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disguised covert cameras / are you licensed to install fire alarm systems
November 20, 2018
disguised covert cameras
    I am looking to deploy covert cameras in a residential home. The cameras to be either Motion Detectors or Smoke Detectors. The residents are in the middle of a contentious divorce.
Can I deploy Smoke Detector Covert cameras? Are there any other issues do we need to address?
    You cannot install a fake smoke detector that's really a covert camera. If there isn't a law in your jurisdiction, there should be. It's not a camera issue, it's a smoke detector issue. You can't give a false impression or expectation that there is fire detection equipment on the premises when it's simply not true. 
    A motion detector is another matter. Whether you can or should install a covert camera in a residence is the issue, not whether it's disguised as a motion detector. Video viewing or recording another raises lots of issues of violation of privacy. Without consent of the party to be videoed it can expose you to liability; the installation isn't going to be worth it. While it may be permitted to install covert cameras in a residence there is always the chance that the video will be used in improper ways, for example, ending up on social media instead of used for any legitimate purpose. 
    In your case you know there is a contentious divorce pending. Why would you want to insert yourself in the middle of that? 
Want to install cameras to keep an eye on an elderly parent; that's a different scenario, one with a legitimate purpose. Even then you can't have cameras in certain areas where expectation of privacy is not in doubt.
    The Residential All in One does provide that it's the subscriber's responsibility to use cameras and audio in a lawful manner, and there is also an indemnification provision if you get sued. But even that protection will not seem enough if you actually get sued or get negative publicity for installing cameras and audio.
are you licensed to install fire alarm systems
    Can shed some light on this.
    We have been given a few accounts from a friend who is retiring and he had installed hard wired, smoke/heat detectors in homes. Our license states that "Have been duly "to engage in the business of install, servicing, or maintaining security or Fire alarm systems" we are not a "Fire Alarm" company.
    My brother and I have just taken a training course with NYESA. In the course our instructor stated that if a smoke detector is installed as part of a system, that system has become a Fire Alarm system.
    However, speaking with other Owners from other alarm companies, they have been installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in homes for years, stating it is not a Fire Alarm system but an additional form of detection.
    The question is, if we properly install smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors as per the manufacturers guidelines and specifications in a residential home that does not require a Fire Alarm system to meet building department, Fire department code or insurance requirements, can we install them?
    Thanks in advance for your help.
    You are confused because you are located in New York City. The New York alarm license is a statewide license and permits the licensee to install burglar and fire alarm systems, anywhere in the state of New York. Despite that clear license language the NYC Fire Department has taken the position that only a licensed electrician can install a fire alarm system in New York City. While is see no legal support for that position the fire alarm industry in and around New York City accept that position and no one challenged it. To complicate the issue New York City requires fire alarms in commercial premises; these are required fire alarm systems that are installed pursuant to plans and specifications filed with the NYC Building Department, approved by the NYC FD. If you install a fire alarm system in NYC you are supposed to comply with that process. For residential fire alarm components and fire alarm systems the formal process is rarely complied with.      These systems, sometimes referred to as "voluntary" fire alarm systems are not recognized by the NYC Fire Department. The NYC FD will not permit a "terminal number" to be assigned to that alarm. Monitoring Centers call 911 when a signal is received from one of these fire alarm systems. 
    The next question is whether fire alarm components are the same as a fire alarm system. Certainly not. The Residential All in Onemakes it clear that installation or monitoring of fire alarm detectors does not mean there is a fire alarm system installed. A fire alarm system would have to comply with NFPA 72. The installation of one or more fire detection components does not necessarily comply with NFPA 72.
    The accepted custom and practice in the New York metropolitan area, which includes NYC and the surrounding counties, is that your NYS alarm license permits you to install all alarm systems, including fire alarm systems, except in New York City.
    You would be wise to use the Residential All in One and the Commercial All in One. If you do commercial fire, use the Commercial Fire Alli in One, but do not do commercial systems in NYC.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
516 747 6700