The weather wasn't fit for man or beast this past weekend, but Kidder Township and Albrightsvile VOLUNTEER firefighters were forced to endure it on numerous calls.

There were crashes, chimney fires and routine calls.

There also were "automatic alarms;" alarm systems in structures commercial and residential which signal a possible fire.

We understand such alarms can go off accidentally. In these cases, either the system must be repaired or replaced.

One specific business in the township has had numerous alarms this month, as well as in previous months. It is an established business, so the alarm system should be functioning properly.

Any homeowner or business having several false alarms over a specified period of time should be forced to pay a penalty or a fine. There's no reason to unnecessarily jeopardize the lives of responders when there isn't a real emergency.

Every time the fire department responds to a false alarm, not only is there a fuel expense, but volunteers are pulled into service when there potentially could be a real emergency elsewhere. More of a burden is placed on the time restraints of volunteers who are already contributing a lot to their communities.

Last month, the Fernwood barracks of the state police cited several businesses for excessive false alarms. Police releases didn't specify if they were fire alarms or burglar alarms. Either way, when there are multiple false alarms, something has to be done.

Especially in foul weather, volunteers are risking their lives responding to automatic alarms. The response is necessary because one never knows when the alarm is the real thing.

There is no excuse, though, for habitual offenders.

State police didn't specify the fine for repeat offenders of false alarms in press releases. But if an ordinance is needed, every municipality should adopt one on behalf of their fire department.

Often volunteer firefighters crawl out of bed in the middle of the night, leave the dinner table with their food uneaten, and pull themselves away from their children's' activities to respond to alarm. It isn't fair to ask them to do this for false alarms, especially for repeat offenders.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]