Council adopts strategy to reduce false fire alarms in Ottawa

A graphic with Ottawa City Hall is in the background. A vertical grey stripe and a horizontal turquoise stripe are in the foreground with " City Council update" in the centre.

On February 21, City Council approved a strategy to help reduce false fire alarms(link is external) in Ottawa by 10 to 20 per cent over the next three years.

Ottawa Fire Services responded to more than 10,000 false fire alarms in 2022, needlessly occupying emergency services and posing a potential risk to public safety. Most false alarms can be prevented with proper maintenance of alarm systems, and the strategy includes a fee for nuisance alarms – the most common type of false alarm, caused by equipment malfunction or negligence.

The fee will only apply at commercial, institutional, industrial or multi-residential properties. It will not apply to alarms outside the control of the owner, such as those caused by accidents, weather or vandalism. Offences at the same property within a calendar year will be subject to escalating fees that will come into effect on Monday, July 1. There will be no fee for the first false alarm and Ottawa Fire Services will provide owners with information about proper use and maintenance of alarm systems.

Council approved converting rural firefighters’ employment status(link is external) with the City from volunteers to casual employees. This will give rural firefighters access to enhanced compensation and recognize their vital role as emergency responders. It will also help retain skilled rural firefighters to uphold response time standards. As casual employees, rural firefighters will be eligible to receive pension and benefits through the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance, as well as vacation pay.

The City will remove 465 properties from its Municipal Heritage Register(link is external) to ensure Ottawa’s register complies with the Ontario Heritage Act. As a result of recent changes to the Act, any properties left on the register at the end of 2024 will be automatically removed and cannot be re-listed or designated as heritage properties for a period of five years. Removing the properties in advance will provide the City with more flexibility to protect them in the coming years. This is the first of several reports that will remove the majority of the 4,600 non-designated properties listed on the register.

Council approved an application for new construction and landscaping at 235 Mariposa Avenue(link is external), in Rockcliffe Park, where a house built in the mid-1950s was recently demolished without the appropriate permits. The owner wishes to proceed with construction using a design that Council previously approved in 2020, but with increased ceiling heights and other minor modifications. The design continues to meet the policies and guidelines for new construction in the Rockcliffe Park Heritage Conservation District. The enforcement process resulting from the demolition will proceed separately.

Council directed staff to implement a revised Community Partner Insurance Program(link is external), procuring commercial general liability insurance for community associations and groups that meet the City’s eligibility criteria. If it is not possible to procure the insurance at any point in the future, the funding dedicated to this program will be reallocated to a separate insurance funding program within the City’s community funding framework. The Community Partner Insurance Program will continue as is for 2024 and the revised program will be in place by 2025.

Council also approved adjustments to Transit Services’ capital budget(link is external). The net adjustment of $26.5 million would include a $20.2-million contribution to the transit capital reserve as well as funds to reduce transit debt.

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