Emergency Alarm and False Alarm Information

The City and County of San Francisco’s Police Emergency Alarm Ordinance defines a false alarm as an alarm dispatch request to a law enforcement agency, when the responding law enforcement officer finds no evidence of a criminal offense or attempted criminal offense after having completed a timely investigation of the alarm site. 

Q: Why are there license requirements and false alarm fees?

Answer: License fees and false alarm fees were established to recover some of the cost expended by the San Francisco Police Department to respond to false alarm calls. They also serve as a deterrent to encourage alarm users to prevent future false alarms.

Q: Do I need an Alarm License?

Answer: Every alarm site in San Francisco is required to have an alarm license.

Q: How can I get my alarm system registered?

Answer: If you have an alarm monitoring service, they will register it for you and bill you for the license. If you do not have an alarm monitoring service, you must fill out and return thePDF iconAlarm_License_Application.pdf within five (5) days after the alarm system is installed.

Q: Where should I mail my check?

Answer: Remit your payment and payment coupon to: San Francisco Tax Collector, P.O. Box 7427, San Francisco, CA 94120-7427 

Q: What is a false alarm?

Answer: The City and County of San Francisco’s Police Emergency Alarm Ordinance defines a false alarm as an alarm dispatch request to a law enforcement agency, when the responding law enforcement officer finds no evidence of a criminal offense or attempted criminal offense after having completed a timely investigation of the alarm site.

Q: Why is my license status listed as “unregistered”?

Answer: Your alarm is considered unregistered because your alarm company has not paid your alarm license fee for the current calendar year.

Q: I have proof that I paid my alarm company the annual fee. What can I do?

Answer: If you can produce evidence that you timely paid the registration fee to your alarm company, the $100 Non-licensed Alarm Penalty and the $250 Non-licensed Alarm – False Alarm fee for not being registered can be waived. Please send an email with proof of payment to: alarm.program@sfgov.org.

Q: How many false alarms does the ordinance allow?

Answer: If your alarm location is registered, there is no penalty for the first alarm within the calendar year. The second alarm penalty is $100, the third is $150, the fourth is $200, and five or more is $250 per instance. If your alarm location is unregistered, you are charged a $100 Non-licensed Alarm penalty and the $250 Non-licensed Alarm – False Alarm fee per false alarm instance.

Q: This is unfair/can I appeal my Non-licensed Alarm penalty/Non-licensed Alarm - False Alarm fee?

Answer: You may contest the assessment of a fee by filing an PDF iconAppeal_request_form.pdf. All requests must be submitted within 15 days after the date of notification. In the case of false alarm penalties, the notification is the "invoice date" provided on the Notice of False Alarm Penalty form. The person filing the appeal must submit the appeal to:  Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, Legal Section, P.O. Box 7426, San Francisco, CA 94120-7426 with the full amount of any penalty imposed, plus any accrued interest and costs. The penalty will be refunded if the appeal is granted.

When considering whether to file an appeal of an assessment, please note that the Police Emergency Alarm Ordinance allows the Tax Collector to adjust the count of false alarms based on:

  • Evidence that a false alarm was caused by an Act of God;

  • Evidence that a false alarm was caused by action of the telephone company;

  • Evidence that a false alarm was caused by a power outage lasting longer than four (4) hours;

  • Evidence that the alarm dispatch request was not a false alarm;

  • Evidence that the police officer response was not completed in a timely fashion; and/or

  • In determining the number of false alarms, multiple alarms occurring in any twenty-four (24) hour period may, in the Tax Collector's discretion, be counted as one false alarm, to allow the alarm user time to take corrective action unless the false alarms are directly caused by the alarm user. 

Please note that appeals will not be granted for false alarms that are a result of the following circumstances*:

  • Faulty defective or malfunctioning equipment supplied by the alarm company.

  • Improper installation or maintenance by the alarm company.

  • Improper monitoring by the alarm company.

  • Alarm activations which occur while alarm technicians are repairing, servicing or testing the alarm system.

  • An occurrence where no evidence of criminal activity is present.

  • Mistakes made by private contractors, maids, cleaning crews, realtors, etc.

  • Items within the home or business that move and cause motion detectors to activate (curtains, signs, balloons, plants, pets, etc.)

  • Improper maintenance of the alarm system by the alarm owner (including neglect of backup power/battery supplies).

  • Glass break detectors which activate due to noises or sounds other than actual glass breakage

  • Doors and/or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts which activate the alarm

  • Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away

  • Pets, rodents or wildlife.

* This list is intended only as a guide to assist you in deciding whether to appeal a false alarm assessment or whether to contact your alarm company for further discussion. This list is not intended to cover every situation where an appeal may be denied.