False fire alarms in Lower Merion - We need your help!  


ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES. That was the slogan many of us recall from Smokey the Bear in a campaign designed to alert us that our carelessness was a hazard to our natural forests. Now, a no less significant slogan is required to protect our neighborhoods and preserve our volunteer fire service. ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FALSE ALARMS. The statistics are – you will excuse me – alarming, and the ramifications severe. Out of the approximate 2000 alarms signaled to the Lower Merion Fire Department (LMFD) in the past year approximately 50% were false. This is a long standing problem which MUST be corrected and we are the only ones who can do so. 

The LMFD is made up of six separate Fire Companies, namely, Gladwyne, Belmont Hills, Union, Penn Wynne, Bryn Mawr and Merion/Ardmore. Narberth is not technically part of the LMFD, but works in conjunction with the Township fire service. Each station has two full-time career firefighters, but the backbone of each station and the department as a whole are our volunteers. These are remarkable members of our community who give of their time and literally are willing to risk their own safety for our protection. Just to become certified as a Firefighter level#1, approximately 180 hours of training is required. Each time that fire bell rings, we rely upon these volunteers to respond. 

The actual numbers for 2017 were, out of a total of 2,394 incidents called into out fire department, 1,133 false alarm. That is 47%. In 2016, the percentage was almost identical in that out of 2,542 calls, 1207 were false. Each time the alarms ring, our system signals the firefighters to respond. This requires our volunteers to leave their jobs, their families and at all hours of the day or night. Sometimes, after being dispatched, the false nature of the alarm is recognized and the firetrucks are recalled. At that point, however the damage is done. The wear and tear on the equipment is one thing, but the strain and drain on the firefighters is another. 

It is difficult to recruit and then retain volunteer firefighters. This is not a problem unique to Lower Merion, but systemic through-out the nation. To help with that process recruitment and retention, we were able to obtain a state grant to assist in educational scholarships and recently passed an Ordinance which provides qualified residential firefighters a real estate tax break. These efforts, however, are too easily set-off by taxing the firefighters with false alarms. At some point, human nature is bound to influence even these remarkable individuals and the need to show-up for nothing may cause the fearful no-show. This reality and the fact that we can actually stop the problem cries out for action. 

In 2017, the Township passed an Ordinance which is designed to describe requirements for installation of fire alarms, their maintenance and set fines for false alarms. The State, however, precludes us from implementing fines against home owners until there are 3 false alarms within a 12 month period. Accordingly, our Ordnance focuses upon the number 1 culprit, namely contractors who neglect to disconnect alarms and secondly alarm companies which need implement proper procedures for installation, maintenance and call backs upon signals. Notwithstanding that Ordinance and fines which have been imposed, the drop in false alarms has been merely a drop in the preverbal fire bucket. 

We must do better and we are the only ones who can prevent false alarms. The fact is that it is easy to curtail this problem. Simple tasks such as: (1) have you alarm checked by the alarm company; (2) make sure there is a proper call-back system in case the alarm goes off; and, (3) make sure any contractors disconnect the system (and notify the Fire Department it is offline) before work is done at you home would help. These 3 items alone would decrease the false alarms by 50% - if not more. There is no excuse for not taking these measures. Fact remains: ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FALSE ALRAMS and we need your help. 

If you want to learn more or need help in preventing your own system from setting off a false alarm, please do not hesitate to contact the LMFD. 

Daniel S. Bernheim 

President, Lower Merion Board of Commissioners 

Chair, Lower Merion Fire Committee

Institutional zoning - Lower Merion Township

Do you have an interest in the boundaries of the institutions near your home? Join important public meetings about this issue on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2018. This is part of the Township's re-zoning process.

The Building & Planning meeting will be held on February 28 at 6pm in the 2nd Floor Board Room in the Township Administration Building, 75 E Lancaster Ave, Ardmore, PA.

The workshop to discuss institutional uses will be on Thursday, March 1st from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the NoBA workspace at 210 Bala Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Open to the public.

See this link for the Institutional Section of the Townships's recent Comprehensive Plan. It provides a detailed overview of institutional land uses in the Township, identifies benefits and issues associated with institutional land uses and also provides recommendations to guide zoning efforts regarding institutions. 

Please find the overview for the upcoming DPZ (zoning consultant to the Township) visit on 2/28 and 3/1 below. The March 1 workshop is a staff/DPZ follow up meeting to review the outcomes from the Feb 28th meeting and establish the next steps in the process. The workshop is a daytime public meeting to allow the public to better understand how the outcomes from the prior evening meeting are reviewed and discussed. There will be an opportunity for public comment and questions at the public workshop. Please feel free to share this information with your neighbors.

See the full agenda for these meetings here.

Teens and Later School Start Times

Click here to listen to a recent WHYY story on teens, sleep and later start times.  Penn Valley parent, Amy Norr is featured.  

Visit the Start School Later, Lower Merion PA Facebook Page for more information.