False Alarm and Security Systems


Burglar, panic and robbery alarms are useful deterrents to crime; however, 95-98 percent of alarm calls are determined to be false alarms, which take police away from other potential emergencies. Alarm legislation was developed to reduce the number of false alarm activations and keep officers available to handle more calls for service.

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Fairfax County False Alarm Code Brochure

How do alarm systems work?
What is a false alarm?
What can trigger a false alarm?
How can I prevent false alarms from occurring?
What happens when the police respond to a false alarm?
What is the False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU)?
What is the penalty for false alarms?
I received a false alarm notice but feel that there was a legitimate reason for the alarm activation. Can I contest it?
When does a false alarm notice count against me?
In addition to imposing fines, what else can the county do?
What if I do not pay the fees?
What if I was not aware of the county code?
Do I have the right to appeal?
What is the appeal process?
What facts or circumstances could affect the outcome of an appeal?
I am going out of town. What should I do?
I want to have an alarm system installed. What do I need to do?
How do I register my alarm system with
Fairfax County?
What if I have alarms installed in multiple locations?
Can registration fees be waived?
Are alarm registrations transferable?
How do I notify the False Alarm Reduction Unit of any changes?
What do I do if I relocate or leave?
What if I do not have an alarm company or alarm monitoring company?
What are the responsibilities of the alarm company?
What if the alarm company does not comply with their requirements?
What if I have other questions about my alarm service?

How do alarm systems work?

When an alarm is activated, an automatic signal is sent to an alarm company or alarm monitoring company. They provide specific information to 9-1-1 police communications representatives who, in turn, dispatch police officers to the location where the alarm was activated.

What is a false alarm?

Any alarm signal that elicits a response by police personnel where there is no criminal activity. This includes accidental activations, equipment failure and user unfamiliarity. (Fairfax County Code 8.1)

What can trigger a false alarm?

  • Weather conditions (wind, storms and lightening)
  • Power outages or interruptions
  • Power surges
  • Operator error
  • Poor maintenance or low batteries
  • Inadvertently setting off motion detectors

How can I prevent false alarms from occurring?

For weather-related incidents:

  • Ensure doors and windows fit snugly in their frames and that contacts are firmly in place
  • Replace loose alarm contacts with “wide” door or window contacts to fill voids to reduce excessive movement of your doors and windows

 For power surges, interruptions or outages:

  • Properly install and maintain surge suppressors on the alarm system and the phone lines and have adequate backup battery power (minimum charge of four hours)

    o           Replace batteries if they have less than four hours of power

  • Verify with your alarm company that your system has been properly installed to meet Fairfax County Code requirements.

 For users:

  • Be sure everyone who uses the alarm system knows how to properly activate the system and how to cancel accidental alarm activations
  • Ensure all doors and windows are firmly secured
  • Annual maintenance (check batteries, dust dirt and cobwebs from motion detectors, etc.)
  • Check that interior decorations will not set off motion detectors
  • Ensure that heating or air conditioning systems do not cause movement

What happens when the police respond to a false alarm?

Upon finding no evidence that a crime has occurred, police officers will leave a false alarm notice. There is no penalty unless your alarm is falsely activated multiple times within a given timeframe.

What is the False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU)?

Fairfax County’s False Alarm Reduction Unit works to reduce false alarms in the county by:

  • Registering alarm users
  • Imposing civil monetary penalties for excessive false alarm activations
  • Ensuring appropriate inspections and upgrades of alarm systems
  • Administering the false alarm appeals process
  • Sharing information on county ordinances and proper maintenance of alarm systems within Fairfax County

What is the penalty for false alarms?

 False alarm response fees start at $100 and can increase to $3000 per false alarm. Fees are imposed on the following basis within a 12-month calculation period:

 

1st                 

$0.00

2nd

$0.00

3rd

$100.00

4th

$150.00

5th

$200.00

6th

$250.00

7th

$300.00

8th

$350.00

9th

$500.00

10th

$600.00

11th

$700.00

12th

$800.00

13th

$900.00

14th

$1,000.00

15th to 19th

$1,500.00 each

20th to 24th

$2,000.00 each

25th or more

$3,000.00 each

 

The 12-month calculation period starts with the date of registration issuance or the date of the first false alarm for alarm systems that are not registered.

I received a false alarm notice but feel that there was a legitimate reason for the alarm activation. Can I contest it?

If you would like to contest whether an alarm was false, you can submit a written request to the Chief of Police or his designee within 10 business days. The request must include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your registration number
  • The address where your alarm is installed
  • The date of the false alarm
  • The reasons why you think it was a false alarm

The Chief of Police or his designee will consider the circumstances of your argument and respond with a written response.

When does a false alarm notice count against me?

An alarm activation is not officially considered a false alarm until after the 10-day appeal period expires. 

In addition to imposing fines, what else can the county do?

The False Alarm Reduction Unit may require you to have your alarm inspected by an alarm company licensed* in Fairfax County. If that happens, you are required to:

  • Submit a completed inspections report within 30 days of notice
  • Pay an additional $100 if you fail to comply

If you receive eight or more false alarm notices within the 12-month calculation period, FARU may require you to upgrade your alarm system to meet county equipment installation standards.

*All alarm companies that operate in Fairfax County must be licensed to do business within the county and must comply with all licensing, registration, certification and training requirements established by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

What if I do not pay the fees?

Failure to register your system, pay fines, or upgrade your system may result in the suspension of your registration and the discontinuance of police response until the location is in compliance.

Grounds for rescinding, waiving or reducing service fees are outlined in County Code § 8.1-4-2.

What if I was not aware of the county code?

It is your responsibility to be familiar with all county ordinances prior to activating your alarm system. The alarm company is also expected to know the county codes.

Do I have the right to appeal?

You may file a request for an appeal hearing with FARU if:

  • You are ordered to have your alarm inspected
  • Administrative fees are assessed
  • Your registration is suspended

What is the appeal process?

  • The hearing will be held within 72 hours of filing the request for an appeal.
  • A hearing officer appointed by the County Executive will preside over the hearing.
  • You have the right to appear and present witnesses and other evidence, but there are no formal rules of procedure for the conduct of the hearing.
  • The hearing officer will present no witnesses or other evidence and will hear the matter to determine whether the penalty or order has been applied legally, fairly, and impartially.
  • The hearing officer has the authority to waive or rescind all or part of the imposed inspection requirement, registration suspension, or administrative service fee if he/she deems there is not enough evidence to support the initial claim.

 (e)   The provisions of this Section shall not apply to the imposition of false alarm response fees assessed pursuant to Sections 8.1-3-8 and 8.1-3-9 of this Chapter. (31-98-8.1.)

What facts or circumstances could affect the outcome of an appeal?

Administrative hearing officers will consider the following factors in reaching a determination to modify or waive an administrative fee, inspection order, or registration suspension order:

  • Evidence of attempts by you to eliminate the cause of false alarms such as:
    o           Installation of new equipment.
    o           Replacement of defective equipment.
    o           Inspection and repair of the system by an alarm technician.
    o           Specific formal training of alarm users.
  • Written evidence that the alarm system has been disconnected and removed from the protected premises.

 Note: Meeting any or all of these circumstances does not guarantee that an appeal will be granted. The hearing officer may also grant an appeal for reasons other than the ones listed above.

 I am going out of town. What should I do?

In addition to following the false alarm prevention tips above, be sure to:

  • Advise your alarm company of your travel schedule and how you can be reached during your vacation.
  • Make sure your alarm company and the FARU have an up-to-date contact list. Add temporary alarm users, such as housesitters, to your list.
  • Make sure all key holders know how to properly operate your security system (keypads, passcodes) and how to cancel a police response.
  • Advise your emergency contacts of your departure and arrival times and ask about their availability to respond in the event of an activation of your alarm.

 I want to have an alarm system installed. What do I need to do?

Any residential or commercial alarm must be registered with FARU before operation will begin. Please note that registration does not apply to car alarm systems.

 How do I register my alarm system with Fairfax County?

  • You should have been provided alarm registration information when you purchased the alarm or had it installed.
  • There is a $25 registration fee that must be paid with the registration form.

 What if I have alarms installed in multiple locations?

A separate registration must be obtained for each alarmed location and a $25 registration fee must be paid with each registration form.

Can a registration fee be waived?

Registration fees may be waived on a case-by-case basis to include:

  • The infirm or physically challenged
  • County, state and municipal government facilities

 Registration fee waivers do not exempt individuals or entities from paying false alarm response fees.

Are alarm registrations transferable?

No. They cannot be transferred from one alarm user to another or from one location to another.

 How do I notify the False Alarm Reduction Unit of any changes?

If there are changes in mailing address, contact information, or the alarm company, you must notify FARU in writing at:

4100 Chain Bridge Rd
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone # (703) 246-5424
FAX # (703) 246-5430

 What do I do if I relocate or leave?

Alarm users and/or alarm companies must notify the False Alarm Reduction Unit when you relocate or change ownership within Fairfax County. The old registration must be canceled and a new one issued.

What if I do not have an alarm company or alarm monitoring company?

You may obtain registration information directly from the False Alarm Reduction Unit.

What are the responsibilities of the alarm company?

All alarm companies* that operate in Fairfax County must be licensed to do business within the county and must comply with all licensing, registration, certification and training requirements established by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

*Any company having to do with permits for systems, installation, alterations, maintenance, reparation, replacement, service, or monitoring of any alarm system.

It is the alarm company’s responsibility to:

  • Provide you with the registration form for all current and future residential and non-residential alarm systems.
  • Collect the completed form and registration fee from you and deliver it to the False Alarm Reduction Unit.
  • Ensure that you have registered your alarm system with the police department’s FARU before the alarm system is activated or placed into service.
  • Notify the police department or designee if you cancel or otherwise terminate your alarm service with the alarm company.

What if the alarm company does not comply with their requirements?

Failure to comply with licensing requirements may result in suspension of service to their customers.

What if I have other questions about my alarm service?

If you have other questions about your alarm service or provider, contact Fairfax County’s False Alarm Reduction Unit in writing or by phone at:

4100 Chain Bridge Rd
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone # (703) 246-5424
FAX # (703) 246-5430


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