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Avoiding high fines for home security false alarms

Monday - 5/16/2011, 9:21am  ET

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- There's a chance of rain every day this week. Lightning strikes and power outages can cause expensive home security system false alarms, but they don't have to.

Here are some tips on avoiding weather-related false alarms, and the fines they incur from local police:

  • Make sure the system is properly grounded.
  • Make sure there are surge protectors on both the alarm system and your phone line.
  • Repair loosing fitting doors and windows.
  • Use door and window contacts with wide gaps.
  • Make sure contacts are firmly anchored.
  • Make sure the battery backup is charged. Loudoun County recommends alarm system batteries be able to hold a charge for at least four hours.

Many area jurisdictions give you two freebie false alarms. Fines for a third offense typically begin at $100 then increase with each subsequent offense.

In Arlington County, for example, fines escalate up to $500 on the ninth and subsequent false alarms within a 12 month period. But in Fairfax County, fines for repeat offenders can be as much as $3,000 for the 25th and additional false alarms.

Montgomery County gives you only one free false alarm. Fines then begin at $25 for a second offense.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)