to the alarm user, and mounted within a reasonable distance from the control panel.
Any audible alarm must automatically silence the enunciator within 15 minutes after activation, except as provided by law.
Any panic or medical/emergency alarm activation must cause an audible alarm.
Every alarm system must have a supervised standby power supply that causes a local annunciation when standby power falls below the manufacturer's recommended specifications.
All alarm systems' wiring must meet NEC standards and be a minimum of 22 gauge, or meet manufacturer's specifications (whichever is the higher standard). Wiring run through plenum ceilings or heat/return ducts must be plenum rated.
An alarm business that installs an alarm system must have at each alarm installation site at least one employee, to supervise the installation of any alarm system, who has passed and maintains a minimum Level 1 Certification by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, Inc. (NBFAA) or equivalent training.
Any alarm business that installs an alarm system must provide the alarm user with an installation certificate that must include the following:
The alarm system has been installed as required by County law and these regulations;
The person designated by the alarm user as responsible for alarm system operation has received training sufficient to prepare the alarm user to operate the system without false alarms caused by improper operation; and
CR application has been filed with FARU Administrator to ensure police, fire or emergency medical dispatch.
Any deviations from this standard must be provided in writing to the FARU Administrator for approval.
It is the responsibility of the alarm business and technician to prevent false alarms during installation, system repairs, or system service. Proper notification shall be made to the monitoring company that the system is in a test mode to avoid dispatching law enforcement personnel.
No person shall install or use an alarm system or device that emits or produces real or simulated smoke, fog, vapor or any like substance that obscures vision. Use of this device will result in no police or fire-rescue-emergency medical services action.
No automatic dialing and prerecorded message alarm systems are to be maintained, operated, connected or allowed to be maintained, operated or connected which automatically dials police and/or fire-rescue-emergency medical services personnel and then relays a prerecorded message reporting a robbery, burglary or other emergency.
An alarm user shall maintain a set of written operating instructions for each alarm system.
If there is reason to believe that an alarm system is not being used or maintained in a manner that ensures proper operation and suppresses false alarms, the FARU Administrator may require a conference with alarm user and the alarm business responsible for the repair of the alarm system to review circumstances of false alarms.
The administrator shall oversee the creation and implementation of a False Alarm User Awareness Program. The program shall inform alarm users of problems created by false alarm dispatches and provide alarm users with materials and information on alarm systems.
Alarm businesses, users and CR holders shall be subject to civil monetary penalties, warnings and suspension or revocation of CR or ABL depending on the number of false alarm dispatches emitted from an alarm system within any calendar year based upon the following schedule:
An alarm user or alarm business may appeal the assessment of a fee, suspension, or request reinstatement to the FARU Administrator. An appeal fee of $25 must accompany the appeal. The filing of an appeal with the FARU Administrator stays the assessment of the fee or suspension until the FARU Administrator makes a decision. The alarm user shall file a written appeal to the FARU Administrator by setting forth the reasons for the appeal with 15 business days of the date of the written fee notice. An alarm business may submit the request for review on behalf of alarm user.
A second level of appeal is available if the alarm user is still not satisfied with the FARU Administrator's decision to the Calvert County Director of Public Safety. The applicant shall file a written request for a review, setting forth the reasons for the appeal, within 15 business days of the date of the written appeal result notice from the FARU Administrator. An alarm business may submit the request for review on behalf of an alarm user. Any user who requests an appeal hearing must include a filing fee of $25.
Filing of a request for appeal shall stay the action by the FARU Administrator suspending or revoking a CR until the Calvert County Director of Public Safety has completed a review. If a request for appeal is not made within the fifteen-day period, the action of the Calvert County FARU Administrator is final.
The Calvert County Director of Public Safety shall conduct a hearing and consider the evidence by any interested person(s). The Director shall make a decision on the basis of the preponderance of evidence presented at the hearing, including, but not limited to, evidence that a false alarm dispatch was caused by a defective part that has been repaired or replaced or that an alarm dispatch request was caused by a criminal offense. Unless extended by mutual agreement of the parties or for good cause as determined by the Director, the Director must render a decision within 30 days after the appeal hearing has been held. The Director shall affirm, reverse or modify the assessment of the penalty. The decision of the Director is final.
A person whose CR has been revoked may be issued a new CR if the person:
Submits an updated application;
Pays, or otherwise resolves, all citations and penalties; and
Submits a certification from an alarm business that complies with the requirements of this chapter stating that the alarm system has been inspected and repaired (if necessary) by the alarm business.
Registration of an alarm system is not intended to, nor will it, create a contract, duty or obligation, either expressed or implied, of response. Any and all liability and consequential damage resulting from the failure to respond to a notification is hereby disclaimed, and governmental immunity as provided by law is retained. By registering an alarm system, the alarm user acknowledges that police, fire-rescue-emergency medical services response may be based on factors such as availability of police and/or fire-rescue-emergency medical service units, priority of calls, weather conditions, traffic conditions, emergency conditions, and staffing levels.
A person commits an offense if he violates by commission or omission any provision of this chapter that imposes upon him a duty or responsibility and, unless a different civil monetary penalty is provided for elsewhere in this chapter, is subject to a civil monetary penalty of not more than $500 for each offense.
It shall be unlawful to continue to use the alarm system or to operate an alarm business without payment of required fees or assessments issued by this chapter.
A court order will be obtained for nonpayment of any fees as described in this chapter.