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Town looking to crack down on smoke detector false alarms

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


PETAWAWA – Councillors are calling for penalties against homeowners who do not replace their smoke detector batteries, a factor that contributes to an increase in false alarms for the town's fire department.

In April, town firefighters responded to false fire alarms on Biesenthal Road and Sunset Crescent. On arrival at one scene, the occupant advised personnel that the alarm activated due to steam from the shower.

During the second incident, crews investigated and found that two smoke alarms were chirping in separate locations but were not hard wired. Firefighters replaced the batteries and checked residence for CO detectors as well. The cause for the alarm was due to dead batteries from each detector. Councillors expressed concern that this incident, alone, saw the department racking up 12 hours in personnel time. Councillor James Carmody said it's time to have these costs recovered through a municipal bylaw.

“I don't think I want my property taxes going to replace somebody's batteries in a smoke detector,” said Carmody. “There should be a move to recover these costs through a fine.”

The town's current bylaw defines a false alarm as alarm incident that is not a valid alarm. It includes any testing of the alarm system, any mechanical failure, malfunction or faulty equipment, any user error on the part of any responsible party, a monitoring company or any other person, and any atmospheric conditions or electrical power disruptions. There is nothing that covers homeowners not replacing batteries.

“If you are proven to be responsible and you could have avoided it, then you should receive the charge,” added Councillor Treena Lemay. “It's not right or fair for the town residents to pay for somebody to get their batteries charge.”

Staff is looking into the language in the existing bylaw, as well as examining what are the practices of other municipalities. Fire chief Steve Knott said the department has been proactive with education and public service announcements. Personnel will even come to assist in changing batteries for those who have difficulties, such as seniors or those with physical disabilities.

“It's well publicized that you should change your batteries twice a year. There's an onus on the resident to maintain the device,” added Knott. “It's not rocket science to take a battery out and replace it with a new one for the cost of a dollar.” 

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