Seattle Fire Department Introduces a False Alarm Proposal

Seattle Fire Department Introduces a False Alarm Proposal

The Seattle Fire Department is planning to introduce a new ordinance by the end of 2019 that may impact your facility. The proposed ordinance will impose fine for two different areas described below.

Fire and Life Safety Systems– Seattle Fire Department (SFD) estimates that around 10,000 fire and life safety systems are currently out of compliance, this is nearly 1 out of every 3 systems around the city. Currently, if fire and life safety systems are not inspected, or have deficiencies that are not repaired, SFD is allowed to fine operators up to $1000/ a day through prosecution in court.

The new proposed ordinance will instead issue a penalty fee of $373 to the building owner or operator for not testing or repairing these systems. Prior to citation, building owner will receive multiple written notifications and flexible timelines to test/repair system.

Preventable Alarms- SFD estimates it responds to 5,000+ false or nuisance alarms each year. These false alarms take personnel and equipment out of service for other emergency calls. Seattle Fire is proposing a new penalty for preventable fire alarms.

Proposed penalty thresholds per violation:

  • No penalty for the first violation within a quarter of a calendar year (4 per year). The SFD is considering increasing this to two waived penalties per quarter.
  • $373 for 2-5 violations in the same quarter of a calendar year.
  • $746 for 6-8 violations in the same quarter of a calendar year.
  • $900 for 9 or more violations in the same quarter of a calendar year.

Building owners can also request citation be reduced or overturned through the Hearing Examiner process.

Preventable Fire Alarm-Proposed Definition:

  • Any activation of a fire alarm system that results in notification to SFD of an event of fire that leads to a response by SFD when no such danger exists.
  • Includes all activations when there is no fire, when such activations are caused by mechanical failure or malfunction due to insufficient or improper testing and maintenance, accidental activation, malicious activation, or misuse, by any person, including persons who sell, install, maintain, test, or monitor fire alarm systems.
  • Does not include activations caused by weather conditions, telephone line problems, water surges, water hammers, or natural disasters.

The fire department is adamant about helping building operators and owners find solutions to false alarms such as new technology, or moving detectors. They will continue to do outreach during every false alarm call they receive. The fire department is also able to run a report on any building to determine how many false alarms occur each year.

Proposed Timeline

The final draft of the citation proposal is set to go to Seattle City Council and be approved by end of 2019. Once approved, notifications will be sent out. The new ordinance will then begin January of 2020. 

Please contact Alyssa Schnitzius with any questions. You can also contact Ken Brouillette, Technical Code Program Manager for SFD, with any questions or feedback.