Olympia Municipal Code chapters 16.46 and 5.55 govern the use of security alarms within the City limits. These rules and regulations apply only to security alarm sites that are physically located within the City limits of Olympia. The Code sections establish an alarm registration process, responsibilities of alarm users and alarm companies, fees for causing police to respond to false alarms, truth in advertising protections for consumers and appropriate appeals processes.
Who Must Register?
No one is required to register a security alarm with the City. However, those who do choose to register receive distinct benefits from that decision.
Options Regarding Registration
You can register your alarm with the City. If you register, the police will respond to your alarm based solely on a call from your alarm monitoring company. This service is called "unverified response," because the police come to your home or business based on the activation of an electronic device, not based on information provided by a real person who is present at your alarm site to verify that there is a real need for an officer. You can choose not to register your alarm with the City. If you make this choice, someone other than the police - such as a private security company - must be on-site to verify a possible crime has occurred before the police will respond. A call from your alarm company with no on-site verification will not be sufficient to generate an immediate police response. If you don't register your alarm and wish unverified response to alarm activations, it is your responsibility to make arrangements for that service with a private provider.
Please be aware: If you choose not to register your alarm system, the police will not respond to your alarm unless a person actually witnesses the cause for the alarm activation (for example, if someone is seen trying to enter your home or business) and contacts the police with that information.
How Do I Register My Alarm?
Your alarm monitoring company will register your alarm with the Olympia Police Department. Individuals cannot register their alarms directly with the City. Your alarm monitoring company will bill you for the registration fee on an annual basis.
How Much are Registration Fees?
Registration fees are adjusted annually, based on the cost of administering the program.
- Residential $25
- Commercial Government $35
Who is PMAM?
PMAM is the company that manages all false alarm payments, the registration process and requests for appeals on the City's behalf. They collect payments for the security alarm program and remit them to the City. You may receive information from PMAM with the Olympia Police Department logo, but the PMAM address and telephone number. PMAM also has a subsidiary company, called ATB Services, and you may see ATB Services on things like invoices.
Call PMAM at 1.800.861.5944. PMAM can answer questions about the Olympia alarm ordinance, the registration process, false alarm payments, and the appeals process.
Do I Have any Protections as a Consumer?
When you are considering hiring an alarm company to install and/or monitor a new security alarm system or to renovate your current security alarm system, or when you purchase do-it-yourself security alarm equipment from a store, the alarm business or store is required to give you - before you agree to any contract or purchase - a notice that clearly explains your responsibilities as an alarm owner and your relationship to your alarm company and to the police. If your alarm company fails to provide you with that notice, or fails to provide it to you in a timely manner, contact OPD at the administrative telephone number listed below
What Happens if I Have an Alarm at My Home or Business?
When your registered alarm system activates, your alarm monitoring company attempts to verify the alarm and calls the emergency dispatch center requesting a police response to your home or business. If the officer finds either a crime in progress or evidence that a crime was attempted, your security alarm did just exactly what it was supposed to do. Responding to real crimes serves the interests of everyone in the community and is a part of the basic police services your taxes provide.
What Happens if I Have a False Alarm?
If an officer is dispatched to your home or business and finds no evidence of a crime or attempted crime, you will be charged a false alarm response fee. Only false alarms caused by earthquakes, tornados and other unusually violent acts of nature are exempt from fees. Each time you have a false alarm, you are responsible for paying for the cost of the service provided by the Police Department. There are no free false alarm responses. False alarm fees are based on the actual cost of providing the response. Emergency responses to false robbery and panic alarms are significantly more expensive than responses to false burglary or property alarms because emergency responses involve the use of more police resources than non-emergency burglary responses. There is an appeal process if you feel you have been charged with a false alarm in error.
False Alarm (Per Event)
- Burglary/Property $60
- Robbery/Panic $200
Why Do I Have to Pay for a False Alarm?
Responding to false alarms serves only those who choose to own and can afford to own and operate security alarm systems. Those who don't have or can't afford alarm systems not only derive no benefit from the police going to a false alarm, they actually lose access to public safety resources they would have had available if the police had not been diverted to the false alarm. Because it serves only the interests of a special group of citizens (alarm owners) rather than the whole community, false alarm response is not a basic police service provided by taxes. It is a special privilege the City has agreed to provide to responsible alarm owners, provided those alarm owners who use the service pay for it and don't abuse the privilege.
What Happens if I Don't Pay My False Alarm Fees?
If you have any unpaid false alarm fees at the time you are required to re-register your alarm, your alarm registration will be suspended and you will not be permitted to re-register until your bill is paid in full. This means that you will not have unverified police response to your alarm until you have brought your account current.
Can I Have Too Many False Alarms?
Any false alarm is one too many, but, even for conscientious users, they sometimes do occur. However, virtually all false alarms are avoidable, and you are expected to keep your alarm system well maintained and operate it with care and diligence. You are permitted to have three (3) false alarm responses in any calendar year. If you have a fourth false alarm in a calendar year, your alarm registration will be suspended for 90 days or until the end of the calendar year, whichever is longer. If you are suspended three (3) times in any five-year period, your registration will be permanently revoked and you will need to make other arrangements if you wish to have unverified response to your alarm system.
False Alarm Prevention Class
You are able to be "forgiven" for one suspension of your alarm registration, if you take and pass a false alarm prevention class. The class is self-taught and available on-line. Expect to spend 20-30 minutes taking the class and the exam. When you have successfully completed the exam, you will be prompted to submit the results. The suspension of your alarm registration will be lifted when the results are submitted, but remember - taking and passing the class forgives the suspension only. You still have to pay all false alarm fees for which you are billed. To take the course visit the City of Olympia False Alarm Prevention Class website. If you do not wish to take the course on-line, paper copies of the course and the exam are available. Please contact Marianne Wieland at 360.753.8147 to request a copy.
For information about Olympia's security alarm program implementation and administration, contact:
Sara Bradley, Secretary
Olympia Police Department