ELKHART — An Elkhart business is facing multiple fines because of excessive false alarms in the last year that have prompted response from Elkhart firefighters and police officers.
Since March 2012, there were more than 30 reports of false alarms at Begley Automotive Inc., 1201 N. Nappanee St., said Jamie Kochanowski, a secretary at the fire department.
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Elkhart Board of Public Safety, Kochanowski explained that a business is not fined for the first six false alarms. Seven to 10 incidents draw a $50 fine for each false alarm. Fines limb by $100 for each incident after 11 times, $200 after 15 incidents, $300 after 19 incidents and, after 23 incidents in a year, a company will have to pay $400 for each false alarm. The count resets to zero at the beginning of the year.
Although Begley Automotive had 26 false alarms in 2012, only three tickets were issued.
Kochanowski blamed record-keeping irregularities for the low number of tickets.
For instance, officers recorded different names for the site of the false alarm, either Begley Automotive or DMR Investment Properties LLC, the name of the owner of the property on which Begley operates, she said.
Other problems were caused when officers didn’t record in their report that a false alarm was the reason for the call. Sometimes officers reported that they merely cleared the scene but did not note the false alarm.
Kochanowski said she also checks the narrative of a report to see if an alarm was effective. In at least one occasion at Begley Automotive, the door was propped open. Even if a door was left open accidentally, Kochanowski will consider the alarm to have been effective because it functioned adequately.
Begley Automotive accountant Chris Carlstead asked the board of safety to appeal the tickets that may be issued for the 10 false alarms this year. He was told the company can’t appeal until the tickets are issued.
Carlstead claimed that the false alarms are caused by wind and that Begley is working with its alarm company to fix the problem.
Board member Tom Shoff questioned Carlstead’s claim, saying that weather data shows it wasn’t windy on the dates of the false alarms.
Police Chief Dale Pflibsen said false alarms cost the department gas and the use of K-9 units each time an alarm goes off.
“This building has been in service for many years under different owners and we had never had those problems before,” he said. “This situation is absolutely ridiculous. Something needs to be done to stop these false alarms.”