Over our 35 years in business, we’ve helped over a thousand customers design and implement complete security plans for their homes and businesses. Obviously, we recommend installing a variety of security equipment to help secure your property as effectively as possible. However, we cannot simply design and install systems as we wish. In fact, we often surprise customers with the amount of legal guidelines we must follow during system design, installation, and even inspections in the future. Failing to follow these codes and laws can lead to major issues. In this post, we aim to help you in avoiding these security mistakes that can cost you.

First, we’ll review the licenses that we must carry, as well as the dangers of hiring unlicensed security professionals. Then, we’ll detail some of the many codes and laws we must follow to legally install your security equipment. From there, we’ll shift our attention to some surveillance-specific security mistakes that can cost you. Many of the laws surrounding security equipment revolve around camera installation. Therefore, we’ll spend a little extra time on this area of security. Now, let’s dive in with a look at some of the trickier legal requirements related to installing security products.

Ignoring Licensing Requirements for Electrical Work

In order to complete any wiring on their own, technicians in any trade must hold an electrical license. Licenses are issued by state, and licensed electricians are allowed to work with an unlicensed apprentice to complete wiring. Additionally, any company in the security industry needs to obtain the proper contractors’ license. In Massachusetts, security contractors require an “S” license to operate. Per the commonwealth’s Department of Public Safety: “In addition to an electrical license, anyone who wishes to engage in the business of installing, repairing, maintaining, or selling any Security Systems, CCTV/Surveillance Systems, Access Control Systems, or Door Entry Systems must obtain an S-license from the Department of Public Safety.”

Companies that quote security work must include their state “S” license number on the quote. We have seen several proposals from other companies to prospective customers that do not contain the proper license information. This often points to companies quoting and performing work that they are not licensed to complete. Unfortunately, many home and business owners fall prey to this practice without knowing. Having work done by an unlicensed company can lead to a sub-par, uninspected installation. In turn, this can lead to your insurance company failing to pay up for claims that rise as a result of this equipment failing. Let’s turn to another one of our security mistakes that can cost you in the form of insurance-related issues down the road.

The 2015 Version of the International Building Code

The International Building Code, or IBC, creates many of the security equipment installation guidelines that we must follow.

Failing to Follow Local and National Installation Codes

When we install life safety devices, we have several legal guidelines to follow. For example, the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Alliance (NFPA) create the codes and standards for a number of safety measures. They apply to several industries, including construction, mechanical work, and plumbing. The most relevant code for security alarm requirements put out by the ICC is the International Building Code, or “IBC.” The code that provides guidelines for fire alarm system design is the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, or “NFPA 72.” Just as with fire alarms, the NFPA has a large say in commercial fire extinguisher requirements. In this case, NFPA 10 provides the blueprint for extinguisher installation.

Additionally, local building departments and fire authorities also have their own say in how they want life safety equipment set up. Fire codes and local code adjustments can leave some room for interpretation. In these instances, local authorities decide the proper course of action. In industry terminology, we deem those calling the shots as the “Authority Having Jurisdiction,” or “AHJ.” Consulting the local authorities — usually starting with the building and fire departments — when considering adding life safety-based security will give you a great start. This allows you to know what type of equipment you must install, as well as what options you might have for voluntary security additions as well. Now, let’s turn our attention to some security mistakes that can cost you when installing cameras.

Surveillance Installation Pratfalls

Installing cameras represents one of the most effective security measures that you can take. Cameras work to provide you with both live and recorded footage of your property. Additionally, the mere presence of cameras can cause burglars to look elsewhere to commit their crimes. However, taking this important security step does not come without its risks. In fact, camera installation puts you in danger of committing several of our security mistakes that can cost you. In this section, we’ll look at these common pratfalls!

Installing Dummy Cameras

In our post answering the question “Do Fake Security Cameras Deter Criminals?” we discussed some of the dangers of installing dummy cameras. Most criminals know the differences between real and fake cameras, which makes them largely ineffective. Additionally, installing these cameras can also put people in hot water from a legal standpoint. As attorney Ken Kirschenbaum  points out in this correspondence captured on Security Info Watch, “A false sense of security relied upon by another who has a right to rely on that security may very well expose a party responsible for security.”

If you have cameras that others rely on for security, you can face consequences if a crime occurs. For example, victims of a crime may ask for footage to give to the authorities. Upon revealing that you’ve installed fake cameras, you could face potential legal action. This scenario is more likely in a commercial setting then in your home. After all, guests to your home do not generally have reason to hold you accountable for their security. However, in some scenarios those working in or around your home may believe they are being watched by your cameras. In these instances, foregoing true surveillance for fake cameras could land you in trouble.

Issues with Camera Views

More than anything else during the surveillance system design process, customers lean on us for help with camera placement. Installing cameras in the wrong locations can take a good surveillance system and turn it into an illegal security measure. This helpful article by attorney Paul Samakow points out that users cannot legally install cameras in places of “expected privacy.” In homes, this may include bathrooms, bedrooms, changing rooms, and similar locations.

Additionally, exterior cameras may violate surveillance laws as well. Outdoor cameras may well record video of events that take place outside of the property they’ve been installed on. Video from these cameras often includes the street, and even small parts of neighboring lawns. As long as the areas included in the footage are areas that can be easily seen by the general public, this should not create a problem. However, if your cameras can see over neighboring fencing, through a home or business’s window, or in any area that the general public would believe to be private, this can lead to legal issues. Working with a professional security company, such as ourselves, on surveillance system design can help ensure that you do not have to experience the consequences of unintentionally installing illegal security cameras.

A yellow sign with a black camera

Installing cameras without checking on your local legal requirements and guidelines can end up costing you!

Capturing Audio from Cameras

Massachusetts has some of the nation’s strictest laws regarding audio recordings from surveillance. As this Masslive article points out, Massachusetts requires “all party consent” for audio recordings. This stands in contrast to laws regarding capturing audio in most of the country. Generally speaking, most states allow audio recording based on single-party consent. As long as one person in these states involved agrees to the recording, the recording does not cross any legal boundaries.

Recently, attorney Naomi Shatz posted about the issue of homeowners in Massachusetts trying to capture audio within their home. Even within the walls of the house, Shatz points out, homeowners cannot record audio without the explicit permission of everyone involved. Furthermore, cameras recording audio may capture wayward conversation beyond those who have given permission for audio recording. In this case, that audio would still represent an illegal home security measure. Even despite the users’ goal of capturing only authorized audio, individuals who are unknowingly recorded could bring legal action against the homeowner. Because of these legal hurdles, we generally recommend our customers skip audio recording when setting up any surveillance system.

Avoiding Security Mistakes that Can Cost You

We hope that this post helps you avoid the many security mistakes that can cost you. Moreover, we invite you to contact us with any questions this post may raise. We will happily answer any and all of your security-related inquiries. In fact, we will even go so far as to stop out for a complimentary security survey if you so desire. During our visit, we can address your existing security concerns. Additionally, we can also make suggestions of our own based on our observations of your property. Together, we can help you create a complete security plan, while avoiding the errors described in this post, to keep you and your property as safe and secure as possible!