Stormy weather keeps Iowa law enforcement officers busy. Storms often set off security systems, which may call up an alarm company but often send a signal direct to law enforcement. Assistant Police Chief Tom Francis in Fort Dodge says thunder sets off motion sensors and lightning can trigger light detectors or just set off alarms if its strike is nearby. Officers must check out every alarm, and while Francis says Fort Dodge won’t bill you for the cost, many other cities around the state will bill for more than a few within a one-year period. When thunder rattles the windows, the delicate systems for detecting burglars go off, and Des Moines Sergeant Bruce Elrod says the police switchboard gets false alarms. Elrod says the phone lights up like a Christmas tree.Both fire and police stations get a lot of automated alarm calls when the weather is bad. He says lightening or high winds can set off the alarms as well as power outages.But even if they know there will be lots of false alarms during stormy weather, officers still have to check out each one. Elrod says they also must respond every time to locations where they get lots of false alarms. He says you’re allowed two false alarms and then there’s a charge that gets progressively higher.So if your security system’s called the police for the wrong reason, what should you do to prevent more false alarms? Elrod says you shouldn’t turn it off, he says you should talk with your alarm company to try and remedy the problem.Fort Dodge won’t send a bill to repeat offenders, but other cities will, including Ames and Cedar Rapids. Sergeant Kristi Hamblin with Cedar Rapids police says they had a unique situation for a while.A self-appointed citizen was walking around doing security checks, sometimes finding open doors in the district but sometimes setting off alarms as he rattled doorknobs. She says they don’t send a bill if a security alarm’s set off by weather or other natural causes.
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