WV Gov. vetoes bill requiring alarm ordinance, UL listing

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

CHARLESTON, W.V. - A five-year effort in West Virginia to allow counties to enact false alarm ordinances ended in frustration for supporters in April, when Gov. Bob Wise vetoed a bill to reconcile differences among monitoring companies.

The proposed legislation lost key support when the State Senate’s Judiciary Committee added a provision requiring 911 centers to accept calls only from Underwriters Laboratories certified central stations.

“If that one paragraph hadn’t been put in there, people on both sides would have agreed,” said Capt. David Skeen, director of planning and research for the West Virginia State Police, whose report to the governor on the bill cited problems with the UL wording.

911 centers are obligated to respond to all calls, Skeen said, not just calls from UL certified stations. “I think there’s a liability there,” he said.

Last year, an attempt to enact false alarm legislation failed because the bill included the entire text of the ordinance, said Kristie Finney, owner and vice president of National Central Alarms in Huntington, W.V. Lawmakers said they would have a field day with the wording, Finney said. So this session, the proposal was simplified to permissive legislation, allowing counties to create ordinances if they chose, as long as the ordinance complied with industry standards.

Adding the UL certification requirement was a bad idea, which would not have addressed the problem of false alarms, Finney said. “Installation of a system and use of a system has much more impact on false alarms than UL certification,” she said. Despite the bill’s provision of a two-year period for monitoring companies to become UL certified, that process is time-consuming and costly, Finney said.

Delegate Sally Susman, D-Raleigh, co-sponsor of the bill, withdrew her support after the UL amendment was added. “Originally, the bill wouldn’t have hurt monitoring companies, but when they got that amendment, that would have hurt them,” Susman said.

Ron Kyle, chairman of the Legislative Committee of the West Virginia Enhanced 911 Council, said one faction of the monitoring industry had pushed for the UL requirement. “We were in favor of the legislation,” Kyle said. “To keep it from stopping dead we had to agree to the UL thing.”

Monongahela County, where Kyle is 911 director, reported 2,500 false alarms last year.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said his committee’s staff lawyer looked into UL certification and thought it was a good idea.

“I still think alarm companies should have some minimal assurance their systems will operate as intended,” Kessler said.