Tougher penalties coming for false fire alarms in Lower Macungie

Posted: 11:29 PM EDT May 16, 2013   Updated: 8:02 AM EDT May 17, 2013

A tougher new law aimed at reducing false fire alarms may be passed in June in Lower Macungie Township.

Township commissioner Roger C. Reis updated his colleagues on proposed penalties for false alarms at their public meeting Thursday night.

“Thirty to 40 percent of the alarms our fire department has to respond to are false alarms,” said Reis. “It’s a waste of time and money. It’s something we would like to try to lessen.”

He said the township staff is recommending changes in the existing false alarm ordinance.

That ordinance allows up to three false alarms in a 12-month period before anyone has to pay a fine. The proposed change would allow only one penalty-free false alarm every six months.

Also, now no one can be fined more than $300 for exceeding the allowable number of false alarms. “In theory, it could be a dollar or it could be $299,” said Reis.

The proposed change will make it a set fine rather than a sliding fine, with different penalties for homes and businesses. Reis explained the fine will be $150 per incident for residential structures and $300 for commercial structures.

“We’re not trying to use this as a fund-raiser or a funding stream,” said Reis. “We’re trying to prevent false alarms. Sometimes, unfortunately, if people don’t have some sanction for their action they continue that action.”

Reis said false alarms are discouraging to the township’s volunteer firefighters who often leave their jobs to respond.  He said they could be hurt when responding to fire calls that turn out to be false alarms. He said the change “will protect our volunteers, protect our fire department and, in the long run, protect our citizens.”

Reis said his public safety committee will review and make a recommendation on the ordinance changes when it meets at 6:15 p.m. June 6. He added those changes already have been reviewed and approved by the township solicitor.

He expects the five-member board will vote on advertising the revised false alarm ordinance when it meets after his committee meeting -- at 7 p.m. June 6 -- followed by a vote on the ordinance at the June 20 commissioners meeting.

Also during Thursday’s meeting: