I am aware that intruder alarms gave rise to 7% of the noise complaints made to Dublin City Council in 2002, down from 11% in 2001. Noise from alarms was the third lowest of all categories of complaints listed by the council in the annual report of its noise control unit for the period 2002-2003. Nonetheless I recognise that alarms are a source of neighbourhood noise nuisance. Section 107 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 provides local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency, as appropriate, with powers to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit noise. A number of additional arrangements are in place to reduce the incidences of unnecessary noise from alarms and to tackle persistent incidence of such noise.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, has published a voluntary standards specification, No. 199 of 1987, and operates a certification scheme to that standard which specifies a minimum 15 minutes and maximum 30 minutes duration for the sounding of external alarms in buildings with the alarms being required to cease automatically after the maximum duration. The connection of monitored intruder alarm systems to Garda stations is contingent, inter alia, upon the use of alarm systems which are certified by NSAI and installed by certified installers, and the provision to the Garda of contact details for the key holder and alternate key holders.
A European standard for external intruder alarms, which will replace all national standards, will incorporate considerably stricter controls regarding minimum and maximum duration for the sounding of alarms. The new limits will be 90 seconds minimum and 15 minutes maximum. This new standard is the only one applied by the NSAI for intruder alarms installed from 1 March 2004.
In addition, the Private Security Services Bill 2001 when enacted, will provide for a private security authority to license, control and supervise all alarm installers and for the authority to have powers to maintain and improve standards in the provision of services, including standards for intruder alarms.
I understand that the promulgation of the Irish standard, the introduction of the European standard, the requirements of the Garda for monitored alarms, improved equipment and the co-operation of the installers certified by the NSAI have together been instrumental in ensuring the incidence of false alarms and the failure of audible alarms to cut off have been significantly reduced.
Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, a local authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, or any person may seek an order in the district court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A free public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance is available from my Department.
In light of the above, I have no proposals at this time to introduce further legislation as regards noise arising from house alarm systems.