San Rafael, CA 94912

Alarm Ordinance





1. In its current form, Chapter 8.20 of the San Rafael Municipal Code (“SRMC”) entitled “Intrusion Detection and/or Burglar Alarm and Fire Alarm Systems,” is outdated.  The San Rafael Fire Department uses SRMC Chapter 4 to enforce fire alarm systems, therefore the language in SRMC Chapter 8.20 regarding the fire alarms is obsolete.  The provisions governing intrusion detection alarm systems, commonly known as “burglar alarms,” have not been updated for over fifteen years.

2. Intrusion detection alarms were the fourth most frequent type of call for service for the San Rafael Police Department (SRPD) in 2018, with 2,412 calls.  That is an average of 6.6 alarm calls per day, of which over 99% are false alarms.  These alarms are false mainly due to human error, but significant weather can also trigger false alarms.  

3. Since false alarms create a significant demand on the services of the City’s Police Department, City staff recommends, and the City Council finds, that SRMC Chapter 8.20 should be amended as set forth in this Ordinance, to incorporate best practices implemented by other Bay Area jurisdictions.


Chapter 8.20 of the San Rafael Municipal Code, entitled “Intrusion Detection and/or Burglar Alarm and Fire Alarm Systems” is hereby amended to read in its entirety as follows: 


8.20.010 – Definitions

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this ordinance, shall have the meanings ascribed to them, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:  

(a) Alarm Administrator means a person or persons designated by the City to administer the provisions of this ordinance. 

(b) Alarm Company means a person, company, firm, or corporation which has the contractual agreement with the alarm user and is subject to the licensing requirements, and engaged in selling, leasing, installing, servicing and/or monitoring alarm systems; this entity shall be licensed in compliance with city, county and state laws.

(c) Alarm event means an alarm system activation, to which law enforcement is requested to respond.

(d) Alarm permit means a permit issued to an alarm user by the City, allowing the operation of an alarm system within the City.  

(e) Alarm system or Alarm means an assembly of equipment installed at a fixed location designed to detect and/or verify an occurrence of an illegal or unauthorized entry or other activity to which law enforcement is requested to respond. 

(f) Alarm user means any person, corporation, partnership, proprietorship, governmental or educational entity or any other entity owning, leasing, or operating an alarm system, or on whose premises an alarm system is maintained for the protection of such premises. 

(g) Alarm User Awareness Class means a class conducted for the purpose of educating alarm users about the responsible use, operation, maintenance of alarm systems and effective verification and false alarm reduction strategies.

(h) Cancellation means that the alarm company provides notification that response by law enforcement is no longer being requested in connection with an alarm event. If cancellation occurs prior to law enforcement arriving at the scene, this will not be deemed to be a false alarm under this Chapter, and no penalty will be assessed.

(i) City means the City of San Rafael or its agent.

(j) CP-O1 means the ANSI - American National Standard Institute approved Security Industry Association - SIA CP-01 Control Panel Standard, as may be updated from time to time, that details recommended design features for security system control panels and their associated arming and disarming devices to reduce the incidence of false alarms. Control panels built and tested to this standard by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), or other nationally recognized testing organizations are marked as follows: “Design evaluated in accordance with SIA CP-01 Control Panel Standard Features for False Alarm Reduction.”

(k) Communications Center means the San Rafael Police Department’s communications/dispatch center.

(l)  Enhanced Call Confirmation means an attempt by the alarm system monitoring company to contact the alarm site and/or alarm user, to determine whether an alarm event is valid before requesting law enforcement response. A second call will be made to contact the alarm user if the first attempt fails EXCEPT as defined by ANSI/CSAA CS V 01 2016 or current version, in case of a fire, panic, robbery-in-progress alarm or verified alarm.  

(m) False Alarm means the activation of an alarm system when, upon observation by law enforcement, there is no evidence of unauthorized entry, robbery, or other such crime attempted in or on the premises. 

(n) Permit Year means a twelve (12) month period beginning on the day and month on which an alarm permit is issued. 

(o) Verified Alarm is defined as an electronic security system event in which a trained central station operator utilizing a standardized protocol has determined the presence of human(s) and/or the high probability that a criminal offense is in progress.  A verified alarm system may consist of a two-zone alarm activation, or an installed video, audio, or other approved verification technology.  Verification of alarm response does not apply to duress, robbery, holdup, and panic alarms. 

8.20.020 – Alarm Permit

(a) Permit Required. No alarm user shall use an alarm system in the City without first registering for and obtaining a permit for such alarm system from the City.  Each alarm permit shall be assigned a unique permit number, and the user shall provide the permit number to the alarm company to facilitate law enforcement dispatch. 

(b) Application. The permit shall be requested on an application form provided by the City.  The application will include at least the following information: 

1) Multiple Alarm Systems. If an alarm user has one or more alarm systems protecting two or more separate structures or units having different addresses and/or tenants, a separate permit shall be required for each structure and/or unit.

2) Type of Verified Alarm System. If an alarm user has an electronic verified alarm system protecting the premises, the permit application shall identify the type of verification system used (for example, video verification or audio verification.)

3) Installer of the Alarm System. The name of service provider that installed the system, or if installed by the alarm user DIY (“do it yourself”).

4) Monitoring Agency. The name of the monitoring station that is monitoring the alarm system. 

(c) Annual Renewal Required.  Alarm permits must be renewed annually. Police response to a property without a valid annual renewal will be subject to the same fine as failing to register. 

(d) Permit Fees. A permit fee will be required for the initial registration and annual permit renewals.  The fee will be established by resolution of the City Council adopted from time to time. No fee will be required for merely updating information on a valid permit.  

(e) Reporting Updated Information. Whenever the information provided on the alarm permit application changes, the alarm user shall provide correct information to the City within thirty (30) days of the change. In addition, each year after the issuance of the permit, permit holders will receive from the City a form requesting updated information. The permit holder shall complete and return this form to the City whether or not any of the requested information has changed; failure to comply will constitute a violation of this Chapter and may result in a civil penalty.

(f) Transfer of Possession. Alarm permits are not transferable. When the possession of the premises at which an alarm system is maintained is transferred, the alarm user obtaining possession of the property shall file an application for an alarm permit within thirty (30) days of obtaining possession of the property. 

8.20.030 – Duties of the Alarm User

Every alarm user in the City has a duty to comply with the following requirements:

(a) Maintain the premises and the alarm system in a method that will reduce or eliminate false alarms. 

(b) Provide the alarm company with the alarm user’s alarm permit number so that the alarm company can provide it to the communications center to facilitate dispatch.

(c) Respond or cause a representative to respond to the alarm system’s location within a reasonable amount of time when notified by the San Rafael Police Department. 

(d) Not manually activate an alarm for any reason other than an occurrence of an event that the alarm system was intended to report. 

(e) Obtain a new permit and pay any associated fees if there is a change in address or ownership of the location of the alarm system. 

(f) Annually renew the alarm permit.

(g) An alarm user that installs the system themselves (Do It Yourself or DIY) is subject to the same duties as described in Section 8.20.040 - Duties of the Alarm Company. 

8.20.040 – Duties of the Alarm Company

(a) Every alarm company engaged in business in the City shall comply with the following requirements:

1) Obtain and maintain the required state, county and/or city license(s).

2) Provide name, address, and telephone numbers of the alarm company license holder or a designee who can be called in an emergency, twenty-four (24) hours a day; and be able to respond to an alarm call, when notified, within a reasonable amount of time.   

3) Be able to provide the most current contact information for the alarm user; and to contact a key holder for a response, if requested.

4) Prior to activation of the alarm system, the alarm company must provide instructions to the alarm user explaining the proper operation of the alarm system. 

5) Provide alarm user customers with information on how to obtain service from the alarm company for the alarm system.

6) After the effective date of this ordinance, for commercial accounts, alarm companies shall not install, modify or repair “single action” devices for the activation of Hold-up, Robbery or Panic Alarms.  New devices for those purposes shall require two actions or an activation time delay to provide more positive assurance that the user intends to activate the device.   

7) After the effective date of this ordinance, alarm companies shall install only CP-01 compliant security system control panels and their associated arming and disarming devices to reduce the incidence of false alarms, 

8) An alarm company responsible for monitoring services shall:

a. Ensure the monitoring center utilizes Enhanced Call Confirmation. The monitoring center shall make two (2) attempts to contact the user or users of an alarm system prior to requesting law enforcement response.    

b. Provide the alarm user’s alarm permit number to the communications center to facilitate dispatch and/or cancellations.

c. Communicate to the communications center any available information regarding specifics of the alarm event.

d. Communicate a cancellation to the communications center as soon as possible following a determination that response is unnecessary.

(b) Existing alarm systems. Within thirty (30) days after being notified in writing by the Alarm Administrator, an alarm company must provide to the alarm administrator a list of the names and addresses of existing alarm users in the City. 

(c) New alarm systems. Any alarm company that installs an alarm system on premises located within the City after the effective date of this ordinance must notify the Alarm Administrator within ten (10) days after the date of installation that an alarm system has been installed and provide the name and address of the alarm user.

(d) Purchased accounts. An alarm company that purchases any alarm system account from another person or alarm company shall notify the Alarm Administrator of such purchase and shall provide the Alarm Administrator a complete list of the acquired customers. This information shall include the customer name, alarm site address, alarm permit number, and alarm company license number. 

(e) Yearly account updates.  On or before the first of January of each year, an alarm installation company or monitoring company shall provide the Alarm Administrator with a complete list of active customers to assist the Alarm Administrator with creating and maintaining tracking data. The customer information must include: the customer name, the alarm site address, permit number, and the alarm company license number.

8.20.050 – Prohibited Acts

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to activate an alarm system for the purpose of summoning law enforcement when no burglary, robbery, or other crime dangerous to life or property is being committed or attempted on the premises, or otherwise to cause a false alarm. 

(b) It shall be unlawful to install, maintain, or use an audible alarm system that can sound continually for more than ten (10) minutes. 

8.20.060 – Enforcement of Provisions

Civil Non-Criminal Violation. A violation of any of the provisions of this Chapter shall be a civil violation and shall not constitute a misdemeanor or infraction. In addition to any other remedies available to the City under this Code or state law, violations of this Chapter may be enforced as follows: 

(a) Penalties for false alarms and other violations. Upon occurrence of a false alarm or other violation of this Chapter, the Alarm Administrator may issue a notice of penalty to an alarm user imposing civil penalties as follows:  

  1. First false alarm during permit year: $50.00 
  2. Second false alarm during permit year: $100.00 
  3. Third false alarm during permit year: $150.00 
  4. Fourth false alarm during permit year: $200.00
  5. Fifth and subsequent false alarm during permit year: $250.00
  6. Failure to register or failure to renew permit: $100.00
  7. Other violations of this Chapter: $100.00

(b) Excessive false alarms. It is hereby found and determined that eight (8) or more false alarms within a permit year is excessive, constitutes a public nuisance, and shall be unlawful. After eight (8) false alarms within a permit year, the police response may be restricted to dispatching to only verified alarms.  

(c) Payment of Civil Penalty(ies). Civil penalty(ies) shall be paid within thirty (30) days from the date of the administrative citation.

(d) Discontinuance of Law Enforcement Response. The failure of an alarm user to make payment of any civil penalty(ies) assessed under this ordinance within thirty (30) days from the date of an administrative citation may result in discontinuance of law enforcement response to alarm signals that may occur at the premises described in the alarm user's permit until payment is received.  

8.20.070 – Alarm User Awareness Class

Alarm User Awareness Class. The City may establish an Alarm User Awareness Class and may request the assistance of the area alarm companies to assist in developing and conducting the class. The class shall inform alarm users of the problems created by false alarms and instruct alarm users how to help reduce false alarms. The City may grant the option of attending an alarm user awareness class in lieu of paying one assessed penalty, not to exceed $50.00.  Alternatively, if the class can be delivered to the user as an online training module, the City may authorize the alarm user to satisfy the attendance requirement by participating in the online training module. 

8.20.080 – Appeals 

(a) Appeals Process. Assessments of civil penalty(ies) and other enforcement decisions made under this Chapter may be appealed by filing a written notice of appeal with the San Rafael Police Department within thirty (30) days after the date of notification of the assessment of civil penalty(ies) or other enforcement decision. The failure to file a notice of appeal within this time period shall constitute a waiver of the right to contest the assessment of penalty(ies) or other enforcement decision. Appeals shall be determined through an administrative process established by the City including a hearing by a hearing officer appointed by the City. Any person aggrieved by the decision of the hearing officer may obtain review of the decision by filing a notice of appeal with the Marin County courts in accordance with the timelines and provisions set forth in California Government Code section 53069.4. 

(b) Appeal Standard. The hearing officer shall review an appeal from the assessment of civil penalty(ies) or other enforcement decisions using a preponderance of the evidence standard. Notwithstanding a determination that the preponderance of the evidence supports the assessment of civil penalty(ies) or other enforcement decision, the hearing officer shall have the discretion to dismiss or reduce civil penalty(ies) or reverse any other enforcement decision where warranted.    

8.20.090 – Confidentiality

In the interest of public safety, all information contained in and gathered through the alarm registration/permit applications, response records, applications for appeals and/or any other alarm records of the City shall be held in confidence by all employees and/or representatives of the City to the maximum extent allowed by law.   

8.20.100 – Government Immunity

Alarm registration is not intended to, nor will it, create a contract, duty or obligation, either expressed or implied, of response on the part of the City of San Rafael, the San Rafael Police Department, or any of their officers, employees or agents.  Any and all liability and consequential damage resulting from the failure to respond to a notification is hereby disclaimed and governmental immunity as provided by law is retained.  By applying for an alarm registration, the alarm user acknowledges that the San Rafael Police Department response may be influenced by a variety of factors including but not limited to: the availability of police units, priority of calls, weather conditions, traffic conditions, emergency conditions, staffing levels and prior response history. 


The City Council finds that adoption of this Ordinance is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") pursuant to section 15061(b)(3) of the State CEQA Guidelines in that this Ordinance regulates only the permitting, maintenance and use of intrusion detection (“burglar”) alarm systems, and it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the adoption of this Ordinance may have a significant effect on the environment, 


If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this Ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this Ordinance.  The Council hereby declares that it would have adopted the Ordinance and each section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared invalid. 


This Ordinance shall be published once, in full or in summary form, before its final passage, in a newspaper of general circulation, published, and circulated in the City of San Rafael, and shall be in full force and effect as of January 1, 2020.  If published in summary form, the summary shall also be published within fifteen (15) days after the adoption, together with the names of those Council members voting for or against same, in a newspaper of general circulation published and circulated in the City of San Rafael, County of Marin, State of California. 

The foregoing Ordinance No. 1973 was read and introduced at a Regular Meeting of the City Council of the City of San Rafael, held on the 19th day of August 2019 and ordered passed to print by the following vote, to with: 

AYES: Councilmembers: Bushey, Gamblin & Mayor Pro Tem Colin

NOES: Councilmembers: None 

ABSENT: Councilmembers: McCullough & Mayor Phillips