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6.25.21 – Community Impact

By Hannah Zedaker | 5:18 PM Jun 25, 2021 CDT | Updated 5:18 PM Jun 25, 2021 CDTFollowing an onslaught of false alarms in 2020, the Humble City Council unanimously voted at its June 24 meeting to amend several city ordinances related to emergency response services in hopes of mitigating the trend.

According to City Manager Jason Stuebe, out of a total of 290 fire suppression-related alarms the city’s fire department responded to in 2020, 284 were false. Additionally, out of a total of 1,900 burglar/hold-up/panic-related alarms the city’s police department responded to in 2020, 1,417 were false.

“We’re spending a lot of time and resources answering false alarms, so we’re trying to get a better handle on the situation,” Stuebe said during the June 24 meeting.

In hopes of discouraging false alarms, the council voted to amend its current policy of implementing penalties after five false alarm in one year, to after three false alarms in one year. According to a June 25 email from Stuebe, after three false alarms, the penalties will be implemented as follows:

  • Burglary-related residential and commercial false alarms:
    • 1-3 false alarms: $50 each
    • 4-5 false alarms: $75 each
    • 7 or more false alarms: $150 each
  • Fire-related residential false alarms and hold-up/panic-related residential and commercial alarms:
    • 1-3 false alarms: $75 each
    • 4 or more false alarms: $150 each
  • Fire-related commercial false alarms:
    • 1-3 false alarms: $150 each
    • 4 or more false alarms: $200 each

To better track the number of false alarms incurred at an Humble residence or place of business within a 12-month period, the council also voted to switch from a one-time fee for fire, burglar and hold-up alarm permits to an annual fee. Stuebe said said residential permits will be $25 annually, while commercial permits will be $50 annually; permit fees for residents age 65 and older will be waived.

Additionally, to help cover the costs associated with responding to alarms, the city will also begin billing insurance companies for emergency response services, following approval by the Humble City Council June 24. Stuebe noted that Humble residents will not be billed for emergency response services.

“We’re not going to actually be going out and charging the residents directly for this—it’s actually included in many insurance companies as is,” Stuebe said. “We will only be billing the insurance companies directly, we’ll get what we can from the insurance company and after that we’ll write the rest off. So we’re not going to respond to someone’s house fire and then ask for their billing information.”

Stuebe justified the action by saying that while taxpayer funds support the costs associated with operating and maintaining fire stations, apparatus and personnel, they do not necessarily cover the costs incurred of actually having to respond to an alarm.

According to Humble Fire Department Chief David Langenberg, the city previously implemented a similar system with its emergency medical services.

“Our plan, if we implement this whole program, is to not ever have to send a bill to a citizen of Humble,” Langenberg said prior to the council’s unanimous vote in support of the resolution.