Topeka City Council members are considering fining businesses that have too many false fire alarm calls. The Topeka Fire Department asked the city during a council meeting Tuesday night to consider fining businesses that have more than three false fire alarms in a year. 

Over the last three years, the department has responded to an average of nearly 1,000 false alarms per year. Fire Marshal Michael Martin said those calls used resources valued between $300,000 and $750,000. He said the calls in 2017 also used 3,935 personnel hours.

Topeka Fire Chief Craig Duke told city council members about a woman who fell recently. He said the fire crew closest to her was tied-up responding to a false alarm. Another crew, farther away, had to take the call.

“So this individual had to wait longer on us to respond to them because they were responding from a further distance,” Chief Craig Duke. 

The proposed city ordinance would penalize businesses for having poorly maintained alarms. Chris Schultz, the co-owner of the Break Room and Field of Greens, had a fire in his restaurant. He said his alarm company keeps his new alarm in tip-top shape.

“They’re the ones who contact us and say it’s time to come out and do your fire inspection, they come out and do it, they run the systems, they run tests on the communicator boxes,” Schultz said. “They make sure the batteries are all charged in case the power goes out, and they take care of us.” 

He said other business owners should make sure their systems is in working order.

“If they’re not following the laws and how they’re supposed to be put together, then I think there needs to be some kind of penalties to make sure that people have their systems in check and make sure that everything is good.” 

Chief Duke said lessening the numbers of false alarms will help firefighters keep the community safe.

“What we’re trying to do is try to prevent these false alarms to allow our apparatus to be available to respond to true emergencies,” Chief Duke said.

The ordinance would require business owners to get permits for their alarm systems. It would cost $25 to get the permit. Business owners would be required to renew the permit each year. The renewal fee would be waived for businesses that didn’t have any false alarms the previous year.