False Alarm Reduction Program

City of Renton Kicks Off a New False Alarm Reduction Program

Alarm users who have a monitored alarm systems can now start registering with CryWolf!

Being dispatched to repeat false alarms has long been a frustration for both police and dispatch personnel alike. In an effort to combat this misuse of city resources, the City of Renton introduced a False Alarm Reduction Program many years ago. Over time, the ordinance attached to this program became obsolete and the city needed to discontinue the program. After a few years of research, it was recognized the city needed a more cost-effective option to offer the public which lead us to partner with a private company to manage these efforts. CryWolf False Alarm Solutions was selected to manage the city’s False Alarm Reduction Program.

CryWolf will assist the city in reducing the time and effort required to process false alarms and will also simplify management of the program, freeing up police personnel to concentrate on more important job responsibilities. 

Understanding how police respond to alarms may help clear up confusion as to why having a program like this is so important:

  • Renton Police respond to an average of 10 false alarms per day; equating to 3,650 a year. 

  • Responding officers need to assume alarm trips are a legitimate burglary-in-progress (until they find out otherwise) and they will respond accordingly. Since a burglary-in-progress is considered a high-priority call, at least two officers are dispatched. Once both officers are on scene, they may spend a minimum of 20-30 minutes at the scene before determining the call is false (or unfounded); costing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.  

  • Dating back several years to before the initial false alarm program was introduced, numerous efforts were made to educate the public on the importance of having an alarm system that operated effectively so false trips were not so numerous. After those efforts failed to produce results, the city initiated a false alarm reduction program that motivated users to minimize false alarms via a monetary fine process. This got the attention of alarm users and the number of false alarms reduced over time. But since the suspension of that initial program, and with the increase in alarm installations in the city, false alarms have again started increasing in number necessitating the need for a new and improved alarm management system. The Renton Police Department services a large city and it’s the department's responsibility to ensure those resources are handled responsibly and equitably.  

The elements cited above are just a few of the reasons why this new program is necessary. It's incumbent upon the City of Renton to manage services responsibly and providing a modernized false alarm reduction program is key in helping us do that.

Starting May 1, there will be a 90-day grace period for fines on false alarms. Beginning August 2, false alarm activations will start being formally recorded by CryWolf and the processing of that information will begin.

Alarm users who have monitored alarm systems will pay a one-time registration fee of $25 when they register their alarm system, but the required annual renewals are free. 

For additional information and details on the city’s new False Alarm Reduction Program, please open on the tabs below.  

If you have questions about the registration process or the program itself, please contact CryWolf directly at (855) 664-4524, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) or visit their website.

If you have additional questions about this program (separate from how the program operates or how to register), feel free to reach out to Cmdr. Jeff Hardin, (425) 430-7686.

The city understands there will be some bugs to work out as we move forward with this new program, so we appreciate your patience and understanding.

REMEMBER: Alarm Users (who have a monitored alarm system) can start registering their alarms beginning May 1.

Appeal Guidelines

The City of Renton's Alarm Ordinance defines a false burglar alarm activation as: "an alarm signal that triggers a response by the City and, in responding, the City discovers no evidence of a crime being committed or attempted on the property served by the Alarm System.”

Appeal Process:

The Alarm User may appeal an assessment of a false alarm fine or late fee to the Alarm Administrator by setting forth in writing the reasons for the appeal within fifteen (15) days of the date of the notice sent. The appeal may be emailed to rentonwa@alarm-billing.com or mailed to:

  • Lockbox #1046, PO Box 35146 Seattle, WA 98124-5146

The Alarm User will be notified in writing of the decision of the Alarm Administrator. If the request is denied, payment shall be due immediately after the date of mailing of the notification.

Be sure to include the following:

Name
Email address (if applicable)
Alarm location
Date of the false alarm
Account number
Reason(s) for the appeal
Supporting evidence

Appeals are not generally granted as a result of the following:

  1. Faulty, defective or malfunctioning equipment supplied by an alarm business.
  2. Improper installation or maintenance by an alarm business.
  3. Improper monitoring by an alarm business.
  4. Alarm activations that occur while alarm technicians are repairing or servicing the alarm system.
  5. An occurrence where no evidence of criminal activity, fire, or medical need is present.
  6. Mistakes made by private contractors, maids, cleaning crews, visitors, etc.
  7. Item(s) within the home or business that move causing motion detectors to activate (i.e. curtains, signs, balloons, etc.).
  8. Doors and/or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts that activate the alarm system.
  9. Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away and who activate the alarm in error or are not familiar with required codes or passwords.
  10. Pets, rodents or wildlife movement in or near the home or business.
  11. Alarms caused by Apartment Management Employees.

In the case of items 1 and 2 above, if you suspect the false alarm was due to faulty equipment or improper installation contact your alarm company. In such cases, the system should be inspected and repaired where necessary.

This list is only intended as a guide to assist you in deciding whether to appeal a false alarm or contact your alarm company for discussion. This list is not intended to cover every situation where an appeal may be denied.

False Alarm Prevention Tips

The City of Renton's Alarm Ordinance defines a false burglar alarm activation as: "an alarm signal that triggers a response by the City and, in responding, the City discovers no evidence of a crime being committed or attempted on the property served by the Alarm System.”

Did you know?

Three main causes of false alarms are: 1) user error, 2) installation/service errors, and 3) equipment failure.

  • More than 80 percent of all false alarms are caused by user error
  • There are easy steps you and your alarm dealer can take to prevent false alarms
  • False alarms present a serious threat to the effectiveness of our local police, fire and EMS departments, as well as
    to the safety of our citizens
  • False alarms are costly and dangerous because they divert police officers from proactive crime prevention efforts
    and can divert public safety responses from true emergency calls

Major causes of false alarms:

  • Unlocked or loose doors/ windows
  • Children, Neighbors, and Visitors
  • Cleaning Crews/ Repairmen/ Pet Sitters
  • Pets or other wildlife
  • User Error
  • Equipment Malfunction

Before you activate your alarm system:

  • Are you and others who use the security system fully educated on its proper operation? This may include domestic/cleaning crews, children, neighbors, caretakers, employees and temporary staff.
  • Make sure you securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
  • If you are leaving your home or business, make sure the door you leave the door is closed tight.
  • Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
  • Know and rehearse the process to cancel an accidental alarm. Anyone with your key should know this process.
  • Know how much time you have after you arm your system to leave and to disarm your system when you enter.

Know what to do if you set your alarm off accidentally:

  • First, don't panic. Carefully enter your disarm code to reset your system
  • Wait for your Alarm Company or central monitoring station to call, give your password or ID card number.
  • Do not leave your home or business until you have talked with your monitoring station! If they do not call you, have the number posted by your control panel and contact them to cancel the police dispatch.
  • You can arrange to have your alarm monitoring station call you or another designated person first before the police are called whenever your alarm is activated.
  • If you are aware of a problem with the system, you can cancel the police dispatch.

At home:

  • DO NOT call 911 to cancel alarm activations--you must call your monitoring station. Avoid objects that trigger your alarm:
  • Unlocked, loose fitting, or open doors or windows. Always keep doors and windows locked when the alarm is in an "ON" mode to reduce the chance that friends, neighbors or customers enter and cause the alarm to activate.
  • Unsupervised pets - If you have pets, take special care to purchase an alarm system that is tolerant of pets. You may not want to purchase motion detectors if your pets have free run of the house when the alarm is on. Also, sometimes barking dogs can activate glass break detectors.
  • Balloons- that move can cause motion sensors to go off.
  • DO NOT call 911 to cancel alarm activations--you must call your alarm company.
  • Drafts that move plants and curtains.

At your business:

Watch for these pitfalls that may activate your alarm:

  • Swinging doors or windows
  • Banners or signs
  • Mylar balloons
  • Plants or curtains caught in drafts
  • Stacked items, such as boxes, which may fall, setting off motion detector
  • Unsupervised guests
  • Untrained, unaware or uncaring employees
  • Alarm equipment, such as motion sensors or overhead door magnets, being hit by forklifts

Contact your alarm company:

  • If you plan any improvement or renovation projects, such as changing phone systems, reconfiguring a room, adding a wall, rearranging cubicles, installing skylights or ceiling fans, or even fumigating.
  • If you plan to change your alarm system batteries. This can cause an interruption in your system’s power supply which may trigger an alarm activation.
  • Also alert your alarm company if you hire domestic help or acquire a pet.

Review with your alarm company the procedures you expect them to follow when your alarm activates:

  • Do you want them to attempt to call more than one person on your contact list before requesting emergency dispatch?
  • Do you only want the police notified if exterior and interior zones are both activated?
  • Put your instructions in writing.

With people:

Enhance your alarm system’s potential:

  • Train responders with keys on complete system operation.
  • Ensure that anyone authorized to use your alarm system is properly trained in its usage.
  • Use dead bolt locks.

False alarms:

  • Divert emergency resources away from true emergencies.
  • Are a nuisance to you and your neighbors.
  • Make your security system less reliable.
  • Costs you and your community money.

Recommendations:

  • Have a maintenance contract with a licensed alarm company and have your alarm system checked every year.
  • If you are apprehensive about using your system, call your alarm company TODAY!
  • Do your part to prevent false alarms.

Frequently Asked Questions

To prevent unnecessary emergency response to false alarms, the City adopted an alarm ordinance to encourage all alarm users to maintain the mechanical reliability of, and to properly use their alarm equipment. Excessive false alarms cost the city thousands of dollars each year and take police officers and firefighters away from actual emergencies.

What constitutes a false alarm?

The City of Renton's Alarm Ordinance defines a false burglar alarm activation as: "an alarm signal that triggers a response by the City and, in responding, the City discovers no evidence of a crime being committed or attempted on the property served by the Alarm System.”

Who is required to register their alarm?

Everyone operating an alarm system inside the City limits is required to register their alarm systems. Car alarms and life alert systems are not included in registration requirements.

How do I register my alarm system?

Please complete the online registration form at www.crywolfservices.com/rentonwa. You may also contact the False Alarm Management Program at (855) 664-4524 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

If I already have a City of Renton alarm permit, why do I need to register again?

For many years the City had an alarm permit program but several years ago the software became obsolete and the City had to discontinue the program. After several years of research we have developed this brand new program and alarm users are required to register, even if they had a permit under the old program.

What happens if I do not register my alarm?

Alarm systems that are not registered with the City are subject to a $50 non-registration penalty for being in violation of the City Ordinance in addition to any false alarm fees incurred.

What is the cost of an alarm account registration?

The cost of an initial alarm permit registration is $25.00. Permits are required to be renewed annually however there is no charge associated with the renewal of your alarm permit.

What are the fines associated with false alarms?

Burglar Alarm

  • First: $0
  • Second: $100
  • Three or more: $250

If I am assessed a fine/fee, can I pay online?

Yes, you can pay online at this website. You will need to use your account number as well as your password or invoice number. All payments are processed through a secured on-line payment system. If you remit payment online, you will also be charged a convenience fee.

If I choose to pay my fine/fee by check, where do I send it?

The mailing address is:

Renton False Alarm Reduction Program
Lockbox #1046 PO Box 35146
Seattle, WA 98124-5146

Why is the address to send payment different from the City address?

The City has procured and authorized an outsourced company called Central Square Technologies to process account registrations, invoices and payments. All payments made via mail are transferred to a protected account at the City’s financial institution.

If I disagree with an assessed fee, can I appeal?

Yes. The Alarm User may appeal an assessment of a false alarm fine to the Alarm Administrator by setting forth in writing the reasons for the appeal within fifteen (15) days of the notice date. The Alarm Administrator will render a decision in writing. Be sure to include the following with your appeal:

Your name
Email address (if applicable)
Alarm location
Date of the false alarm
Account number
Reasons for the appeal
Any supporting evidence

Appeals must be sent to:

Renton False Alarm Reduction Program Lockbox #1046 PO Box 35146
Seattle, WA 98124-5146

If I disagree with the Alarm Administrator’s appeal finding, can I appeal that decision?

The decision of the Alarm Administrator is final.

I received duplicate alarm invoices at my address; what can I do?

If you received a duplicate alarm invoice, please contact us at (855) 664-4524, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST so we can delete the incorrect invoice(s). If you are directed to a voicemail box, please leave a message with your name, address, phone number and the account/account numbers that need to be combined or deleted.

Who can I call if I have additional questions or comments?

Call us at (855) 664-4524, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

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