A call to action on increasing false alarm fees
By JF Champagne
On Jan. 19 and 21st I made representation on behalf of the members of CANASA to the budget committee and the licensing and standard committee of the City of Toronto regarding their fire false alarm by-law.
By JF Champagne
A change to the bylaw introduced in April 2010 has eliminated the exemption on a first false fire alarm which has lead to a sharp increase in the number of single family homes being fined $1,050 for response.
Fire false alarm fines are not new to Toronto and most other municipalities in Canada. What is new in this case is the absence of any kind of exemption or warning to building owners. There is no longer room for error and the price to pay is high. This means greater costs for multi-tenants building which are forced by code to have monitored fire systems and are most likely to have repeating alarms.
But the real adverse effect is on residential, single family homeowners who chose to have monitored smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. Yes, they do trigger false dispatches on occasion but when they do, a warning suffices to motivate them they have their system fixed. Statistics shows that they pretty much never create another false alarm in the same year. Without exemption, and without warnings, they find themselves on the receiving end of an invoice from the City for $1,050.
Some homeowners are beginning to re-consider having monitored life safety devices. Installation companies have ceased to offer monitored life safety devices and monitoring stations are being instructed to no-longer dispatch Toronto Fire on residential installs. Meanwhile, the Toronto Fire Chief reminds us that 85 per cent of fire death occurs in single family homes.
With the adoption of the 2011 budget the fines will be increased from $1,050 to $1,230, an increase of 15 per cent. In front of a “fais accomplis” we made representation to the budget committee asking to have the increase aligned with other user fees at 3 per cent. But none of the demands made by more than 150 groups to the city budget committee have been considered.
Our true battleground is the licensing and standard committee where many councillors are concerned about the complaints they are getting from their constituents about what they believe to be excessive fines imposed on single family homeowners. The committee was unsuccessful in stopping the fee increase or re-instated the single exemption per year but tasked the fire department to provide additional information about the impact on single family home owners and offer alternatives. This presentation will take place at the next committee meeting in March.
Briefed on the situation, the National Board of Directors of CANASA in January adopted a resolution tasking your humble servant to continue the battle in Toronto and set aside funds necessary to expand our advocacy efforts. We will make representation again to the committee in March and are getting ready.
But our success depends on you.
Nothing can substitute the power of constituents, voters, who tell politicians they will not vote for them if they don’t address a bylaw that is unfair. Or the story of a family saved by the systems and technologies our members install. We will be making another call to action to our members in the near future
Our success depends on your response.