Woodlands County has an alarming problem — false alarms.
Over the last four years, the Whitecourt RCMP have noticed an increase in the number of false alarms, from electronic alarms and alarm companies.
According to the Whitecourt RCMP Detachment’s numbers for the first quarter of the year (January to March) the number of false alarms their members had to respond to increased from three, in 2012, to 27 this past year.
If you extrapolate this to the course of a full year, this suggests the Whitecourt RCMP, will respond to more than 100 false alarms.
And that is just the RCMP. If you take into account all the other emergency services that number would be much higher.
That is why Woodlands County councillors decided to enact a false-alarm bylaw and perhaps it is time that both the town and county in Barrhead follow suit.
The town’s Fire Services bylaw, does address, at least in part, the issue of false alarms. Under it the fire department can issue a $250 fine for anyone who ‘willfully, without reasonable cause, by outcry, ringing bells, uses the fire alarm, telephone or any other manner causes the alarm of fire is guilty.’
As an editorial staff whose job, at least in part, is to listen to the scanner for where and when emergency services personnel are called upon, we can confirm that our local emergency agencies have to battle the same issue.
We can’t tell you how many times our reporters have packed up their camera gear to follow the fire department, etc., on the way to an alarm call just to find out it is nothing. For us it is just an annoyance. For emergency services, it is much more. It could be a matter of life and death.
For example, if the fire department is responding to one of these calls on one side of the county and an actual emergency happens on the other side of the county, valuable resources and valuable response time are wasted.
Perhaps even more important is that the fire department will lose vital volunteers, either because they are fed up with going out to calls where they are not needed or that their employers will not allow them to leave their jobs. Ninety seven per cent of Alberta fire departments are run by volunteers, including Barrhead. Without them, where would we be?
So let us all do our part in making sure all of our emergency service personnel are there when we need them by not having them have to respond to frivolous calls. And for those who do let’s give town, county and emergency officials the ability to penalize them.