Kent changes its fee structure for nuisance fire calls

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

Kent is revising the fee structure for false alarms that require safety forces after a unanimous vote by Kent City Council this week.

Previously, if Kent's emergency dispatch received more than two false alarms from the same system within a month, a $25 fee was issued for any additional false calls.

Under the new guidelines, the monthly period is expanded to a six-month rolling period. The first two false calls are still free, with a progressive $50 fee tacked on to each additional call.

Kent Safety Director Bill Lillich said 665 false alarms were triggered last year, which he attributed to reasons such as burnt popcorn and hair spray setting of smoke detectors.

"Sometimes it's faulty equipment, which is one of the reasons why we give people a couple free ones -- so they have the opportunity to get somebody in to get it operating properly," Lillich said.

On average, a fire call costs the department about $1,158.

Revising the fee structure allows the safety department to recoup some of the expenses associated with false alarms, Lillich said.

"If we have our crews out on calls, we often have to call overtime people in," he said. "If we can control that, then we're more efficient."

Kent Fire Chief Dave Manthey said the department and Kent State University are working on ways to reduce false calls -- though he prefers term nuisance call.

"When a smoke detector goes off because it detects smoke that's not a false alarm, that's an alarm," Manthey said. "It may become a nuisance alarm if it's popcorn in a microwave. A lot of it is just due to negligence."

KSU has developed immediate response teams, which include its police and fire forces, security aids and resident assistants and directors.

"They're the people that are on the scene prior to us, so that they can identify these alarms," he said.

If a single alarm goes off, such as an isolated smoke detector in one room, immediate response teams will be utilized to identify whether the fire department's assistance is needed.

In cases where multiple alarms are set off, or even single alarms in KSU buildings that contain fire hazards, such as the science buildings, Manthey said the department will automatically respond with two fire engines.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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