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LEGAL MATTERS: Alarm Laws

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By Kathleen G. Moriarty, Peters & Moriarty, Attorneys and Counselors of Law

The Town Board of Ellicottville will hold a public hearing on its proposed Local Alarm Law at its next Town Board meeting, July 15, 2015.

Although New York statutes provide most of the laws that govern the operation of Towns (and Villages, Cities, Counties, etc.), local municipalities are permitted to create their own laws if New York law is silent on the matter and so long as the local law does not conflict with our state law.

Local alarm laws are common across New York State, and they serve important purposes – both to protect the public safety and to “keep the peace” from a nuisance standpoint.  Unfortunately, many alarm calls are false alarms caused by operator error, wind blowing a door open, a bird getting into the house, etc. If law enforcement officers and fire departments are repeatedly responding to false alarms, then they are potentially spending less time responding to actual emergency calls.

To curb these false alarms, many municipalities adopt a local law that allows them to fine property owners where the number of false alarms is excessive. Most local alarm laws provide for one or two false alarms before penalties are imposed, but they provide an incentive to make sure the alarm is in working order.

Although not a public safety concern, false alarms are disruptive to individuals and businesses within earshot. Most laws require that alarms have an automatic cut off so that they can’t go on indefinitely – especially in a town like Ellicottville where many residents are not here regularly. If adopted, the Local Alarm Law proposed by the Town of Ellicottville will require an automatic cut off after fifteen minutes. Alarms without an automatic cut off will be fined in addition to the false alarm schedule.

If Ellicottville’s proposed Local Alarm Law is adopted, property owners utilizing an alarm system will be required to register their alarm with the Town Clerk. The Local Alarm Law will be available to the public for review on July 10, 2015.

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