The False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU) was created on behalf of and to administer the alarm ordinances for the governments of Alachua County and the City of Gainesville. The main function of FARU is to reduce the number of false alarms to which law enforcement and fire-rescue respond each year. Since its inception, FARU, in partnership with alarm companies and alarm site operators, has reduced the false alarm rate in our community by 75 percent! This reduction means more first responders are available when actual emergencies occur – and we all benefit from that.

FARU licenses alarm companies, registers alarm users, sends notification of false alarms, bills for false alarm occurrences, ensures that appropriate inspections and upgrades of alarm systems occur, and handles informal appeals regarding ordinance-based user fees..

WHAT IS A FALSE ALARM?

An alarm is considered false if the responder discovers no evidence of criminal or attempted criminal activity, and/or no fire or life safety issue.

FALSE ALARM ORDINANCES

City of Gainesville

Alachua County


ALARM COMPANY REQUIREMENTS

Monitoring Companies Are Required To:

  • Attempt to verify burglar alarm calls before requesting emergency dispatch
  • Maintain records relating to alarm notification for a period of at least one year

Contractor Companies are Required To:

  • Furnish all agents with ID cards.
  • No person shall install, maintain, or service an alarm system without being an alarm system contractor.
  • Not install an alarm system or equipment that do not meet or exceed minimum Underwriters Laboratories or American National Standards Institute requirements.
  • Not cause a false alarm during servicing, testing, or inspection of alarm an alarm system.
  • Provide alarm operators with written notice that alarm registration might be required by local law or ordinance.

DISPATCH PROCEDURES

Burglar Alarms

  • Alarm monitoring companies must attempt to verify all burglar alarm signals before calling to request emergency dispatch. 
  • Duress, robbery, and hold-up alarms are exempt from verification call prior to emergency dispatchThese types of alarm signals should be dispatched immediately and WILL NOT BE CANCELED.
  • Burglar alarm dispatches can only be cancelled by the monitoring company. 
    • If law enforcement arrives prior to cancellation a response fee will be charged. 
    • If call is canceled prior to law enforcement arrival a response fee will not be charged.

Fire Alarm

  • Alarm monitoring companies must immediately dispatch fire signals.
  • NO FIRE ALARM DISPATCH CAN BE CANCELED

FALSE ALARM APPEAL GUIDELINES

Residents who experience false alarms have the ability to appeal fees and permit actions taken, with procedures that vary by location.

Alachua County

An alarm operator may appeal a fee, suspension, or revocation. The alarm operator shall notify the alarm administrator in writing within twenty calendar days of service of notice of fee, suspension or revocation. Proper notification of the alarm administrator shall stay the imposition of a fee, suspension or revocation until adjudication. The alarm administrator shall conduct an informal hearing and consider evidence presented by the alarm operator. Faulty or overly sensitive equipment, user error, or failure to renew the alarm permit shall not be sufficient basis to grant an appeal.

If the alarm operator is not satisfied with the ruling of the alarm administrator, then the operator may appeal to the alarm review board (ARB). The request for an ARB appeal must be provided to the alarm administrator within 20 days from the date of the alarm administrator’s ruling. Proper notification shall stay the imposition of a fee, suspension or revocation until adjudication. The ARB shall conduct a hearing and consider evidence presented by the alarm operator and by other interested persons. Faulty or overly sensitive equipment, user error, or failure to renew the alarm permit shall not be sufficient basis to grant an appeal. The ARB shall make a decision based on the preponderance of the evidence standard and provide the decision within 30 days. The decision of the ARB is the final administrative remedy.

According to the Alachua County Burglar and Fire Alarm Ordinance, a false alarm means the activation of an alarm system for any reason other than a criminal offense or an attempted criminal offense, and a subsequent response by public safety personnel to that alarm site. A false alarm does not include:

  • An alarm caused by physical damage to the alarm system as a result of lightning, wind, or other meteorological event, where there is clear evidence of physical damage to the alarm system; (evidence of damage is typically shown via work orders/invoices from the alarm company)
  • An alarm caused by disconnection of a telephone circuit beyond the control of the alarm operator or his agents; (verified by written communication from the telephone company)
  • A law enforcement alarm caused by continuous electrical power disruption in excess of four hours; (verified by written communication from the utility company) or
  • A fire alarm activation on a property by a permitted fire alarm pull station with two or more deterrent systems, where one or more of the deterrent systems has been utilized at the point of activation of the alarm to which the public safety agency responded.

City of Gainesville

An alarm operator may appeal the assessment of a fee, permit suspension, or permit revocation. The alarm operator shall notify the alarm administrator in writing within ten days of receipt of notice of fine, suspension or revocation. Proper notification shall stay the imposition of a fee, suspension or revocation, until a decision is made by the alarm review authority. The alarm review authority means the city manager or designee.

If emergency personnel respond and find no evidence of criminal activity, fire or smoke, or a medical need, the alarm call will be cleared as a false alarm.

An Alarm Dispatch Request which is canceled by the Alarm Monitoring Company prior to the arrival of emergency responders shall not be considered a False Alarm Dispatch, unless it is a silent, panic, or robbery type alarm or fire alarm.

When considering whether to file an appeal of a false alarm assessment, please note that appeals will not be granted for false alarms that are a result of the following circumstances.

  1. Faulty, defective or malfunctioning equipment supplied by the alarm business.
  2. Improper installation or maintenance by the alarm business.
  3. Improper monitoring by the alarm business.
  4. Alarm activations which occur while alarm technicians are repairing, servicing or testing the alarm system.
  5. An occurrence where no evidence of criminal activity is present.
  6. Mistakes made by private contractors, maids, cleaning crews, realtors, etc.
  7. Improper maintenance of the alarm system by the alarm owner (including neglect of backup power/battery supplies).
  8. Items within the home or business which move and cause motion detectors to activate, i.e., curtains, signs, balloons, plants, pets, etc.
  9. Glass break detectors which activate due to noises or sounds other than actual glass breakage.
  10. Doors and/or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts which activate the alarm.
  11. Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away.
  12. Pets, rodents, wildlife.
  13. If you do not have a permit, the additional fine for operating an unregistered alarm can not be appealed.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Does my alarm system have to be registered?

Residential or non-residential (business or commercial) alarm systems must be registered annually if they are monitored, or have exterior indicators (flashing lights, sirens, etc.) that can be seen or heard outside of the alarmed location by others, encouraging an alarm dispatch request.

Do I have to register my car alarm?

No. Vehicles are exempt unless they are permanently affixed to one location.

What are the registration fees for residential & non-residential (commercial or business) alarm locations?

The current fees for alarm permits, fines for responses to false alarms, and other alarm-associated fees and fines can be found in the ordinances or the associated current-year schedules of fines and fees for the city of Gainesville and Alachua County.  See alarm ordinance links above.

Where does the money go that is collected from fees?

Money collected from fees is used to cover expenses associated with administering the false alarm reduction program (e.g., personnel, equipment, supplies, forms, printing costs, etc.). After program administration expenses are met, the balance of money collected is returned to the city of Gainesville or Alachua County governments on whose behalf FARU operates, to be used for purposes specified by them.

If I have a Burglar & Fire Alarm System do I need two permits?

If the location of the alarm system is your primary residence, then only one permit is required. Your Burglar Alarm permit will serve as a dual permit to include your Fire Alarm Permit.

If the location of the Alarm System is for a Business, then a separate Fire Alarm Permit is required.

What fees are not eligible for appeal?

Appeals for fines and reinstatement of permits will not be heard for the following:

  • Faulty, defective or malfunctioning equipment
  • Improper installation or maintenance of equipment
  • Improper monitoring by an alarm business
  • An occurrence where no evidence of criminal activity is present
  • Mistakes made by private contractors (maids, cleaning crews, etc.)
  • Alarm activations which occur while alarm technicians are repairing or servicing the alarm system
  • Items within the home or business which move and cause motion detectors to activate (curtains, signs, balloons, etc.)
  • Glass break detectors which activate due to noises/sounds other than actual glass breakage
  • Doors and/or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts which activates the alarm
  • Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away
  • Pets, rodents, or wildlife
  • Improper maintenance of the alarm system by the alarm owner (including neglect of backup power/battery supplied).
  • If you do not have a permit, the additional fine for operating an unregistered alarm can not be appealed.

What are some of the benefits of the false alarm reduction program to our community and citizens?

False alarms require first responders, potentially making them unavailable for other emergencies because they are responding to an incident that did not require law enforcement or fire-rescue intervention. Increased public safety availability benefits everyone!