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Seattle Fire to implement new initiative in 2020 to avoid preventable alarms

To help prevent fires and keep people safe, the Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) Fire Prevention Division is launching a new initiative in 2020 for avoiding “false” or “preventable” alarms. The City is introducing citations of $373 or greater beginning January 1, 2020 for preventable alarms.

When a fire alarm system is activated, the fire department is notified directly or indirectly through an alarm monitoring company. Firefighters respond to the location, and if they find no danger or active fire, it is classified as a preventable alarm.  Each year, the department responds to over 5,000 preventable alarms in Seattle, accounting for approximately 1 of 3 fire calls received by dispatchers at the Fire Alarm Center. Preventable alarms take firefighters out of service, making them unavailable to respond to true emergencies.

Background: The large number of preventable alarms reduces our ability to protect property and preserve lives for all who live, visit and work in Seattle. For this reason, the City is introducing a new citation penalty for preventable alarms. The intent is to encourage maintenance and needed modification of alarm systems and discourage careless acts that result in alarm activation. As a result of this initiative, the availability of fire department resources to respond to true emergencies is expected to improve.

Preventable alarms include:

  • Any activation of a fire alarm system that results in notification to SFD of an event of fire that leads to a response by SFD when no such danger exists.
  • All activations when there is no fire, when such activations are caused by mechanical failure or malfunction due to insufficient or improper testing and maintenance, accidental activation, malicious activation, or misuse, by any person, including persons who sell, install, maintain, test, or monitor fire alarm systems.
  • Does not include activations caused by weather conditions, telephone problems, water surges, water hammers, or natural disasters.

Penalties: There is no penalty for the first preventable alarm during a calendar year quarter, for a total of up to four waived alarm penalties each year for every building. Thereafter, penalties are $373 for 2-5 violations in the same quarter of a calendar year, or $746 for 6-8 violations in a quarter, or $900 for 9 or more violations in a quarter. Citations will generally be written to the building owner.

Resources to help you reduce preventable alarms: SFD has prepared information about the most frequent sources of preventable alarms and steps you can take to reduce them. Please see Client Assistant Memorandum #5970 Preventable Fire Alarms or “False Alarms”.

For more information, please visit our website or contact the Fire Prevention Division at