Back to legislation introduced in Council period 14
Councilmember David A. Catania
A BILL IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Councilmembers David A. Catania and Sharon Ambrose introduced the following bill, which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
To require the licensing of security and fire alarm businesses and alarm agents in the District of Columbia; to establish the duties of alarm businesses and of alarm system users; to require the registration of alarm system users; to provide for installation and equipment standards and inspections; to provide for false alarm fines and a false alarm determination appeal process; to establish exceptions from the requirements; and to repeal the existing security and alarm regulation law.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the "Security and Fire Alarm Systems Regulations Act of 2001 ".
TITLE 1. PURPOSE.
Sec. 101. Purpose.
The purpose of this act is to regulate the sale, lease, rental, installation, service, monitoring, repair, maintenance, and use of security and fire alarm systems and components thereof, to license security and fire alarm businesses and agents within the boundaries of the District of Columbia, to register alarm users, to provide for false alarm fines, and to provide a false alarm determination appeals process.
TITLE II. DEFINITIONS.
Sec. 201. Definitions.
As used in this act, the term:
(1) "Alarm agent" means any employee of an alarm business whose duties include the installing, inspecting, maintaining, servicing, monitoring, repairing or responding to alarm systems.
(2) "Alarm business" means any person engaged in the business of selling, leasing, renting, installing, inspecting, maintaining, servicing, repairing, monitoring, or responding to alarm systems or components thereof, or receiving alarm signals from an alarm user and relaying information concerning such signals to the MPD or FEMS for response to the scene.
(3) "Alarm system" means any device or system that transmits a signal visibly, audibly, electronically, mechanically, or by combination of these methods to indicate an actual or threatened fire, an actual or attempted burglary, a robbery, an assault, or an unlawful entry at a premises, requiring response to the scene by the MPD or the FEMS. The term "alarm system" shall include a service activated automatically, such as a burglary or fire alarm, and a device activated manually, such as a holdup alarm, but shall not include telephonic lines maintained and operated by public utilities under the regulation of the Public Service Commission over which the signal might be transmitted.
(4) "Alarm user" means any person owning, using, or operating an alarm system, regardless of whether the alarm system was purchased or obtained within the boundaries of the District of Columbia, including:
(5) "Central alarm station" means a facility operated by an alarm business for the purpose of receiving alarm signals from an alarm user and relaying information concerning such signals to the MPD or FEMS for response to the scene.
(6) "Chief of Police" means the Chief of Police of the MPD.
(7) "Day" means calendar day, unless otherwise defined.
(8) "DCRA" means the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs of the District of Columbia.
(9) "DCRA Director" means the Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
(10) "False alarm" means any alarm signal communicated to the MPD or the FEMS that is not in response to an actual or threatened fire, an actual or attempted burglary, robbery, assault, or unlawful entry requiring an immediate MPD or FEMS response. The term "false alarm" shall include a negligently or accidentally activated signal; a signal that is the result of faulty, malfunctioning, or improperly installed or maintained equipment; or a signal that is purposely activated to summon the MPD or FEMS in non-emergency situations. The term "false alarm" shall not include a signal willfully activated by an alarm user upon a good faith belief that an actual or threatened fire, an actual or attempted burglary, robbery, assault, or unlawful entry is about to occur, or a signal activated by unusually severe weather conditions or other causes that are identified and determined by the DCRA Director to be beyond the control of the alarm user or of the alarm business.(11) "Fire Chief" means the Chief of the FEMS.
(12) "FEMS" means the Department of Fire and Emergency Management Services of the District of Columbia.
(13) "MPD" means the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.
(14) "Nonresidential alarm user" means any alarm user who is not a residential alarm user.
(15) "Notice" means written notice served personally upon the alarm user or alarm business, and if the alarm user or alarm business can not be found, upon a person of proper age upon the premises, and in the absence of such alarm user, alarm business, or person, by posting the notice in some conspicuous place in a manner calculated to bring the notice to the attention of the alarm user or alarm business, or by mailing first class U.S. mail, postage prepaid ("mailed") to the premises. If notice is by posting, a copy of the notice shall be mailed to the premises.
(16) "Person" means any individual, firm, partnership, association, company, corporation, or organization of any kind.
(17) "Residential alarm user" means the occupant of any dwelling unit with an alarm system.
(18) "Scene" means the premises upon which a security alarm is located.
TITLE III. REGULATIONS.
Sec. 301. Prohibition of prerecorded transmittals.
Except for signaling devices jointly approved by the FEMS and the Office on Aging of the District of Columbia under the Life Safety System, no person shall transmit or cause to be transmitted a prerecorded message to report any fire, burglary, robbery, or other emergency directly to MPD or FEMS by means of any telephone device, telephone attachment, alarm system, or other device. Any person violating this section shall be subject to a fine of up to $200 for each offense.
Sec. 302. Licensing of alarm businesses.
(a) No person shall engage in the alarm business within the boundaries of the District of Columbia without first obtaining from the DCRA Director a license to be known as an Alarm Business License. Such license shall be required in addition to any other license or registration required by law. Any person who engages in the alarm business within the boundaries of the District of Columbia without having obtained such a license shall be subject to a fine of up to $600 for each such violation.
(b) Application for an alarm business license shall be made to the DCRA Director on a form prescribed by the DCRA Director. The information provided by each applicant shall be under oath and shall include the following:
(c) Each person whose name is required to be listed on the application shall furnish the DCRA Director with a set of his or her fingerprints, which shall become part of the application and shall be compared and recorded by the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police shall submit such fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to such other authorities as the Chief of Police may deem advisable for comparison and record checking, and shall make such other investigation as the Chief of Police determines to be relevant. The Chief of Police shall cause such fingerprints to be returned to the MPD upon completion and record checking by other agencies. The Chief of Police shall report the results of the investigation to the DCRA Director, who shall determine whether a license shall be issued.
(d) Each application required by this section shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee to be established by the DCRA Director; provided, that such fee shall, in the judgment of the DCRA Director, reimburse the District for the cost of services provided under this act. The term of the license shall be determined by the DCRA Director.
(e) An alarm business license may be denied, suspended, or revoked upon any of the following grounds:
(f) The DCRA Director, may deny the license, or may suspend or revoke any license in accordance with the provisions of this act, by notifying the applicant or licensee in writing and setting forth reasons authorized by subsection (e) of this section for the denial, suspension, or revocation. The DCRA Director may order a suspension for a period not to exceed 6 months. Any person whose license has been revoked may not apply for reissuance until 6 months after the date of revocation. Reissuance shall be subject to payment of the same fee required for obtaining an original license.
(g) Whenever the DCRA Director proposes to deny, suspend, or revoke a license, he or she shall serve upon the applicant or licensee written notice which shall:
(h) In conjunction with the authority granted by this section, the DCRA Director shall have the authority to enter into agreements of assurance of compliance or discontinuance prior, or as an alternative, to denial, suspension, or revocation of a license.
(i) Prior to any final action by the DCRA Director to suspend or revoke a license pursuant to this section, the license shall remain effective until its normal expiration date.
(j) Any person upon whom a notice has been served may file with the Board of Appeals and Review, established by Mayor's Order No. 96-27, dated March 5, 1996, a written demand for a hearing. Any such hearing shall be held in accordance with the provisions of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act, approved October 21, 1968 (82 Stat. 1204; D.C. Official Code §2-501 et. seq) ("Administrative Procedure Act") and the Rules of the Board of Appeals and Review, or any successor agency.
Sec. 303. Licensing of alarm agents.
(a) No person shall act as an alarm agent within the boundaries of the District of Columbia without first obtaining from the DCRA Director a license to be known as an Alarm Agent License. A person to whom an alarm business license has been issued may obtain an Alarm Agent License without payment of any additional license fee. Any person who violates this section shall be subject to a fine pursuant to Section 302 of this act. Alarm Agent Licenses shall be issued in the form of an identification card.
(b) Application for an Alarm Agent License shall be made to the DCRA Director on a form prescribed by the DCRA Director. The information provided by the applicant shall be under oath and shall include the following:
(1) The name, address, and telephone number of the applicant;
(c) Each applicant for an Alarm Agent License shall furnish the DCRA Director with a set of his or her fingerprints, which shall be processed in the manner set forth in section 302(c) of this act.
(d) Each application required by this section shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee to be established by the DCRA Director; provided, that such fee shall, in the judgment of the DCRA Director reimburse the District for the cost of services provided under this act. The term of the license shall be determined by the DCRA Director.
(e) Each alarm agent whose duties include the installing, inspecting, maintaining, servicing, repairing, monitoring, or responding to alarm systems, shall carry on his or her person at all times while engaged in such duties a valid license identification card. The identification card shall include the name of the alarm agent, a photograph of the alarm agent, and an identification number, and shall be displayed upon request. Identification cards are not transferable and must be surrendered within 5 business days to the DCRA Director upon termination of employment as an alarm agent or suspension or revocation of the licensee's license.
(f) An Alarm Agent License shall be subject to denial, suspension, or revocation on the grounds set forth in section 302 of this act. Procedures for the denial, suspension revocation of such a license shall be as set forth in section 302.
(g) Any license issued pursuant to this section shall be issued as a Class A Inspected Sales and Services endorsement to a master business license under the master business license system as set forth in subchapter I-A of Chapter 28 of Title 47.
Sec. 304. Duties of alarm businesses.
(a) An alarm business shall maintain in a secure and confidential manner records of all sales, leases, rentals, or installations of alarm systems and of all service calls for alarm systems. The records shall include the name of the alarm user, the address of the premises at which the alarm system is located, the date of installation or service call, and such other information as the DCRA Director may require. The records shall be made available to the DCRA Director at all times. The records shall be maintained for a period of no less than one calendar year, and specific records may be required to be maintained for a longer period by the DCRA Director.
(b)(1) An alarm business shall provide to an alarm user complete oral and written instructions and demonstrations in the proper care and use of any alarm or alarm system sold to or installed for an alarm user.
(c) An alarm business who contracts with an alarm user to respond to the scene of an alarm activation shall post on the premises, in a conspicuous place visible from outside the premises, a sticker or other sign indicating the name and telephone number of the alarm business. When an alarm system has been activated, the alarm business shall have an alarm agent present at the premises within one hour after being requested to do so by the MPD or FEMS, unless good cause is shown.
(d) Alarm businesses have an affirmative duty to train and supervise alarm agents in their employ. Any alarm business which installs, inspects, maintains, repairs, services, monitors, or responds to any alarm system must employ or otherwise engage the services of at least one person who possesses, at a minimum, a current Master Electrician Limited License which is valid in the District.
(e) Alarm businesses shall not request MPD or FEMS response to the premises of an unregistered alarm user unless the alarm system has been intentionally activated by a person in response to actual or threatened fire or criminal activity.
Sec. 305. Duties of alarm users.
(a) An alarm user shall not cause or permit any false alarm.
(b) It shall be the responsibility of an alarm user to instruct any employees or others who may have occasion to activate an alarm that alarm systems are to be activated only in emergency situations to summon an immediate MPD or FEMS response. An alarm user shall also instruct appropriate employees as to the operation of the alarm system, including the setting, activation. and resetting of the alarm system.
(c) An alarm user shall be responsible for seeing that alarm systems are maintained in good working order and that defects are promptly repaired.
(d) An alarm user who has not contracted with an alarm business for an alarm agent to respond to the scene of alarm activations shall indicate the telephone numbers of at least 2 responsible persons, who are capable of deactivating and resetting the alarm system and of assisting the MPD or FEMS to secure the premises if necessary, and who may be notified by the MPD or FEMS to respond to the scene, by either:
Sec. 306. Registration of alarm users.
(a) Every alarm user shall register the user's alarm system with the DCRA Director and shall pay a nonrefundable alarm user registration fee to be determined by the DCRA Director. Alarm users must register their alarm system within 180 days after the establishment of this alarm user registration fee as determined by the DCRA Director.
(b) The DCRA Director shall determine the term of such registration and the information to be provided on the registration application. Registration may be accomplished by mail using a registration application form prescribed by the DCRA Director.
(c) The DCRA Director shall establish procedures, by rulemaking, for:
(d) The DCRA Director shall establish a residential alarm user registration fee and a nonresidential alarm user registration fee.
(e) The DCRA Director may revoke an alarm user's registration after 10 false alarms in a calendar year. Alarm users shall be permitted to re-register only after the alarm system has been inspected by an alarm business and certified as conforming to all system installation and equipment standards.
Sec. 307. Installation and equipment standards; inspections.
(a) The DCRA Director shall establish alarm system installation and equipment standards by rulemaking within 180 days after enactment of this act. An alarm system installed after January 1, 2002, must meet the installation standards. Alarm businesses, agents, and users must comply with these alarm system installation and equipment standards within 180 days after their establishment.
(b) An alarm business must certify in writing to the alarm user that any alarm systems installed after January 1, 2002, meet the installation and equipment standards as set by the DCRA Director at the time of installation, service, monitoring, repair or maintenance.(c) An alarm user must have its alarm system inspected by an alarm business after 3 false alarms from the system in a calendar year. Within 20 days after notice of receiving a third false alarm from the DCRA Director, the alarm user must have the alarm business certify to the alarm user and to the DCRA Director that the system has been inspected and meets the installation and equipment standards as set by the DCRA Director.
(d) No person shall install or maintain an audible alarm system which emits sounds capable of being mistakenly identified as that of an emergency vehicle siren or civil defense warning siren.
(e) The MPD and FEMS are authorized to deactivate any exterior audible alarm system which continues to emit a sound for more than 30 minutes.
(f) No person shall install or maintain an alarm system that does not have a safeguard to halt or recall an accidental alarm activation before the alarm is communicated to MPD or FEMS for response to the scene.
(g) The DCRA Director, the Chief of Police, and the Fire Chief are authorized to inspect the facilities of any alarm business, central alarm station, or alarm user during reasonable business hours to determine whether the requirements of this act are being met. Information obtained pursuant to such inspections shall be kept confidential and used only in conjunction with the enforcement of this act.
TITLE IV. FINES, FEES, NOTICES OF INFRACTION, APPEALS
Sec. 401. False alarm response fine.
(a) The MPD and FEMS shall serve each residential or nonresidential alarm user with a notice of infraction, informing the user of the response and that the alarm was not based upon an actual or attempted fire or criminal act.
(b) The MPD and FEMS shall report to the DCRA Director each false alarm to which the respective agency responded, with information corroborating the address, date, time, and circumstances as available from records kept in the ordinary course of business by each agency.
(c) The DCRA Director shall collect a false alarm response fine from the alarm user for each false alarm from the user's alarm system that exceeds 3 in a calendar year, unless the fine is waived by the DCRA Director for good cause, and require an inspection by the alarm business of the user's alarm system. The DCRA Director shall establish conditions, including alarm signals caused by severe weather, under which the fine shall be waived.
(d) The DCRA Director shall establish the false alarm response fines.
(e) The DCRA Director, in consultation with the MPD and FEMS, shall establish procedures for an alarm business to request an MPD or FEMS response to an alarm signal, including procedures to verify an alarm signal before requesting an MPD or FEMS response. An alarm business must comply with these procedures when the business requests an MPD or FEMS response to an alarm signal.
(f) An alarm user may recover a false alarm response fine from the alarm business that sold, leased, installed, serviced, repaired, maintained, or monitored the user's alarm system if the false alarm is the result of:
Sec. 402. Collection of fines and fees.
(a) All fines, collateral, and fees collected pursuant to this act shall be paid into the General Fund of the District of Columbia.
(b) DCRA shall be responsible for the collection of all license fees, registration fees, and false alarm response fines pursuant to this act.
(c) The District of Columbia shall have a lien upon any amount due and payable as a false alarm response fine pursuant to this act. However, no lien shall be effective unless;
Sec. 403. Appeal of false alarm determination.
An alarm user may appeal the original determination by the MPD or FEMS that an alarm signal was a false alarm to the DCRA Director within 30 days after notice of a false alarm is served. The DCRA Director shall set filing fees, by rulemaking, for appeals by alarm users. The DCRA Director may make a summary determination upon the record or may refer the appeal for a written report and recommendation. The DCRA Director shall decide the appeal.
Sec. 404. Penalties generally.
(a) Civil fines, penalties, and fees may be imposed as alternative sanctions for any infraction of the provisions of this act, or any rules or regulations issued under the authority of this act, pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2. Adjudication of any infraction of this act shall be pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2.
(b) The MPD and the FEMS shall not respond to an alarm signal from an unregistered alarm system if the alarm user has not, after notice:
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, MPD and FEMS may respond to an alarm signal if they are notified that the alarm system has been intentionally activated by a person in response to an actual or threatened fire or criminal activity.
TITLE V. EXCEPTIONS.
Sec. 501. Exceptions.
This act shall not apply to:
(1) The use of alarm systems by law enforcement personnel for law enforcement purposes;
(2) Alarm systems installed in motor vehicles, boats, or aircraft;
(3) Alarm systems which do not communicate directly or indirectly with MPD or FEMS to request a MPD or FEMS response but which are designed solely to alert personnel or others directly connected with or employed by the owner or operator of the protected premises or an agency that is required to respond to the scene of the activation prior to initiating a call for MPD or FEMS;
(4) Persons engaged solely in the manufacture or sale of alarm systems or components thereof from a fixed location;
(5) Telephone answering services that receive alarm activation signals and relay information to the MPD or FEMS but do not function in any other manner as an agency or alarm business;
(6) Electricians who may have occasion to deal with electrical components of alarm systems and who are not alarm businesses or alarm agents or acting in any such capacity; or
(7) Alarm system used, operated, or installed in any premises or place owned, leased, occupied, or under the control of the government of the United States or the District of Columbia, nor to any officer, agent, or employee of either government while acting or employed in his or her official capacity.
TITLE VI. RULES
Sec. 601. In accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, the DCRA Director shall issue such rules and procedures as necessary to implement this act.
TITLE VII. REPEALER.
Sec. 701. The Security and Fire Alarm Systems Regulations Act of 1980, effective September 26, 1980 (D.C. Law 3-107, D.C. Official Code §7-2801 et seq.) is repealed.
TITLE VIII. FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT.
Sec. 801. The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the Committee Report as the fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Code §1-206.02(C)(3).
TITLE IX. EFFECTIVE DATE.
Sec. 901. This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Code §1-206.02(c)(1), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.
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