A meeting is scheduled later this month between Rome and Northwest Georgia Housing Authority officials concerning the high number of false fire alarms at the senior highrises.
Rome-Floyd Fire Department leaders said they are concerned the frequent false alarms could possibly hinder response to a real emergency or increase the chance of a traffic incident while responding to the scene.
The issue was brought up during a recent city Public Safety Committee meeting where Division Chief Dean Oswalt reported the numbers from the last six months of 2014.
The buildings at 800 and 906 N. Fifth Ave. and 807 Avenue B have a combined 303 apartments that house elderly and nearly elderly residents.
The department responded to 143 fire or smoke alarms at the highrises between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, according to Oswalt — with an actual fire reported just once, when a resident’s couch burned.
Oswalt said firefighters responded to 25 false alarms at the buildings this January, and 17 in February.
“Most of the time the smoke detector in the unit is activated from someone cooking or steam from hot water,” Oswalt said. “They’ve got them in the wrong place.”
NWGHA Executive Director Sandra Hudson said they were notified of the high number of false alarms a few years ago when they devices were in the kitchen.
She said they moved most of the smoke detectors in the units to a spot between the kitchen and the living room at that time.
“We asked our alarm company if they could lower them to keep them from going off all the time but they said it would be a major liability for our residents and the housing authority,” Hudson said.
Hudson said they want to work with the city and the fire department any way they can, but she is not sure what else can be done.
City Commissioner Kim Canada, a member of the Public Safety Committee, asked City Manager Sammy Rich to set up the meeting, which is set for March 31.
Rich said he hopes to get the cost of responding to the false alarms, including employee time and equipment time, and look at the policy in place to recover some of that cost.
Both Rome and Floyd County have alarm ordinances that charge commercial and residential customers a fee after the third time emergency personnel respond to a false alarm at a single address in a calendar year.
Charges range from $35 for the fourth alarm to $125 for the seventh alarm. No fees are charged for false medical alarms.
The city does not charge the housing authority for false alarms due to previous practice, according to Rich.
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