New bylaw cuts false alarms

Nanaimo's firefighters are responding to fewer false alarms thanks to a new city bylaw.

Once a fire alarm is triggered, firefighters must respond. There is no turning them back even if the alarm is determined to be false.

But Nanaimo’s firefighters are responding to fewer false alarms thanks to a new city bylaw.

The bylaw, passed by council in May, allows the city to charge fees for inspections and other services and even levy fines to make businesses comply with fire safety regulations.

Doug Bell, captain with Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s fire prevention and loss division, said it will take time to educate business owners on all the nuances in the 31-page document, but one aspect implemented immediately was the department’s authority to charge a fee every time a truck and crew responds to a false alarm.

“It’s not a fine, it’s a fee – and it’s a fee for service,” Bell said.

The bylaw gives business owners two free false alarms in a year. Any more than that and they get billed $300 for each additional false alarm.

Bell said most businesses are responsible about complying with fire safety regulations and the small percentage that caused most of the problems are starting to toe the line.

“We’re no longer going to false alarms in those buildings because they are spending the money to fix the problems rather than just have us continuously respond with a truck and a whole bunch of men to false alarms that can be prevented – and that is working,” Bell said.

Business owners who ignore problems can also be fined.

“We have a couple of buildings in town – well, one in particular – that is ignoring everything, they just continually have false alarms and I think just about every week they’ve got a $300 bill from us,” Bell said. “We’ll be going to them and saying, ‘No, you can’t just continue this. Now we’ll start enforcement.’ They’re obviously not getting the hint that they need to fix their problems.”

No building – including Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the school district or even the city – is exempt from the fees or fines, but allowances are made for alarms triggered by malfunctions beyond the property owner’s control, such as water leakage into an alarm system during severe weather.

Businesses are given two free inspections per year to ensure safety issues are resolved, but if they aren’t, subsequent inspections cost $100 per visit.

Bell said Nanaimo Fire Rescue will work with property owners to find ways to prevent repeated false alarms.

“There are always ways of fixing it,” he said.

The bylaw also requires business owners to conduct fire drills, make sure fire and life safety equipment is in order, and that flammables storage meet the fire code. Fines for failing to do so start at $2OO.

The Fire Protection and Life Safety Regulation Bylaw No. 7108 can be viewed by visiting the city website at

Just Posted

Time to think about this year’s top teams and star athletes

Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards now accepting nominations

Island Health expanding baby bed program in Nanaimo

Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island provides grant of $350,000

Nanaimo Clippers score teddy bears, win one on weekend

Sean Donaldson scores Teddy Bear Toss goal

Snuneymuxw First Nation shuffles leadership with council election

Three incumbents return as five of 10 council seats contested

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Gas companies gouging

Gas station operators charge more for fuel in Nanaimo because they can, says letter writer

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

Couple collecting empties for VIU scholarships can’t pick up cans on campus anymore

Parmars have been picking up cans for 12 years; university now enforcing safety policy

Gogo’s tree farm celebrates 90th year of growing Christmas trees

Gogo Christmas tree farm has grown Christmas trees since 1929 and started U-cut business in 1984

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Most Read