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False alarms pose problems for fire companies

Firefighters say automatic alarm calls put a heavy burden on volunteer fire departments.

STROUD TOWNSHIP, PA — The Stroud Township Volunteer Fire Department responds to all types of emergencies every day — house fire, car fire, hazardous material spill, terrain rescue —you name it, they're there.

But Assistant Fire Chief Dave Smalley says automatic alarm calls, by far, put a burden on volunteer fire departments the most.

"If an alarm is going off inside somebody's home, they'll come up, they'll put their code in, it'll stop the alarm, and they think everything's great, and meanwhile, we're still coming."

Last year, the department responded to more than 150 automatic alarms.

"Of automatic alarms, probably 99 percent are false alarms for one reason or another, whether it's cooking smoke or the system isn't being maintained; any number of things," said Smalley.

The resources required for an automatic alarm call don't change either.

"Every time one truck rolls out, we have usually four to five guys on that truck. They all have to come to the station. They all have to get in here, and we have to put a million-plus dollar equipment on the road for usually no reason," Smalley said.

If you have one in your home, Smalley says there are a couple of things you can do to help prevent a false alarm from happening in your home.

"Make sure your home has smoke detectors and that they're updated. Get them replaced every ten years. Secondly, update your contact information with the alarm company. It can save our life if you do that. We roll out just as we would any other fire when an automatic alarm comes in," said Smalley.

Smalley says getting to know your alarm company and systems, making sure they're working well, and updating your contact information for the alarm system can help you in the long run.

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