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Alarms Unit

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Preventing False Alarms - PPB Alarms Unit

Contact Information and Forms 

Phone: 503-823-0031
Fax: 503-823-0507
alarms@portlandoregon.gov

PO BOX, 1867
PORTLAND, OR 97207-1867

Online Alarm Payments

We are now offering a secure online payment option!  

Please visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/alarmpayments/to take advantage of this convenient service. You will need your alarm permit number and invoice number in order to make a payment. 


What is a false alarm? 

A false alarm means police responded to an alarm incident and found no reasonable evidence of a crime, attempted crime, or suspicious activity.  A false alarm can also be the result of mechanical failure, improper installation or maintenance, or alarm user negligence.  

False alarm prevention

False alarm response is very costly and dangerous because it diverts police officers from community policing and crime prevention efforts.  However, there are steps you can take to prevent unwanted alarm activations. For example, multiple zone triggers is a great tool for reducing false alarms. This means your alarm company will only contact police if more than one device (such as a motion sensor, door sensor, window sensor, etc.) is activated instead of just one. If you are concerned about preventing false alarms in your home, contact your alarm company and ask them about setting up multiple zone triggers for your alarm system.

How big is the alarm epidemic? 

Every year, the Portland Police Bureau responds to thousands of false alarms within our community.  Last year we responded to thousands of false alarms, tying up valuable resources.

Major causes of false alarms

  • Door / window not properly closed
  • Kids, neighbors, relatives, visitors, repair workers
  • Cleaning crews
  • Pets
  • Equipment malfunction
  • Accidental activation by property owner

As the alarm user, it is your responsibility to make sure your equipment is in working order, and to ensure that all staff and individuals who have access to your alarm system are properly trained on how to use it.  This can be as simple as performing routine maintenance on your equipment, keeping motion sensors clear, and checking the alarm system battery to avoid system malfunctions.    


Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. Do I need a permit if I live in the City of Portland?
A. Yes, but please check www.portlandmaps.com to see if you are in the Portland Police Bureau’s jurisdiction. Once you type your address into the search, under “Jurisdiction”, it should say Portland/Multnomah. If it doesn’t, you will need to contact the law enforcement agency for the jurisdiction listed, ie. “Gresham / Multnomah” is Multnomah County Sheriff, “Unincorporated / Washington” is Washington County Sheriff. *Please see the list of nearby county jurisdictions below.

Q. How do I get a permit?
A. Fill out either a residential or commercial application and submit payment using check or credit card. At this time we do not have online pay but plan to have this option in the future.  Keep in mind that you can arrange automatic payments through your bank. PLEASE DO NOT SEND CASH! 

Q. How often do I have to renew my permit?
A. 
The day that we process your application will be your “Permit Year” renewal date. Every year, approximately 4-6 weeks before that expiration date we will send you a renewal notice. 

Q. Can I just use the application that came in the box with my security system I bought at the store, online, or from my alarm installer?
A. 
To save time, energy and money, it is always best to go to the Portland Police Bureau website to download the most current application. (IF you are in the PPB jurisdiction – always check that first!) If we do not receive the most current application, we will send it back to you. If it is not filled out completely, signed and dated, we will send it back to you. You may incur late fees for the delays in this process. You have 30 days from the time your system is installed in which to obtain a permit. Any alarm user who fails to register their alarm system within the 30 day time frame will be assessed a $100 fine.

Q. How much does a permit cost?
A. Commercial Permits: $125/year; Residential Permits: $25/year; Senior Permits: free for people aged 62 or older, who live at the same address 12 months/year and provide us with a copy of their Oregon State ID or Oregon Driver’s License with the same address they are applying for on the ID for proof of age and residency. We do not accept Passports or out of state driver’s license as they do not provide proof of residency.

Q. Can you bill me if I am applying for a new permit?
A. 
Yes. We will send you an invoice for the amount due if we receive an application without payment. Just be sure to get payment to us before the 30 days is up or you may be subject to fines or late fees.

Q. Senior Permits – If someone younger than 62 lives in the household do we have to pay for a permit?
A. 
No. Not if the senior over 62 provides us with a copy of their Oregon State ID or Driver’s License with the same address they are applying for on the ID for proof of age and residency and lives at the same address 12 months/year. However, if the senior moves from the home, the permit does not transfer ownership and a new application must be submitted within 30 days of the senior moving.

Q. What is the best way to request a late fee be waived?
A. 
You may request to have a late fee waived one (1) time only during the entire lifetime of your permit. In order to avoid being late on your payments, it is best to write on a calendar the date your permit expires and send us a payment at least 2-3 weeks before that date. The quickest way to find out if you have already had a late fee waived, send us an email. (See contact info below)

Q. How long after my alarm system is installed do I have until I am required to have a permit?
A. 
It is best to get your application submitted as soon as possible so that your information can get connected to the 911 database. Chapter 14B.10 of the City Ordinance on Burglary & Alarm Systems states that you have 30 days in which to obtain a permit for your alarm system. However, some alarm companies will not allow you to begin using your system until you provide them with the permit number from the Portland Police Bureau. Once you receive your permit in the mail, be sure to inform your alarm company of your permit number.

Q. I moved and/or discontinued alarm service at my residence. How do I cancel my alarm permit?
A. Simply email us at alarms@portlandoregon.gov or call our office at (503) 823-0031 to let us know that you’ve discontinued your alarm service, and we’ll cancel your alarm permit.

Q. I switched to a new alarm company. Do I need a new alarm permit?
A. No, as long as you’re at the same location, you can keep your current alarm permit. Email us at alarms@portlandoregon.gov or call our office at (503) 823-0031 to let us know that you’ve changed your alarm service provider, and we’ll update your information in our records.

Q. What if I move or if I close my business?
A. None of the permits are transferable. If you move or sell your business, please email our office at alarms@portlandoregon.gov or call us at 503-823-0031, to have your permit cancelled so you are not responsible for that location any longer. Also, be sure to let your alarm company know you plan to move. Your alarm company does not alert the Police Bureau when you cancel your account with them. You must contact each separately. The same applies with Senior permits, they are not transferable. If the senior moves, they must apply for a new permit in their new home. The new occupants must apply for a new permit if the alarm system is still in the home and plugged into electricity.

Q. Do you pro-rate payments on permits?
A. 
Only if you have paid for your permit within the last 30 days. You will still need to cancel your old permit and submit a new application for a new permit.

Q. If I discontinue my service with my alarm company, do they notify the Police that I have cancelled my service?
A. 
No. The alarm companies are completely separate from the Portland Police Bureau. You must notify us both individually. Also, if you have no alarm monitoring company, but still have your alarm system plugged into electricity in your home, you are still required to have a permit with the Portland Police Bureau.

Q. Can you recommend an alarm company?
A. 
The Portland Police Bureau’s Alarm Administration cannot show favoritism to any one alarm company. We can however, direct you to the Oregon Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (OBFAA) to help you answer questions about alarms systems.

Q. How can I contact you?
A. 
You can Call: 503-823-0031 Mon-Fri 8:00am – 4:00pm; FAX: 503-823-0507; Email: Alarms@PortlandOregon.gov ; or Write: Portland Police Alarm Administration, PO Box 1867, Portland, OR 97207-1867. We do not have an office for public access.

Q. How can I appeal an alarm incident?

A. To ensure we are being impartial, we have changed our appeals process.  Appeals will now be reviewed by the Hearing Office, within the Office of Management and Finance.  The Hearings Office conducts impartial hearings and renders a decision based on City Code Chapter 14B.10 Burglary and Alarm Systems; please read  14B.10.120 Appeals for a complete overview of the appeal process. 

To file an appeal: 
You will need to fill out and sign this form

and attach any additional evidence you’d like to submit in support of your claim.   Please make sure you submit all documents within ten (10) days of receiving your false alarm notice, or your appeal could be denied.  Once we receive all your appeal information, we will forward it to the Hearings Office for review and the Hearings Office will contact you directly with a decision following their review. 


False Alarm Prevention At Home

Residential False Alarms
  • Did you know that the three major causes of false alarms are: (1) user errors; (2) installation or service errors; and (3) equipment failures?
  • Did you know that more than 80% of false alarms are related to preventable user errors?
  • Did you know that 20% of alarm users cause 80% of all false alarms?
  • Do you think alarmed locations are entitled to unlimited police response?
  • Do you think you are at greater risk when police, accustomed to responding to chronic false alarms, respond to a real emergency at your location?
The reality is that police resources are limited and should never be wasted. Thousands of police patrol hours are spent investigating alarm reports that turn out to be "False Alarms."
Alarm companies and alarm users must be responsible for the use and maintenance of alarm systems to help ensure prompt police response when an emergency really does exist.
FARA, working with NBFAA and other state and national alarm associations, has been studying the false alarm problem and solutions for some time. Working with law enforcement, businesses and the community, there is documented proof that response to false alarms can be dramatically reduced.
What is a False Alarm?
"A false alarm is notification of an alarm to the police department when the responding authority finds no evidence of criminal offense or attempted criminal offense."
common causes of FALSE ALARMs
  1. Inadequate training of people allowed access to your security system (children, neighbors, cleaning personnel, real estate agents, guests, relatives, babysitters, service and delivery personnel, etc.).
  2. Weak system batteries.
  3. Open, unlocked or loose fitting doors and windows.
  4. Drafts from heaters and air conditioning systems that move plants, curtains, balloons, etc.
  5. Wandering pets.
False Alarms . . .
  • Take police and fire fighters away from real emergencies. This embarrassing situation endangers responding authorities and the whole community by needlessly diverting public safety resources.
  • Desensitizes communities to actual incidents of crime and fire and can lead to neighbors ignoring your alarm when it goes off.
  • Make your security system less reliable and credible.
  • May make you reluctant to arm your system, exposing your home and property to undetected theft or fire.
  • Cost citizens time, personal security and money, as many jurisdictions assess costly fines for excessive false alarms.
Installing & activating an alarm system
  • Check with your local jurisdiction to see if you are required to register your alarm system.
  • When purchasing an alarm system you must remember that you are a vital part of the alarm function. You must completely understand how the system works, what it does and does not do, and what you must do to keep it in proper operating condition.
  • Ensure all users of your system are provided adequate and thorough instruction on using and testing the system. Ask your alarm company to provide you with written instructions as well as a physical demonstration.
  • Ensure outside audible alarms are set to sound for no more than 15 minutes before resetting.
How Can You Prevent False Alarms?
Before activating your system . . .
  • Lock all protected doors and windows.
  • Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, plants, curtains, seasonal decorations, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
  • Know how to cancel the alarm if the system activates.
Educate alarm system users . . .
  • All users, key holders or any person with legal access to your property must be thoroughly trained in how to operate your system, including knowledge of correct arming codes, pass codes, telephone numbers and procedures for canceling accidental alarm activations.
Have your security company check and service your system regularly . . .
  • Routine maintenance can help prevent many false alarms.
Notify your security company if . . .
  • You think your system isn’t working properly.
  • You plan any remodeling, including replacing doors or windows, hanging drywall, sanding floors, installing attic flooring or basement ceiling, changing phone systems, installing intercoms, siding, ceiling fans or skylights, fumigating, installing wiring for cable or other electronics, installing anything near the system control panel or keypads.
  • You hire domestic help, get a new pet, plan to sell your house, or are testing your system.
Contact your jurisdiction’s Alarm Coordinator if . . .
  • You have a phone service or name change, or if situations change, such as a disabled person now residing at the residence, etc.
Other factors to remember . . .
  • Your central monitoring station should not request a police dispatch for power outages, low battery signals or loss of telephone connections.
  • Replace old police department direct-connect monitoring equipment with newer, high security monitoring technology. Dirty or wet phone lines, telephone repairmen and service interruptions do not require police response!
  • Upgrade old alarm systems to current equipment conforming to Security Industry Association (SIA) false alarm prevention standards, further reducing false alarms.
Check List
  1. Are you and others who use the system fully educated on its proper operation?
  2. Does everyone with a key to your home know how to operate your security system?
  3. Do you take care to eliminate possible causes of false alarms?
  4. Have you rehearsed alarm cancellation procedures with all who use your system to cancel accidental alarm activations?
  5. Do you communicate with your security company regularly, advising of schedule changes, problem areas or maintenance needs?
  6. Do you notify your local Alarm Coordinator when phone numbers or situations change?
  7. Do you have your security system instruction book and alarm company names and telephone numbers readily available in order to call and cancel accidental alarm activations?

False Alarm Prevention For Businesses

The Hidden Costs of False Alarms
  • Are you operating under the assumption that false alarms are just another "cost of doing business?"
  • Do you think every commercial institution is always entitled to unlimited police response?
  • Are you at risk when police are used to responding to chronic false alarms and a real emergency happens at your facility?
The reality is that police resources are limited and should never be wasted. Thousands of police patrol hours are spent investigating alarm reports that turn out to be "False Alarms."
Alarm companies and alarm users must be responsible for the use and maintenance of alarm systems to help ensure prompt police response when an emergency really does exist.
FARA, working with NBFAA and other state and national alarm associations, has been studying the false alarm problem and solutions for some time. Working with law enforcement and the business community, there is documented proof that response to false alarms can be dramatically reduced.
Commercial establishments share unique circumstances often contributing to the overall false alarm problem. These circumstances include frequent employee turnover, constant public access, daily opening and closing procedures, working with multiple goods and service providers, and use of janitorial services.
Businesses Can Control The Hidden Costs Of False Alarms
  1. Identify the magnitude of your problem and "The Hidden Costs" will quickly become visible.
  2. What do you pay in false alarm fines?
  3. Which locations generate the most false alarms?
  4. Does someone involved in upper management approve payment of the fines?
  5. Talk to your alarm provider and become re-educated in the design and use of YOUR security system.
  6. Does your system identify the device that caused the alarm activation?
  7. Is equipment installed to make activation easy when needed, but safe from accidental trips?
  8. Is there a way to abort police response on an accidental activation?
  9. Do you use internal verification procedures where, upon an alarm activation (including robbery, hold-up, duress or panic alarms), the monitoring operator contacts your location to obtain a code word confirming or discounting the alarm activation prior torequesting police dispatch?
  10. Are all employees fully trained in use of the equipment?
  11. Are the problems occurring during specific opening and/or closing times?
Tips for Businesses
  1. Be sure all employees are thoroughly trained before attempting to use the alarm system. Hold monthly training sessionsto ensure alarm users are aware of: any changes to the system; the importance of careful pre-arming checks; designated entry/exit doors; proper opening/closing procedures; correct pass codes and arming codes; and rehearse how to cancel accidental activations.
  2. Watch out for holiday-related false alarms: thoroughly train temporary holiday employees; watch last minute schedule changes leading to inexperienced employees arming or disarming your system; be careful with the placement of seasonal decorations; long hours and/or holiday parties can result in careless use of your alarm system by employees.
  3. Look for items that can move within the "view" of your motion detectors, causing false alarms (fans, heaters, hanging signs, seasonal decorations, balloons, curtains, plants, pets, etc.)
  4. Confirm that special consideration has been given to the installation of motion detectors in high bay areas with overhead doors, large exhaust fans or ceiling vents which allow entry of birds. Discuss with your alarm provider whether your location’s environment requires specially designed and installed motion detectors that will not false due to birds, wildlife, rodents, cats, etc.
  5. Ensure all doors and windows are secure and locked before arming your system.
  6. Ensure that floor mounted contacts are not being used on overhead/rollup doors. Instead, use track-mounted contacts by placing a track- mounted contact on BOTH sides of the door tracks at 4–5 feet on one side and at 7-8 feet on the other side. Require that BOTH contacts must be activated to trigger the alarm. This will reduce and/or eliminate false alarms due to wind or shaking of the door. Have your alarm provider check the type and condition of contacts installed on your overhead doors.
  7. Don’t change pass codes without advising your central monitoring station.
  8. Don’t change pass codes and arming codes without advising the appropriate authorized users.
  9. Train new users thoroughly, notifying your monitoring station of new authorized users.
  10. Your central monitoring station should not request a police dispatch for power outages, low battery signals or loss of telephone connections.
  11. If you believe your alarm system is not working properly, immediately contact your alarm provider.
  12. Service and maintain your system (including batteries) regularly before false alarms occur.
  13. If your business requires wireless hold-up protection, use dual-action devices only.
  14. Replace old police department direct-connect monitoring equipment with newer, high security monitoring technology. Dirty or wet phone lines, telephone repairmen and service interruptions do not require police response!
  15. Upgrade old alarm systems to current equipment conforming to Security Industry Association (SIA) false alarm prevention standards, further reducing false alarms.

Nearby Jurisdictions